By Dr. Harietta Eleftherochorinou, vice president 0f innovation ventures, IQVIA.
Patients, health systems and CROs are embracing digital health, as indicated by the number of digital health apps, digital diagnostics, digital biomarkers, digital therapeutics and devices being created. At the same time, over a third of these apps don’t survive longer than a year, devices struggle to get regulatory approval, digital biomarkers are yet to be proven, while digital diagnostics and digital therapeutics are not cheaper alternatives to the standard of care. The question skeptics therefore have is “what is the real value of digital health to patients and the healthcare systems?” Below, there are several tangible value-points of digital health in quantified metrics to give an answer.
The digital health innovation market is experiencing exponential growth. Investments of $24 billion were made globally in digital health in 2020 according to the IQVIA Institute Digital Health Trends 2021 report. And according to CBInsights, in 2021, $39.6 billion were invested on digital health alone, out of the total $100 billion invested globally in healthcare startups. These investments are resulting in greater numbers of mobile apps, wearable devices and other digital tools.
Digital apps are redefining the health experience
Multiple types of digital health tools contributed to mitigating the impact of the pandemic and are now established part of the digital health landscape. Consumer apps remain the most widely available and used digital tool with more than 90,000 new digital health apps added in 2020 — an average of more than 250 apps per day — resulting in over 350,000 apps currently available. Apps are increasingly focused on health condition management rather than wellness management, with the former now accounting for 47% of all apps in 2020, up from 28% in 2015, and with mental health, diabetes and cardiovascular disease-related apps accounting for almost half of disease-specific apps. Downloads and use of apps are heavily skewed with 83% of apps being installed fewer than 5,000 times and collectively accounting for less than 1% of total downloads, while a cohort of 110 apps have each been downloaded more than 10 million times and in aggregate make up almost 50% of total downloads.
Moreover, patients have easy, mobile access to health information and quality healthcare. For example, the Moodpath app allows users to track their mental health through cognitive behavioral therapy. At the same time, mobile apps connect doctors with patients who need assistance in real-time, thus easing the burden on healthcare workers. HealthTap is one such mobile app which offers 24×7 virtual assistance to patients by connecting them to certified doctors through call, text, or video call. .The value is increased patient engagement, patient education on one’s own condition and patient centricity coming to life rather than talked about.
Positive results from digital therapeutics
With the incorporation of technology to assist with the treating, preventing and managing of specific diseases, innovation amongst digital therapeutics and digital care products is increasing. According to the IQVIA report, Digital Therapeutics (DTx), and Digital Care (DC) products — incorporating software to treat, prevent or manage specific diseases or conditions — have been proliferating. Over 250 such products are now identified, including about 150 products that are commercially available, and the rest in development.
Digital therapeutics, which typically focus on a narrow clinical indication and generate evidence of clinical efficacy, follow a development path that typically requires market authorization by a regulatory body and sometimes a prescription from a provider, though some may be exempt. Neurologic and psychiatric conditions are a key focus of both DTx and DCs, making up over two-thirds of all DTx indications and over 40% of DCs, respectively, with DCs also used by patients suffering from endocrinology, oncology and cardiovascular conditions.