So, what's the value of a digital health technology? Let the controversy -- and opportunities - begin!

What just happened?

Peterson Center on Healthcare, a nonprofit organization, just launched its new Peterson Health Technology Institute (PHTI) and has announced a partnership with Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) to create a framework to assess the value of digital health technologies.

PHTI aims to fill the existing gap around understanding what digital tools work and how much they should cost via independent, publicly available evidence-based assessments.

“[PHTI] will analyze the clinical benefits and economic impact of digital health solutions, as well as their effects on health equity, privacy, and security.” – PHTI Press Release

First things first – what is a digital health tool?

If you ask this question, you are likely to get a myriad of responses such as…

  • wearables that monitor patient data (vitals, etc.) to guide treatment plans.
  • apps and platforms that enable remote clinical trial participation, including patient diaries, care reminders and two-way communications with care teams.
  • tech-embedded medicines that improve adherence and/or outcomes (e.g., chip in a pill).

It’s all these things - and likely more.

Implications of this partnership?

Immediate term

It will take time to land on assessment methodologies and share results. For now, this partnership signals a move away from the “wild wild west” of digital health tech. Just like ICER’s current assessment of medicines, we expect there will be lots of growing pains along this journey. There will be strong opinions from various stakeholders, and it will be contentious. 

There are just so many dimensions of value that must be considered. Just even simply looking through the lens of social determinants of health for starters spurs some important ones….

  • Is the tool appropriately designed for the patients who will use it? Do patients have sufficient health literacy to be able to engage effectively with the tool?
  • How are underlying AI algorithms set up and used? Do they contain real-life biases and stereotypes that may compromise the care and outcomes of the patient?
  • How is the patient introduced to the tool (by a provider, DTC advertising)? Can they access it (affordability, reliable wifi)? If they live in a “wifi desert”, the tool won’t work reliably. More food for thought here - New England Journal of Medicine - Supporting Health Care Equity with Digital-Infrastructure.

Medium to longer-term

  • “Under Pressure” (queue David Bowie):  Value assessment results will put pressure on insurer coverage of digital health tools and pricing pressure on digital health tool developers.
  • Value assessments may provide some additional level of validation for those that come out on top – fueling coverage, reimbursement and uptake of the “good ones.”
  • Inclusive medical research aided by technology can accelerate precision medicine advancements – resulting in more equitable treatment options and cost savings for plan sponsors money. 

What can you do to prepare today?

  • Gain internal alignment on how digital tools intersect with your portfolio.
  • Consider the lens of your therapeutic area(s) and patient populations. Identify key dimensions of value for digital tools geared toward these populations.
  • Identify external stakeholders (advocacy organizations, KOLs, professional societies) who share your viewpoint and can amplify it to PHTI/ICER.

About the Author:

Leigh Ann Bruhn is a healthcare veteran who brings deep industry (medical device/pharma manufacturing) and consulting experience to Syneos RRM. After leading commercial teams (brand marketing, market access) on the manufacturing side, including Pfizer and Abbott Laboratories, she joined Avalere Health, a top-tier healthcare consultancy in Washington DC.   

During her eight years at Avalere, she led many complex engagements with pharma/biotech manufacturers across market access, product commercialization and value strategy.  

She also oversaw Business Development efforts at Avalere and helped shape the Account Relationship Manager role there into what it is today.  

Leigh Ann has a BS in Finance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an MBA in Health Sector Management from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business.