Top 10 tips from our DTx West panel: Pharma’s “must-haves” in digital health

Dtx west panel 2 blog

It was great to be at DTx West in the Bay Area last week. The 2023 conference broke out into two tracks, one exploring DTX “value” and the other focusing on “evidence.” Both of these tracks highlighted the evolution of digital health and its proof points that grow stronger each year.

I joined a keynote panel discussing pharma’s “must haves” for digital, with moderator Sarah Jackson, Director of Business Development & Alliance Management at Click Therapeutics; Suhas Krishna, VP & Head of Product Management, Digital Health at Bristol Myers Squibb; Melinda Decker, Advisor and Fractional Chief Commercial Officer at Altoida, Inc.; Brad Gescheider, Chief Commercial Officer at Woebot Health; Hillel Lehmann, VP of Transformation at Nestle Health Science.

As the digital therapeutics (DTx) space has expanded in recent years, the expectations for pharma and their partners have matured. Creating a viable relationship is a complex, costly and often lengthy process. Here are the top ten tips we discussed in the panel.

5 tips from digital health companies

  1. When you've seen one pharma company, you've seen one pharma company. Each pharmaceutical company is different, meaning that an understanding of what works at one may not hold true at another. Additionally, personnel change frequently; pharma companies frequently grow, promote, re-organize and change out their digital talent in this market. Figuring out which pharma companies are aligned with your strategy is key.
  2. Look for partners with a centralized digital function. Companies whose digital functions are embedded within the brand or patient experience teams can be tricky to navigate. Pharma companies that have invested in building and funding a centralized digital function often have larger remits and can get programs underway faster.
  3. Seek out partners with area expertise. Look for pharma partners that have assembled a team of subject area experts covering the relevant fields. For example, on-staff physicians who can solve for real-world clinical workflow, or technologists who understand how deployment works, coupled with your technological expertise and knowledge of what is possible helps ensure that a partnership is focused on the right success metrics.
  4. Follow the money. Partnership is a relationship, and knowing the decision maker(s) is critical. Often that role sits outside of the pharma’s digital team. So, while you may have great relationships with the digital team inside the organization, take the time to understand the broader stakeholder landscape and decision criteria.
  5. Build early proof points, but plan for the long haul. Designing programs that show early successes helps build credibility. But the promise of digital must include return on investment in the medium to long term. Early proof points in the first phases of projects unlock the opportunity to tackle more ambitious objectives. Demonstrating improvements in initiation, adherence or other priorities in clinical or commercial contexts can drive a pharma company’s interest in committing to a deeper partnership.

And 5 tips from biopharma companies

  1. Get to know the assets. Pharma companies, especially large cap multinationals, have big portfolios of assets targeting various treatment areas. That creates a diverse set of needs and priorities across the organization. Having a clear line of sight to where you add value in a specific asset area is critical to success.
  2. Different teams have different goals. R&D leaders are solving for different objectives than commercial leads; the U.S. affiliate will have different aims from the Global team. Understand each team’s goals and pain points, and be prepared to address them, even to the point of tailoring presentations for a single product to each audience.
  3. Other metrics can matter as much as clinical. There's been a lot of emphasis on what clinical evidence should look like for a digital solution, but the leading indicators of success aren’t necessarily clinical objectives. They could be market research output, or qualitative context that demonstrates effective patient care or other metrics that provide proof points of potential patient impact.
  4. Stick to the science. Establish the problem to be solved, demonstrate the solution and provide the evidence behind it. For example, be able to say you have regulatory approvals in certain markets or a strategy for commercialization. Keep it crisp.
  5. Don’t overpromise. Be clear about the maturity of your solution, including limitations and roadmap features. Don’t suggest you've got the holy grail, that your solution's going to solve everything…in the still-evolving digital health market, no solution does it all.
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