San Francisco, CA — We’re just a few years away from digital therapies taking on traditional medicines on their own turf: clinical trials, formularies, and prescription pads.

Bouncing back from the backlash

In 2013, we were all calling wearables the next big thing in healthcare. Then in 2014, Nike fired the majority of Fuelband team. The New York Times called them “digital snake oil.” A lot of us chucked out Fitbits.

But, investors haven’t backed off. They think the first generation just wasn’t good enough. The new wearables will be more clinically valid, smarter, more convenient, and more relevant to our lives.

That’s just the beginning

Real digital therapies are just beginning to take shape. In three years, the investment in digital therapies has experienced 20x growth. These are behavioral software tools that are backed by published clinical data. Real world outcomes. This isn’t pill+ to improve the bottom line, it is the bottom line. Within a few years these solutions will be listed on formulary next to pills. (Rock Health, 2014)

Digital therapies include any software or hardware designed to deliver behavioral medicine at scale to tackle chronic disease and reduce healthcare costs. A few investor favorites right now include:

  • Mango Health’s mobile app that improves adherence by over 50% in chronic therapeutic categories like cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and diabetes.

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  • Omada’s Prevent program that gives prediabetics a 16-week online course with 1:1 coaching and support built it to reduce the risk of developing Type II diabetes.

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  • Kurbo’s online and mobile weight management program safe for kids and teens between the ages of 8 and 18 and their families. 85% of beta participants saw a significant decrease in their BMI in 10 weeks.

A spoon might point the way

This year, Google bought a spoon. One from Lift Labs, a company that is developing smart utensils for people with Parkinson’s and essential tremor. It competes head-on with medicines that treat the symptoms of those diseases, but does it with absolutely no side effects. Instead, it uses active cancellation (which is currently in noise canceling headphones) to stabilize larger scale motion. They’re also looking at solutions for drinking and glooming. We might not hear more for a while, though. After the acquisition, the team went into Google’s notoriously secretive labs.


Introducing Liftware from Lift Labs on Vimeo.

Governments and payers are looking carefully at the potential of these new solutions. Long a first mover on digital health, the US Department of Veteran Affairs changed its contracting template in such a way that enables it to soon begin reimbursing its doctors for clinical grade activity trackers in some limited circumstances.

They’re focused on a number of highly specific metrics such as stance and swing time, gait symmetry, dynamic function, cadence and cadence variability, step count, numbers of steps per time interval, peak performance, and functional level assessment.


About the Author:

As Managing Director of Innovation for Syneos Health Communications, Leigh is responsible for shaping the company’s perspective on the next era of healthcare marketing. Through thought leadership, strategic innovation workshops and new products and capabilities, Leigh focuses on identifying marketing approaches that will fuel that new era and generate significant growth for clients. Leigh has worked with Fortune 1000 companies to craft their digital, mobile, social and CRM strategies for over 17 years. She’s worked for category-leading agencies in retail, public affairs, B2B technology, and higher education. Prior to moving to Syneos Health Communications, she had several leadership roles at one of our agencies, GSW. There, she founded an innovation practice fueled by the zeitgeist and spearheaded digital and innovation thinking across the business. Leigh has taken a special interest in complex healthcare products that can change lives in meaningful ways. She was recently a strategic lead on the 3rd largest launch in pharmaceutical history: Tecfidera. Before that she had keys roles with Eli Lilly Oncology, Abbott Nutrition, Amgen Cardiovascular, and Eli Lilly Diabetes. A critical part of Leigh’s work is trends and new ideas. Every year, she convenes a group of trend watchers from across our global network to identify the shifts most critical to healthcare marketers. Leigh is a sought-after writer and speaker. Recognized as one of the most inspiring people in the pharmaceutical industry by PharmaVoice, Leigh also was recognized as a Rising Star by the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association (HBA) for her overt passion, industry thought leadership and significant contributions in new business, strategy and mentoring.