2020 was a defining year for digital health care. Before and especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, digital health, including software, mobile health applications, machine learning and AI, wearables, and personalized medicine, have created innumerable possibilities in improving both patient health and healthcare provider efficiency, while seeking to ease the burden on health care systems.
At Frontiers Health, we are proud to leverage such a proactive and resilient global ecosystem, operating on the frontline to tackle current crucial challenges ahead, through innovation, collaboration and solid and proven digital solutions.
We’d like to share and review together some of the events and news that have contributed to defining 2020 in the digital health industry, leverage a shared knowledge, a collective reflection, enabling us to better cope with the new year’s opportunities and hurdles ahead.
Following are some picks from the past year that we, at Frontiers Health, consider strategic and foundational to the next advancements in the health innovation space.
1. A global commitment to tackle the Covid-19 Pandemic
As response to the COVID-19 global outbreak grew, government organizations and healthcare providers had to address digital health with increased urgency. Many patients have found themselves unable to see doctors or receive normal medical care for fear of overwhelming the health system or potentially exacerbating the pandemic. Key health care stakeholders have renewed interest in technologies and initiatives that can provide concrete solutions to mitigate the pandemic. In May 2019, in the midst of the first pandemic wave, we began mapping the digital health response to the global health crisis. We vetted some of the most active players globally as scale-up and start-up companies, hubs, large corporations, institutions, acceleration programs, and created a market landscape to help map the organizations that are improving the value and impact of digital health and helping with coordination, cooperation and scale.
2. Digital health apps prescription
Starting in 2020, healthcare apps can be prescribed by doctors in Germany with the costs covered by statutory insurance. The move follows the launch of the Digital Healthcare Act (DVG) in 2019, which grants doctors in Germany permission to prescribe apps to their patients. A real challenge for new digital health solutions has been their cost. Digital Care Act’s most prominent effect is to allow reimbursement of costs for qualifying health apps prescribed by healthcare professionals (HCPs) under public health insurance. In order to qualify, a health app must be certified as a medical device in a certain risk category. Digital transformation of the healthcare sector boasts a range of opportunities for product development.
3. Advancement in AI and machine learning
On September 2020, Biofourmis, which combines AI-based data analytics and biosensors to monitor the progress of medical treatments, announced the completion of a $100 Million Series C Funding Round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2, to further empower personalized predictive care.
4. The consolidation of the digital health technology landscape through M&A
On August 2020 we witnessed the merger of Teladoc Health Inc. and Livongo Health Inc, creating the largest virtual care operator in the global market. Teladoc is a telehealth leader while Livongo, a provider of coaching services that help people manage chronic conditions, falls in the category of remote health and disease management, both of which is also seeing soaring demand during the pandemic.
5. Digital therapeutics – It’s time to scale
On June 2020, The US FDA permitted the marketing of EndeavorRx, Akili Interactive’s long awaited videogame-based therapy to treat adolescents suffering from ADHD, representing the first FDA-Approved Video Game Therapeutic.
6. Our global hybrid events
Back in May 2020, in the peak of the first global lockdown due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, the Frontiers Health team conceived and held a +7 hours hybrid live event, broadcasted globally from Healthware’s Life Hub Headquarters, focused on understanding how the global digital health ecosystem has been responding to the Covid-19 challenge and beyond. Access the full video library of the event here.
Capitalizing on this experience, we ran our November global conference in a hybrid format for the first time, gathering more than 200 speakers and 1000 attendees worldwide, keeping the spirit of the conference intact also incorporating local physical hubs across Europe.
7. Learning from failure
We’ve been very impressed by the insightful analysis shared in October 2020 by Andrew Thompson, past CEO and Co-founder at Proteus Digital Health, now acquired by Otsuka Pharmaceuticals, on his intense experience as “smart pill” maker, whose sensor was the first of its kind to receive clearance from the FDA. We invited him to join a dedicated fireside chat at FH20 with pharmaphorum’s web editor Catherine Longworth about lessons that can be learned from the company’s troubled attempt to market the technology.
8. Effective digital mental health is more necessary than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused worldwide fear, uncertainty and restriction of movement. The physical distancing, socio-economic consequences of quarantine measures, and the loss of social support are a grave threat to public mental health. Over 2020, the potential of digital health to increase access and quality of mental health is becoming clear. Increased investments in digital health today will yield unprecedented access to high-quality mental health care, in fact over the last year digital mental health deals reached a record high, with companies in the space seeing record deal volume with 68 deals for an amount of $417 M.
We at FH20 hosted two panel discussions on the theme: one on meaningful experiences that can “heal” and also “cure” patients and another on digital mental health solutions and the quest of empathy.
9. Accelerating the adoption of patient-focused, decentralized clinical trials
As Covid-19 has spread across the globe and clinics and hospitals that served as trial sites were suddenly overwhelmed with coronavirus patients, virtual clinical trials are used to fast-track drug development, accelerating a key trend that could meaningfully change clinical research as we know it.
Our FH20 Lausanne Local hub gathered a group of experts to discuss weighty aspects of digital trials, such as real world data, patient stratification and digital biomarkers in predictive care.
10. Pivoting on digital health companies to navigate through the new normal and beyond
Digital health companies demonstrated their ability to play an outsize role in both ameliorating the immediate effects of the pandemic emergency and in driving proven, positive changes in its aftermath.