Key success factors for enabling digital health technology market access

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Digital health has undergone significant changes over the last decade in terms of technology, infrastructure and adoption. The surge in telemedicine, remote patient monitoring and artificial intelligence is helping to make healthcare delivery more efficient, cost-effective, equitable and accessible to patients wherever they are.

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly accelerated this transformation. The sophistication of mHealth technologies (such as wearables) and their integration into people’s everyday lives are opening doors for the health and lifestyle industry, bringing us closer to more holistic patient care, where prevention is as important as cure. However, what is truly remarkable is the silent transformation that Digital Therapeutics has brought about. Digital is no longer just supporting clinical decision making and delivery. This has become a viable form of healthcare intervention with these Digital Therapeutics, at the same level of clinical impact as drugs or medical devices. In recent years, studies have been published to demonstrate its effectiveness in chronic disease management, mental health, personal care and diagnosis.

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Since 2017, digital therapy has had the fastest growth of all healthcare technology segments, increasing eightfold in the last five years with an estimated global market value of US$28.7 billion by 2030. With the market projected to grow substantially, digital therapy plays a key role very large. the potential to transform health systems to help cope with the increasing demands of our society, both now and in the future.

Status of digital health adoption in Asian markets

According to Galen Growth, 27 percent of digital health ventures are funded in Asia Pacific by 2022, making it the second largest ecosystem in the world. Countries such as China, South Korea and Singapore are emerging as innovation hubs, encouraging local start-ups. Research groups and online marketplaces capture 49 percent of the total invested funds. The integration of e-commerce and healthtech has been gaining momentum, offering easy access to medical and healthcare services, such as internet hospitals in China. Telemedicine has been widely adopted and continues even after the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Asia-Pacific is a diverse and complex region. Variations in healthcare systems, legal and regulatory policies, economic and cultural differences can be significant across Asian countries. Contrasting and fragmented health infrastructure is exacerbated by inconsistent levels of connectivity and digital literacy, especially in rural areas. These challenges can limit the effectiveness and adoption of digital health solutions.

In addition, economic disparities require well-designed business models to make digital health solutions affordable for sustainable adoption. However, there is currently no specific evaluation framework in place in the region to properly recognize the full value of these innovations, resulting in fragmented replacement coverage and underfunding. The lack of an evaluation framework tailored to digital health further limits and delays patient access in Asia-Pacific. Reimbursement pathways and evidence requirements are often unclear, and are typically unsuitable for many digital health technologies. Therefore, there is a need to devise a better access strategy for digital health technology to overcome this barrier.

Digital health technology vs. traditional health products

The rapid, incremental, and iterative nature of digital health technologies makes them stand out from traditional medicine or medical devices, making their evaluation more challenging. However, without proper judgment, its value will be underappreciated. This in turn will have a significant impact on willingness to pay, purchasing, and financing/replacement decisions. Unlike traditional medicines or devices, which are relatively consistent when used, digital health technologies are frequently updated. This dynamic nature may make it less applicable to traditional evaluation methods designed for static products, such as randomized double-blinded clinical trials.

In addition, the causal effect between interventions and desired outcomes is not linear with digital health technologies, such as traditional health products. The effectiveness of this technology depends on product usage and user engagement. Variability in how users interact with these technologies can significantly impact their performance and outcomes, a factor that traditional evaluation methods for drugs or devices may not fully account for.

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Finally, the integration of digital health technologies into existing healthcare systems often requires workflow disruptions and organizational changes. Their health economic benefits can vary widely depending on the specifics of the health care system. Therefore, digital health technology requires a broader and more comprehensive health technology assessment framework, according to goals.

Understanding their unique attributes is critical to developing evaluation models and processes that can accurately measure their overall value for different stakeholders in healthcare (patients, practitioners, providers, policy makers and payers).

Drivers of digital health technology access in Asia

Despite its many challenges, Asia offers great potential for digital health. The government invests in digital health infrastructure, such as India’s Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission. They should continue this positive trend by implementing supportive policies, providing funding for digital health initiatives, and creating a supportive regulatory and access environment. Until now, policy makers in the region have tended to rely on existing medical device policies for Digital Health. However, the unique nature and characteristics of digital health require revised policies that are fit for purpose. This innovation introduces a new paradigm for healthcare delivery, where much remains to be done and no one has all the answers. As such, it is not only the government’s job to push for the right approach to access and adoption. All players in the ecosystem must collaborate. Manufacturers must work closely with other stakeholders to ensure their innovative digital solutions meet the needs of diverse populations and deliver value.

Health care providers and professionals can ensure effective integration into healthcare delivery systems. They can help articulate and educate patients and policy makers about the benefits of digital health and strengthen trust. Digital offers the possibility for patients to take charge of their health. Therefore, they need to be actively involved in the development, deployment, and updating of digital health solutions throughout the product life cycle.

Collectively, we can increase the effectiveness of Digital Health Technologies for the quality of care that everyone deserves, and simultaneously accelerate the time to market for innovations that will have broader socioeconomic benefits.

Anh Bourcet

Anh Bourcet (Nguyen), PhD, is a Strategic Advisor at the Asia Pacific Medical Technology Association (APACMed). A seasoned global market access leader, he will present his topics of “Expanding Patient Access to Digital Health” at the Digital Health conference, and “Digital Health – Reimbursement Pathway” under the Doing Business segment in Thailand on August 16 and 18 respectively . at Asia Health 2023.

Learn more about Medlab Asia and Asia Health and click here to register for the event.

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