W2O Digital Health Summit Panel Summary: The New Next and What Does 2021 Look Like for Digital Health?

Introduction by Jennifer Signorini, Managing Director, W2O

Moderator

Udit Nagar, Vice President, Digital Health Investment Banking at BTIG

BTIG is a global financial services firm specializing in institutional trading, investment banking, research and related brokerage services. With an extensive global footprint and more than 650 employees, BTIG, LLC and its affiliates operate out of 18 cities throughout the United States and in Europe, Asia and Australia.

Panelists

Michael Evers, CEO, Woebot Health

Woebot Health is pioneering a new generation of digital therapeutics that combine the best psychotherapeutic tools, principles of therapeutic alliance, and advances in AI and Natural Language Processing (NLP) to make therapy more related, responsive and targeted, and to improve outcomes in mental health.

Brian Harris, Co-Founder and CEO, MedRhythms, Inc.

MedRhythms, a privately held company headquartered in Portland, Maine, is a digital therapeutics company that uses sensors, music and software to build evidence-based, neurologic interventions to measure and improve walking. MedRhythms is dedicated to developing direct stimulation digital therapeutics, meaning that each therapeutic provides, via prescription music, direct stimulation to enable the mechanism of action in each relevant population.

Eddie Martucci, Ph.D., Co-Founder and CEO, Akili

Akili is combining scientific and clinical rigor with the ingenuity of the tech and entertainment industries to challenge the status quo of medicine. Akili is pioneering the development of digital treatments and care solutions to help people affected by cognitive impairments. Akili’s treatments are designed to directly activate the networks in the brain responsible for cognitive function and have been rigorously tested in extensive clinical studies, including prospective, randomized, controlled trials.

Summary

Udit Nagar gave a preamble on the state of the sector prior to asking the panelists to give their introductions.

2021 should be an exciting year for the digital health industry coming off an extraordinary 2020, during which we witnessed tremendous changes on a number of fronts including:

  • Unprecedented adoption by patients across a number of modalities including primary care, behavioral health and remote monitoring
  • Numerous positive changes made on the regulatory side of the business
  • A number of high-profile IPOs (Accolade, American Well, GoodRx, GoHealth)
  • 3 SPAC transactions – Hims & Hers, SOC Telemed, Clover Health
  • Combination of Teladoc and Livongo

The first question for the panel focused on the regulatory environment: How has the FDA evolved in its regulation of digital health companies and what advice would you give companies in 2021 and beyond?

Panel discussion focused on the following themes:

  • The evolution at the FDA with respect to digital health since Akili first started discussions with the regulatory agency in 2014.
  • The best strategy is to be open and collaborative given that this is a nascent industry, which was the recommendation of all the CEOs.
  • The FDA is gaining more experience due to the large number of companies going through the approval process.

The second question focused on the number of companies conducting pilots with payors and how  payors are working with digital health companies.

Panel discussion focused on the following themes:

  • The pandemic has increased demand for mental health solutions, which has encouraged payors to work with digital health companies to meet this demand. There is pressure on payors to find solutions to meet the huge unmet need in the marketplace given that there is a finite number of human providers.
  • Many payors are either developing their own digital health solutions or investing in digital health start-ups, resulting in a core competency in evaluating technology.
  • Digital therapeutics (in the opinion of Eddie Martucci) are held to a higher standard by payors.
  • Expect expanded coverage by payors to grow in 2021 and beyond.

The third question focused on what digital health companies can do to expand access to patient populations, especially in light of the current pandemic.

Panel discussion focused on the following themes:

  • Access to digital solutions could be a game changer – especially in rural areas.
  • The focus of digital health companies on the user experience is a new paradigm in medicine. Traditional medicine is paternalistic – patients are told what drugs they need to take based on their condition.
  • Digital health companies have the ability to tailor the user experience to patient populations, which is a game-changer in healthcare.

Question from the audience: Are you collaborating with large employers, even within the pharma industry to enable access to digital therapeutics?

Panel discussion focused on the following themes:

  • Companies in the digital health sector are working in a number of ways to work with partners on distribution, and a number have partnered on specific products or territories.
  • Going forward, there will be a number of collaboration models and you should think of digital therapeutics as an independent pillar alongside pharmaceuticals, medical devices or therapy.
  • A new paradigm is to partner with consumer companies.

Question from the audience: I’m hearing a lot of conversation about keeping the patient as a consumer. There’s a lot of evidence that the patient / physician interaction is really important to health outcomes if that’s something you are taking into consideration. Can you discuss that?

Panel discussion focused on the following themes:

  • There is a myth out there that digital therapeutics are meant to cut the physician out of care delivery. This could not be further from the truth.
  • The advantage of digital therapeutics is they provide longitudinal information rather than a single interaction at the point of care. This is tremendously valuable for clinicians.