A post written by Jessica Shull (Digital Therapeutics Alliance), Dr. Keith Grimes (Babylon Health), and Alexandra Yembele (Withings) 

The evolution of health systems is speeding up

Physicians in Europe have been devoting 100% of their time and effort to caring for patients for decades; their grueling schedules leave them with little bandwidth for anything other than direct patient care activities. With this as the backdrop, Covid-19 introduced a whole new category of patient concerns and access problems.

Health systems are increasingly overburdened, and the majority of national healthcare budgets cannot be expanded. This is not ideal as countries aim to maintain current standards of care for their aging populations while needing to develop novel ways to treat patients with acute and mental health conditions in the midst of a continuously shifting pandemic.

However, healthcare processes and treatments continue to evolve — as they always have — from penicillin and the X-ray to gene therapy and digital health technologies (DHT). This evolution of healthcare has sped up in the last 20 years. In particular, innovations in digital health now provide invaluable assistance to clinicians and nursing staff, easing their ability to triage patients, rely on actionable insights, and extend care beyond the office setting. These advances offer integrated care for whole populations in countries across the globe, providing the tools so that potentially, no one is left behind.

New solutions for new challenges

Recognizing the immense need, healthcare systems are adopting innovative pathways for DHTs. Three examples include:

  • Regulatory authorities in Germany are now reviewing digital therapies and diagnostics which may be prescribed nationally to 78 million people;
  • As part of insurance benefits in some countries, employers are utilizing connected devices like sleep trackers and heart rate monitors to encourage employees to improve health indicators;
  • In 2019, few physicians in Germany utilized telemedicine platforms (virtual visits with patients via phone or online), but this year there was a 200% increase in some parts of the country due to the pandemic.

This did not replace or reduce the value of the physicians. Instead, it was quite the opposite. These examples highlight countries’ need to find new ways to interact with patients and provide care within existing healthcare systems.

The best-case scenario is when these three resources — digital therapeutics, remote patient monitoring, and telemedicine platforms — work together. This trio of digital health technologies can be used to assist a wide variety of patients.

A concrete potential

In the example of patient Maria, who was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in 2015, she consistently visits Dr. Becker every 6 months for a routine check-up. The European Respiratory Society estimates 15–20% of adults over 40 in Europe suffer from this disease. In 2019, Maria learned that she could begin accessing digital care products to manage her disease. She now has a Withings ScanWatch to monitor her oxygen saturation and daily walking distance. The backend integration of Withings’ open API allows Babylon, a telemedicine platform, to automatically and safely receive data that Maria has authorized to be sent. Now, Dr. Becker has on-demand access to the data she needs and can adjust Maria’s medication accordingly, while also monitoring the long-term effectiveness of Maria’s treatment.

Additionally, Maria uses a companion digital therapeutics (DTx) for COPD, which works with her medications, tracks her triggers, and helps her adjust key behaviors to optimize her overall condition. Due to the insights provided via the DTx, she now avoids taking walks on days with high levels of air pollution, has lowered her use of rescue inhalers, understands how to best exercise, and appreciates reduced dyspnoea episodes.

Through this suite of technologies, Maria and Dr. Becker have co-created a care plan that helps identify goals and well-defined actions to help improve her health and change key behaviors. While Maria still checks in every 6 months with Dr. Becker, she hasn’t been admitted to the hospital and each of her health indicators is better. During the COVID-19 quarantine months, in-person visits have been performed virtually on the Babylon digital platform. If Maria’s condition changed, Dr. Becker could enable a series of alerts that would initiate a clinician review. Through these configurations, defined by triggers based on Maria’s condition and history, Dr. Becker only sees the information that is needed, not daily dumps of data.

This scenario is real and these collaborations could provide additional access to people who need care when systems are stressed.

More about the digital health spectrum contributors:

Babylon Health

Babylon Health is a globally leading technology company with the ambitious mission to put an accessible and affordable health service in the hands of every person on Earth. We combine technology and medical expertise to bring doctors and people closer together, with digital health tools designed to empower people with knowledge about their health. Through a range of digital health services — such as an AI-backed app and video doctor appointments — we provide around-the-clock access to affordable, holistic healthcare services and information. We work with governments, health providers and insurers across the globe, and healthcare facilities from small local practices to large hospitals. With a $2Bn valuation, Babylon covers 20 million people across the globe, and has delivered more than 8m virtual consultations and AI interactions. We have teamed up with 170 impactful worldwide partners — including Mount Sinai Health Partners, the NHS, Telus Health, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Government of Rwanda — to fulfil our vision of accessible and affordable healthcare, for all. For more information, visit https://www.babylonhealth.com.

Digital Therapeutics Alliance

Founded in 2017, the Digital Therapeutics Alliance (DTA) is a non-profit trade association of industry leaders and stakeholders engaged in the evidence-driven advancement of digital therapeutics. DTA maintains an international industry focus and is headquartered in the United States. DTA exists to broaden the understanding, adoption, and integration of clinically evaluated digital therapeutics into healthcare through education, advocacy, and research. In Europe, digital therapeutics offer regulated, CE marked digital therapies to patients with a diagnosed condition or disease. Most DTx products in Europe require third-party authorization or a prescription from a qualified clinician. Digital therapeutics undergo clinical trials, collect real world outcomes, and are based on patient-centered core principles and product development best practices, including product design, usability, data security, and privacy standards.

Withings

Withings produces medical grade devices for at-home monitoring so that patients can understand with precision their symptoms and trends in indicators. Withings’ mission is to continuously and effortlessly provide healthcare professionals with medical-grade data generated by patients from an ecosystem of connected devices. For more than a decade, Withings has built a range of award-winning products including activity trackers, connected scales, a wireless blood pressure monitor, a smart temporal thermometer, and an advanced sleep system. From remote patient monitoring to clinical research to chronic disease management, Withings has dedicated solutions that provide the richest array of accurate real-world data thanks to a complete ecosystem of connected devices, data connectivity options, and a remote patient monitoring platform. Visit our website here.