Digital therapeutics: A step change for health and wellbeing

29 January 2019

by Lucy Stapleton UK Pharmaceutical and life sciences leader

Email +44 (0) 7771 878523

New year’s resolutions rarely last, but my colleagues and I have been particularly enjoying a team ‘step challenge’ that is pitting different business units against each other to see who can clock up the most steps during a week. Using an app that allows us to build league tables and closely monitor performance we have developed a very healthy competition! By either taking the stairs instead of the lift to meetings or deliberately pacing up and down the stage during presentations we have all been finding fun ways to give ourselves a January health boost. 

Looking at this another way, it is also fascinating to reflect on how apps like our wearable tech - and the gamification of health in particular - are driving significant behavioral changes when it comes to our own wellbeing.

Connected health services, enabled by apps or devices that transmit data or connect to the internet, are giving greater visibility into care delivery, providing new ways to improve patient outcomes, and helping them become more engaged with wellbeing and compliant with their treatment.

In 2019, new entrants and pharmaceutical and medical device companies will continue bringing to market new digital therapies and connected health services. The traditional definition of new entrants is also getting wider, with many new entrants now becoming FDA approved.

For example, Apple received an FDA clearance in September for its smart watch ECG and an algorithm for detecting atrial fibrillation and will continue to develop products using their strengths, including user interface, consumer engagement and sensor technology. In the UK, from the latest cohort of health start-ups we are mentoring in our Scale programme, we have witnessed the growth of companies like Ampersand Health, a social impact company developing the first scientifically-validated digital medicine for patients with long term inflammatory conditions.


As more digital therapeutics and connected devices come onto the market, pharmaceutical companies will have to change their approach to product discovery and development, focusing on solutions that have demonstrable outcomes for patients and providers.

My colleagues in the US have just published an article highlighting three implications for the way the industry operates:

  • Focus on outcomes, not just endpoints

To succeed in the digital therapeutics era, pharmaceutical and life sciences companies must venture more deeply into care delivery. Using real-world data and enhancing the connection between patients and providers will also lead to design of new payment and contracting models. Pharmaceutical companies may look to the medical device industry to further understand the skills and processes necessary to move from selling products to creating healthcare solutions.

  • Evaluate the impact of digital therapeutics and connected care solutions on your practice

New health data streams coming in from patients’ devices and mobile phones may disrupt provider practices even as they help improve care delivery. Evaluate workflow processes for new data streams, including integration in electronic medical health records. Successfully integrating new patient data into physician practices may improve in-person visits, making health discussions more efficient and informed by real-world patient behaviours.

  • Explore partnership models focused on demonstrating results

Digital therapeutics and connected devices may make it easier to construct value-based contracts and other outcomes-based financial models with payers and providers to drive adoption. Subscription pricing for digital therapeutics or connected device solutions, for example, could make pharmacy spending more predictable and efficient.

The NHS has just published its Long Term Plan  hailing prevention as a way to save 500,000 lives over the next 10 years. Surely greater engagement in healthcare by the public aided by digital therapeutics will help meet this goal?

by Lucy Stapleton UK Pharmaceutical and life sciences leader

Email +44 (0) 7771 878523