Citation: “Pharmapack Expert Panel on Patient-Centric Digital Health: Interview with Ben Cox, Team Consulting”. ONdrugDelivery Online, January 24, 2023.
Q Can you give us a brief overview of the state of play for digital health in the healthcare industry?
A Digital health solutions have the potential to increase efficiencies and reduce costs for the healthcare industry, thereby alleviating some of the pressure healthcare services are facing. One of the positive outcomes of the pandemic has been the accelerated adoption of digital solutions among different patient populations. We are now beginning to see the introduction of a more hybrid approach to healthcare, with digital solutions augmenting in-person care. There has never been a better time for pharma companies and device manufacturers to build digital solutions into their offerings.
However, onboarding patients can be complicated and adding a new digital element into a medication regime can add a number of challenges. Device developers will need to invest time and research into understanding their users’ behaviours and motivations and use their findings to design tools that provide an optimal user experience. Healthcare providers will need to understand the full digital health ecosystem, both for their own use and from their patients’ perspectives.
“Over the past few years, we have seen a number of key emerging trends, including a rise in biologics and generic devices and an increasing adoption of digital health solutions.”
Q What are you most looking out for at Pharmapack 2023 in terms of new trends or innovations?
A Pharmapack Europe has always been a key place for the industry to come together and discuss the latest trends and innovations. Over the past few years, we have seen a number of key emerging trends, including a rise in biologics and generic devices and an increasing adoption of digital health solutions. It will be interesting to see how these trends are discussed during the event, as well as any new innovations being showcased in these areas. Team Consulting’s own session will explore the strategies driving a patient-centric e-culture, so we’re especially keen to hear the wider industry’s thoughts on the role digital solutions have to play in the future of healthcare.
Sustainability is another key area that we anticipate a significant focus on, with many companies broadening their horizons to consider not only the sustainability of their own internal processes, but also that of their suppliers. It will be interesting to hear how both device manufacturers and packaging and materials suppliers have been building sustainability into their offerings.
“For some years, we have been seeing the beginnings of a hybrid approach built into healthcare, including telehealth and digital solutions supporting at-home care.”
Q How has adoption of digital health solutions changed over the past few years?
A One of the few positive outcomes of the pandemic is that we’ve seen people’s experiences and attitudes towards digital health solutions shift. Some of the potential barriers to digital adoption that were frequently encountered before, such as digital literacy and access to technology, have largely been removed. Even older patients are becoming more comfortable with digital technology, having been required to use a variety of digital tools, such as video calls and QR code scanning, during the pandemic.
In the longer term, some of these new behaviours will stick; however, the pandemic was not a single transformative moment alone. For some years, we have been seeing the beginnings of a hybrid approach built into healthcare, including telehealth and digital solutions supporting at-home care. Germany offers a great example of this, with the Digital Healthcare Act of 2019 seeing millions entitled to the use of a “Digital Health Application” prescribed by a physician or psychotherapist, the price of which can then be reimbursed by statutory health insurance.
From a device manufacturer perspective, drug delivery device companion apps have been a key focus in recent years; however, the rise of digital therapeutics and solutions is now taking us further, providing more holistic approaches to patient health. For any digital solution to be truly effective, it is crucial that device manufacturers place the user at the heart of development, identifying user challenges and using behavioural science to develop an optimal user experience.
Another area where we are seeing increased use of digital solutions is in clinical trials. Currently, there are large numbers of, often fragmented, digital health technologies in use around clinical trials. Ensuring that both the healthcare provider and patients can understand and have the resources needed to implement these solutions will be essential for their success, no matter how useful the technology is in and of itself.
Q What changes in digital health solutions might we see this year?
A You’re going to see much more comprehensive product systems that take patients’ journeys and device usage into account. By the “system”, we mean the device, the secondary packaging – including the carton and labelling – and any companion digital solutions.
“When designing a product with a digital solution, we try and think about the whole system and how we can bridge the gap between the physical and the digital.”
When designing a product with a digital solution, we try and think about the whole system and how we can bridge the gap between the physical and the digital. It’s important to consider what motivates the user, including the key behavioural nudges and what kind of call to action might be needed to encourage them to adopt the solution. The key is to identify what will be most impactful or resonate best with patients to get them to understand the value of adopting the digital solution as part of the overall product system.
A critical area for this is the onboarding stage. We need to consider what we can do to engage the patient at that first moment when they are prescribed a treatment or first diagnosed, and then what their journey looks like from here, including any potential pain points along the way.
“As with anything, a digital technology is only as good as its weakest link.”
Q What is your key message to pharma companies and device manufacturers regarding digital health solutions?
A It’s important that pharma companies and device developers ensure that they have thought about the full product system as much as possible. Design teams should avoid developing any part of the product in isolation, ensuring that each element guides and motivates the user in a coherent way. As with anything, a digital technology is only as good as its weakest link; therefore, it’s important to consider how each part supports the product system as a whole. The benefits that a digital solution provides must far outweigh any additional burden for the user from implementing and adopting it.
Team Consulting will be presenting a roundtable at Pharmapack Europe 2023 on “Innovative Strategies Driving a Patient-Centric E-Culture” (Room-721 at 12:40pm on Day One) with Charlotte Harris, Head of Front-End Innovation, Team Consulting, and Ben Cox, Head of Digital Design, Team Consulting.