COVID-19 has turned the world on its head, and the impact has been felt in all areas of industry as businesses across the globe had to rethink their operations almost overnight.
Healthcare is one of the industries where COVID-19 has had the largest impact as many pharmaceutical companies, biotechs, and digital and medical technology companies quickly switched their research priorities in response to the pandemic.
The rapidly changing market environment has posed huge challenges to the healthcare sector but has also been a catalyst for change as digital technology allows healthcare professionals to interact with patients remotely, reducing the risks of the disease spreading.
Digital technology is also becoming increasingly important in trials in general: lockdown regulations make it harder for patients to visit hospitals and clinics so remote observation is becoming essential to keep studies running smoothly.
Governments and regulators have responded too. US vice president Mike Pence announced measures that could pave the way for more widespread reimbursement of digital products in health programs funded by the federal government, Forbes noted in an article outlining how COVID could start a ‘digital therapeutics revolution.’
The FDA was already trying to encourage use of technology, such as DTx, before the pandemic began. It had already put in place a pre-certification scheme that means small iterations of devices won’t need constant review, as long as the regulator deems that the manufacturer is behaving in an ethical manner and has high clinical standards.
Technology that helps doctors interact with patients has seen a surge in demand, Forbes reported, with some companies in the space hiring hundreds more doctors to keep pace. DTx may also be bundled together with telemedicine products, introducing them to new patients who could continue to use them after the pandemic subsides.
This all builds on findings of a report from the European venture capital group Mangrove Capital Partners that looked across the whole digital health landscape to see how technological innovation is likely to impact on healthcare.
Its Healthcare Reimagined report dedicated a chapter to the value of DTx and found that the sector is poised to become increasingly influential.
There are many players in digital health, with the ability to quickly make technology, but who lack the capacity to clinically prove their safety and efficacy, the authors wrote.
They cited a 2018 analysis of published randomized controlled trials that found just 23 of apps available at the time had been tested in trials and less than half of those showed positive health effect from the app in question.
The interest pharma is piqued by the potential of DTx to create new revenue streams at a much lower cost than their traditional products – it is much more efficient to distribute software than medicines.
Citing Juniper Research, the Mangrove suggested the DTx market could be worth more than $32 billion by 2024, as the technology becomes more mainstream and embedded into health systems globally.
Many DTx products harness the power of AI to help with their decision-making. The report’s authors noted that while AI is already helping during drug development, there is potential for more use of the technology as a predictive tool.
AI could be used to predict cardiovascular risk factors, spotting mental health conditions, and the technology could be used to detect and predict potential health issues.