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Takeaways from the CES Digital Health Summit: The Emergence of Digital Therapeutics

JAN 28
Over the past several weeks, TripleTree and TT Capital Partners (TTCP) have highlighted the importance of healthcare becoming smarter in order for our healthcare “system” to begin operating more like a true system. We recently attended the two-day CES Digital Health Summit in Las Vegas, which brought together a broad spectrum of attendees and thought leaders across the healthcare landscape for a discussion on the ways in which digital solutions are on the cutting-edge of delivering smarter healthcare.
 
From our perspective, a key takeaway from the conference was that user engagement (or lack thereof) is the barrier to realizing the benefits enabled by new healthcare technologies. Finding the next technology (mobile solutions, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and others) is not the challenge. Rather, the challenge is implementing new technologies in a way that fit naturally into the user’s daily life/workflow in order to drive consistent engagement. While this isn’t a novel statement in-and-of-itself, it should help ground us as we assess the impact that technological interventions can have on the challenges we face in healthcare.
 
A meaningful portion of the conference was dedicated to highlighting leaders in the “digital therapeutics” arena. This is an emerging area of healthcare that TripleTree and TTCP are keen to follow, as the benefits of augmenting – or replacing – traditional pharmaceutical treatment with digital therapies could have a significant impact on the ways in which we deliver and consume care. A number of innovative companies presented consumer-facing solutions that fit this theme, including:
 
  • AppliedVR uses virtual reality to treat post-discharge acute pain in lieu of opiates
  • Akili provides clinically-validated video games that treat individuals with ADHD
  • Brain Power powers the treatment of individuals with autism and traumatic brain injury via augmented reality experiences
  • Canary Health provides digital condition management software to enable individual-led management of chronic disease
  • Neurotrack delivers a digital-only eye-tracking technology for Alzheimer’s identification, treatment, and prevention
 
In our view, three important common denominators are present among these solutions.
 
  1. First, they all report to have robust clinical evidence supporting their intervention, which we believe is a critical gating factor for market adoption. Any vendor looking to position itself as an enhancement, and especially a replacement, to traditional modes of treatment will be met with scrutiny by buyers and regulators alike.
  2. Secondly, they all fit neatly into the end-user’s life, thereby increasing the likelihood of the technology being used in the necessary frequency and manner to enable clinical benefit.
  3. Finally, the technologies are built and delivered in a way that enables rapid feedback. This allows the vendor to conduct continuous performance testing to improve intervention effectiveness and engagement over time.

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Adoption of digital therapeutics will no doubt be met with a myriad of challenges and skepticism over time, but with sound clinical evidence and engagement, there could very well be a bright future ahead. It will be interesting to observe how the digital therapeutics market evolves as emerging companies make key strategic choices, including whether to pursue FDA approval for certain interventions. While there are tradeoffs (product strategy, cost, and others) associated with going down the FDA path, this stamp-of-approval could be a source of marketable differentiation as therapy end-markets become more crowded over time.
 
We are excited about the role digital therapeutics can play in making our healthcare system smarter, and will continue to follow this trend as it advances throughout 2018 and beyond. If you were in Las Vegas, please comment with your top takeaways from the CES Digital Health Summit!
 
 
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Adam Letson