Attendees were both on site and remote, able to follow the global conference – Frontiers Health’s seventh event – from far and wide online, and discussions covered the future of digital therapeutics: improving patient and provider workflows, standardising definitions and regulatory schemes, and focusing on patient experience.
The conference also showcased advances in digital care delivery and telehealth, while diving into the realities of ‘hospital at home’ offerings and the opportunities created by real-world evidence (RWE) from sensors and connected devices. Other additional focus areas included digital health funding, scaling, and business models, as well as digital public health and taking innovation inspiration from outside of the healthcare industry.
Healthware Group’s CEO and founder Roberto Ascione, together with WTF Health’s founder and host Jessica DaMassa, formally opened the event, centred in the main hall for Day One, while Day Two spread out from the central hall to multiple rooms and tracks, and also held some purely virtual events, including the fireside chat ‘Shaping the future of healthcare with telemedicine’, moderated by Ascione.
General manager at Ethypharm Digital Therapeutics, Hélène Moore, said that scaling has become a buzzword in DTx because disparate systems make it so difficult to roll out broadly, and Aptar Digital Health’s Pierre Leurent claimed scale to be a relative thing, as different conditions have different sized populations, and noted the need for more harmonised standards, such as were to be discussed at Day Two of the conference, regarding the European DTx Policy Coalition.
Also on the panel was Healthware’s Alberta Spreafico, who mentioned that government policy can be guided by internal industry standards, so HCPs can help by aligning on their own internal policies and definitions. To this, Moore explained the importance of clear and illustrative case studies; helping people to understand what DTx are, how they work, and their potential benefits. The time, after all, is ripe: most governments and policymakers are in a period of change around digital health policy at the moment.
Praava Health’s Sylvana Sinha spoke of the Bangladeshi experience – where there are 400k patients without equity – and how her mother’s own health crisis whilst in the country for a family wedding prompted her to create Praava Health to offer an end-to-end solution and make a difference to people’s lives there. Meanwhile, Rachel Frizberg of biotech Roche explained one of the company’s core values is about reaching all the patients across the globe, not just key development markets, and mentioned its ‘Mission Leapfrog’ for creating sustainable healthcare systems in such places as the Philippines, where often breast and cervical cancers are treated far too late.
Altibbi’s Jalil Allabadi also raised the question of affordability and how the company’s telehealth solutions provide access to primary care for just $5 a month in certain parts of the world, and Estrella brought the conversation back round to partnership and how that can be achieved with larger organisations, including going direct-to-consumer in the first instance.
Meanwhile, Richard Secker-Johnson of ZS Associates informed his audience that a recent survey by the company had found that 70% of HCPs still cite digital health literacy as the greatest barrier to its adoption. Other hurdles include engagement, patient empowerment, and last-mile deployment. With Secker-Johnson were Malin Johansson, global head of digital health partnership at Novo Nordisk, and Saemundur Oddsson, chief medical officer at Sidekick Health. All agreed, transparency is key.
“We are still stuck in a very crude world of measurement,” he said. “Sure, we have lab tests that can measure blood counts and ECGs that can measure cardiac cycles. But in so many areas of care, the measures we have are very subjective. We tend to interact with patients in a tiny snapshot of their health, and that often leads to a delay in the detection of conditions that could be managed much better if caught earlier.”
Verily itself is exploring sensor-based measurement with its Verily Study Watch – which uses the Digital Medicine Society’s V3 framework to evaluate whether biomarkers are useful and fit to purpose.
“It [takes] an ecosystem and a variety of capabilities to move us towards precision health,” he said.
Used for millennia in a folk capacity and researched during the 1950s and 1960s until put on hold for various reasons – now that research on psilocybin is starting to recommence. Why? Because we are in a mental health crisis, and very little is working. In short, we need new paradigms.
Moderator of discussions Marco Mohwinckel was joined by David Erritzoe, Walter Greenleaf, Sahil Kirpekar, Greg Ryslik, and Metten Somers. The latter stated that there’s a lot of attention on the psychedelic renaissance and that these therapies might, in the future, be part of our normal healthcare – but more evidence is still needed. A phase 3 trial needs to be tested, but patient recruitment is difficult.
Additionally, Mohwinckel noted the importance of psychological support, with patients needing to be prepared for the psychedelic experience: it’s not just about taking psilocybin and sitting there, waiting for something to happen. Therapists have to be trained in the NLP Model that data is run through. It is personalised medicine.
Walter Greenleaf’s focus is VR and AI. Such immersive technologies can train therapists in dealing with patients who have a negative experience with psilocybin. Kirpekar admitted very few pharma companies have successfully moved into service providing in the mental health area.
This series of sessions also included a conversation between Eugene Borukhovich and Kabir Nath. Borukhovich stated that he’d recently learned that psychology therapy works backwards. Mental illness is a huge issue and biological markers still haven’t been found that will help. Nath noted the complex journey for patients with treatment-resistant depression and asked how the chasm can be crossed and psychological support be scaled.
No psychedelic is going to be a panacea and digital markers are going to be relied on more than genetic or genomic markers when it comes to treatment: that is to say, big data sets, relationships between symptoms, and other parts of people’s personal activity.
Meanwhile, Robert Konrat of Max Perutz Labs admitted an ignorance when it comes to digital tech healthcare, at the same time stressing the need for new research initiatives to exploit the massive amounts of data, so as to produce knowledge. Ranging from biochemical pathways linked together to form a phenotype, to the predictive possibility within the distance between two pathways and how WORD2Vec language analysis – working on the basis of semantics – can rotate scientific data when looking at predictive drug and disease relationships – he proposed a semantic information bank on biology, with patients as citizen scientists within the biomedical arena.
Merck’s global head of digital health, Emre Ozcan, conceded that biopharma now understands the value of digital health, while LifeScan’s head of global portfolio and project management David DeJonghe – an early entrant to the digital health space – said that it has to be structured around the customer. Global head of the Novartis Biome, Jacob LaPorte mentioned that ‘co-create’ is not just a buzzword when it comes to pharma and start-ups, while Wellthy Therapeutics’ chief business officer Theo Ahadome pointed out the difference between activation of patients and engagement with patients.
During this panel, Alyst was announced by Healthware and R2G. An ‘analyst in your pocket’, Alyst is a digital health research tool for tomorrow: a future horizon which is bright and necessarily digitalised.
Nicole Raleigh, Web Editor
Nicole Raleigh is pharmaphorum’s web editor. Transitioning to the healthcare sector in the last few years, she is an experienced media and communications professional who has worked in print and digital for over 15 years.