Health IT

Advocating for a Digital Therapeutics Alliance

A digital health entrepreneur muses on the future of his industry at a reception preceding the annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference and calls for a special alliance of companies that are using digital tools for therapeutic effect.

collaboration, partnership

The 35th annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare conference kicked off even before it officially did in rain-soaked San Francisco on Sunday with several receptions around the city.

And while the conference has historically been the epicenter for biotech dealmaking and buzz,  in the last couple of years the growing influence of digital health both inside the conference and in the ecosystem it has spawned has been hard to ignore. Even at one of the receptions on Sunday evening — BIOCOM, NewYorkBio & Friends Wine Reception co-hosted with Echo Health Ventures at the Marker Hotel where entrepreneurs hobnobbed along with investors — digital health entrepreneurs were part of the mix.

And so although the conversations touched upon from value-based care to why employers should not be providing health insurance, there were also glimpses of where digital health could be headed.

One of the more intriguing visions of that came from Pierre Leurent, CEO of Voluntis, a French connected therapeutics company that recently received 510(k) clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a physician-driven dosage management platform for basal insulin geared for Type 2 diabetes patients.

 

Pierre Laurent, CEO of Voluntis

Pierre Leurent, CEO of Voluntis

Leurent sees a growing subsegment within the broad digital health category that includes his own company: the startups that are developing clinically validated tools that can actually move the needle in terms of improved value and lowered costs. And that is the digital therapeutics company.

 

These companies are taking specific disease states and attempting to harness digital tools to improve disease management. Leurent rattled off some well-known digital health companies that he pegged as being leaders in their own therapeutic vertical.

San Francisco-based Omada Health in prediabetes management; Madison, Wisconsin-based Propeller Health in asthma/chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder management; London and San Francisco-based Big Health in sleep management; Boston-based Akili Interactive Labs in cognitive disorders and of course, Suresnes, France-based Voluntis in insulin management, Leurent observed.

“I want to create a Digital Therapeutics Alliance,” he declared, noting that he has reached out to companies like Omada Health.

He feels its important to raise the profile of this subset within digital health by pointing out that all these companies are using measurable outcomes to prove their value and have been developed by pursuing the hallmark of what is considered the basis of rigorous development: the randomized clinical trial.

“We need to reveal this category,” he said. “My sense is that there is a case [to me made for these companies] to join forces. These solutions increasingly fit within value-based pricing.”

The motivation to lift up this group within digital health’s broad umbrella isn’t surprising. There is a sense that digital health is growing up and maturing in that a healthcare app while cool a few years ago, is no longer something that can win the evidence and outcomes-based healthcare system that the industry are moving toward.

And there is also a sense of needing to separate the wheat from the chaff. Not too long ago, James Madara, the President and chief executive officer of the American Medical Association, likened the plethora of healthcare apps and ineffective electronic medical records as being the digital snake oil of the 21st Century.

Many attending J.P. Morgan week in San Francisco would gladly see that characterization die and quickly.

Photo: plustwentyseven, Getty Images