My Favorite Quotes from Digital Therapeutics East Conference 2018 (#DTxDM)

It was great to attend the Digital Therapeutics East Conference 2018 which occurred mid-September, in Boston, MA. It was a good meeting which attracted DTx entrepreneurs, healthcare payors, providers, advocates, investors and manufacturers, as well as academics and researchers, to discuss the current state, future potential and needs related to this space which is developing and marketing digital (software) as a form of health therapy .

There is a lot to say about the proceedings of this meeting which I will unpack bit by bit over time but I wanted to chat here about some of my favorite quotes from different speakers at the meeting and offer a brief insight as to the quote’s implication for the digital mental health space.

“Any win, anywhere, is good for all of us.”– E. Cox, Dthera BioSciences

Being at this second conference that the Digital Therapeutics East Conference, I got the feeling that this is a community being intentional about assuring that DTx becomes, “just Tx”, and as accepted as drugs or talk therapy. Though the member of this network are separate companies and institutions, this quote gets at the idea that there is a camaraderie, amid competition, and a sense that this is a movement where the whole’s success is critical to the success of the part. This ethos is familiar to me from digital pharma and digital health conferences I go to and it was cool to see it here also. Though not directly affiliated with this conference, I encourage you to see the the Digital Therapeutics Alliance website at https://www.dtxalliance.org, and @dtxdm1, on Twitter.

“DTx are not just a toy in a happy meal to sell more pills” — Anonymous

This quote was interesting as it was made in reaction to an attitude that pharma partners too often reflect when talking to DTx firms about partnership. In these cases, certainly not all, the discussion can veer more in the direction of how DTx will help sell more current product, than what new market DTx can open or create. There is a place for this attitude, I suppose. This upside is incremental, I think, versus the greater opportunity we hope DTx will present as it matures.

“I don’t buy drugs…I buy getting better” — J. Masterson, 2Morrow

I loved this quote as it was one of those which jars one back to a customer, versus product, perspective. It gets at DTx’s value proposition opportunity relative to pharma. So much of the limitation of a good pharma experience, compliance and outcomes, and especially in the mental health space, is side effects. With non-drug DTx, you see how it is shooting towards “side-effectless”, or is that side ineffective, (you know what I mean), therapy. This certainly calls up that pharma needs to remember that it is in the “getting better” not “drug’ business, aka The Innovator’s Dilemma, because there is another sector, DTx that is getting it.

“Reduction of adverse events qualifies as a DTx” — Anonymous

Now this was a very interesting quote which reminds us that adverse effect reduction is a KPI for therapeutic performance. It further accentuates DTx’s potential to deliver such reductions through precision therapies, supported by real world evidence. This is a significant value add for this tech application worth continually advancing.

“With molecules [drugs], at least 10 slides of data are shown to understand mechanism of action and how it works…”– Anonymous

Now this quote came up during the Investor Panel in the midst of a discussion about evidence rigor. The moderator alluded to the need for DTx firms to be as rigorous as pharma in describing and evidencing how they work. A running theme of the conference was the need for evidence that convinces regulators, payors, clinicians, and by extension, patients and caregivers, if DTx is to scale. For this reason, this statement resonated.

“Reimbursement, commercial distribution and patient/provider education are the 3 biggest challenges”– P. Hames, Big Health

One could say that this quote was the conference in a sentence, as this was the summary topic of most discussions. You can see that all DTx firms are working feverishly at cracking these codes with various degrees of learning, and erstwhile, success. You could also see how payors (reimbursers) are becoming more familiar and open in their engagement with DTx, . You could see how provider and pharma organizations are mixed in their enthusiasm about being DTx distribution channels. You also see how education is still early in its process, with need for more key opinion leader engagement, and investment with, and time for, clinicians and patients.

All in all this was a good conference with lots of learning, and evident challenges, aka the fun of the game. It was great to see how prominent mental and behavioral health are in DTx. I for one am bullish about its potential and “in it to win it” as far as assisting this space is responsibly accelerating its value for patients, caregivers and patients, who sorely need it.

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