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DTx Europe: ​Insights, Connections, and Key Takeaways 

DTx Europe: ​Insights, Connections, and Key Takeaways 
by Ellis Ward
July 2, 2023
4 mins
DTx Europe: ​Insights, Connections, and Key Takeaways 
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DTx Europe is an annual conference focused on digital therapeutics (DTx) that takes place in Europe in 2023. Digital therapeutics encompasses the use of digital technologies, such as mobile apps, wearables, and software, to deliver evidence-based therapeutic interventions for the prevention, management, and treatment of various health conditions. 

 

The DTx Europe conference serves as a platform for industry professionals, innovators, healthcare providers, regulatory bodies, and investors to come together, share insights, and discuss the latest advancements and trends in the field of digital therapeutics. 

 

Recently, our consultants at SciPro attended DTx Europe 2023. Ellis Ward; Associate Consultant - Commercialisation and Nick Mahoney; Head of Digital Health - Divisional Manager share their insiders’ perspectives whilst attending DTx Europe 2023, and provide invaluable insights into the forefront of oncological progress. 

 

A recap of Ellis’ DTx Europe 2023 Experience 

 

On June 28-29th myself and my colleague, Nick Mahoney, attended DTx Europe conference which I couldn’t wait to attend as it allowed me to finally meet face-to-face with the clients that I had been speaking with all across Europe. It also allowed us to introduce ourselves to new faces within the industry and to hear from various different perspectives be it founders, pharma, payers, providers, government godies, investors – you name it. 

 

The presence of numerous DTx companies from Germany made the conference particularly exciting. Germany, known as the hub for digital therapeutics, has recently revised its regulations to enable reimbursement for these innovative digital technologies, which seems to be setting a blueprint and domino effect for the rest of Europe to follow. With this, it was also great to hear how many are now considering hiring as they scale. 

 

Something I noticed over the course of the two days was how often individuals within the space came together to tackle their shared mission: regulatory harmonization in Europe. This was particularly noticeable in how tight-knit this group of attendees was, embracing one another as they arrived and sharing laughs during the drinks reception. 

 

 

Despite some concerns of doubt, the overall feeling was positive and it was clear that we are moving into a data-driven healthcare era where DTx is at the forefront. The conference showcased a host of groundbreaking work that is currently being done, but I wanted to highlight a few of my key takeaways below: 

 

A team of great people: A crucial factor for the success of DTx is to have a strong team with a real purpose and who are impact-driven. There is still a notion that building a DTx platform will be easy, with instant demand and receptive stakeholders who will prescribe the platform, but this is false. Therefore, a strong team that can drive this forward, navigate challenges, and overcome them is essential. 

 

A different level of adoption: One of the biggest challenges faced by DTx companies right now is low adoption rates. Some argue that this is because we missed the boat when training clinicians, and this should have been implemented during medical school training. The panelists were in agreement that we must adapt; otherwise, we will continue to face the same issues. challenges. Overcoming this hurdle will require support from the public and key decision-makers, rather than relying solely on marketing tactics paid for by VC money. 

 

NHS

The NHS is welcoming the DTx industry, and although there is currently no plan for reimbursement, they are learning from other regions that are leading the way and communicating the opportunities for innovation. Additionally, they are clarifying the reimbursement pathways and commissioning process to the industry. In line with this, they have introduced the 'early value assessment' which will support and expedite the commissioning of unique products that provide a holistic understanding of the market and different pathways. There are also rumors that the NHS app could potentially serve as a single front door for DTx companies in the future. 

 

EMBEDDING

We need to find a way to create an entire end-to-end workflow for clinicians so that DTx solutions can simply slot in. Following the pandemic, motivation has dipped, and clinicians have limited time. Therefore, we need to be careful about how much pressure we put on clinicians to be the key advocates for these platforms and the sole route to success. Instead, we should aim to create an embedded solution that allows them to integrate into existing workflows easily. Think of it as a library or repository reference platform for DTx companies. 

 

The fear of being replaced: We need to find a way to create an entire end-to-end workflow for clinicians so that DTx solutions can simply slot in. Following the pandemic, motivation has dipped, and clinicians have limited time. Therefore, we need to be careful about how much pressure we put on clinicians to be the key advocates for these platforms and the sole route to success. Instead, we should aim to create an embedded solution that allows them to integrate into existing workflows easily. Think of it as a library or repository reference platform for DTx companies. 

 

The CEO of Closed Loop Medicine finished with a line that resonated with the whole room, he said: “Why are we still calling it digital health? We don’t call digital banking, digital banking.. it’s just banking. Digital health isn’t digital health, it’s just healthcare.” 

 

A recap of Nick’s DTx Europe 2023 Experience 

For me (Nick) the main takeaways were three-fold. The increased regulatory and legislative backing, the improved routes for reimbursement and the new funding trends post-covid. 

 

To take the first point regarding increased regulatory and legislative support, it is evident that Germany is at the forefront with their Digital Healthcare Bill. However, it is important to note, as emphasized by the first panel, that it is currently just a draft, and there are several stages to go through before it becomes a reality. 

 

Nevertheless, the creation of such legislation marks a significant milestone for Digital Therapeutics (DTx). This is because regulation alone is ineffective without corresponding legislation. Regulatory bodies have long struggled with DTx and previously with Software as a Medical Device (SaMD), primarily due to the lack of legislative authority supporting their actions. This is likely why the FDA has been hesitant to grant landmark approvals, in contrast to the impactful DiGA approvals in Germany. With the recent presentation by the French Ministry, showcasing their plans to integrate reimbursement and regulatory processes modeled after the DiGA approach, we are filled with hope and even optimism that this will trigger a ripple effect throughout Europe. Once this occurs, the impact will be enormous.

 

 

Secondly, the improved reimbursement routes are allowing the funds that are well established in the market to anticipate future returns on their investments. However, I want to take a different approach to this positive development. Ellis has emphasized the changing landscape, and as a result, patients will reap the benefits. While healthcare is primarily driven by its impact, it is ultimately a business. Without clear and easily accessible reimbursement pathways that exhibit a certain degree of harmonization, patients will never experience the advantages. Therefore, we not only welcome the harmonization of pathways but also the increased efforts from NICE, Vitality Healthcare, and other industry players to overcome this current bottleneck. By resolving the reimbursement bottleneck, we can undoubtedly witness an increase in the care provided to patients, particularly in the realm of DTx solutions. 

 

Lastly, the new funding trends are very interesting. Imran Hamid, Senior Investment Principal at LifeArc Ventures, and Anish Shindore, Founder & Managing Partner at GSD Health, are very interested in what they are currently looking for in Seed and Series A funding. Most interestingly, they explained two significant trends.Firstly, those funds that rushed into the market during the pandemic have unsettled the market. This specifically applies to funds that previously focused on other markets and pivoted into healthcare, without fully understanding or appreciating the longer R&D cycles or complex reimbursement models that require long-term planning, strategy, and high levels of resilience. Healthcare is not a fast-track market, and experienced funds are aware of this. Tech-based funds that lack experience in this market have made it challenging for founders to navigate the market's obstacles due to their unrealistic expectations. Secondly, they noted that mental health and diabetes are heavily saturated markets. Therefore, new ventures must focus on less saturated markets to garner the support of early-stage VC companies. 

 

 

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