Digital Therapeutic Company HappyPhys Health has announced a number of partnerships this year, including collaborations with insurer Eleven Health, formerly Anthem, Maternal Health, and an agreement with pharma company Biogen to target multiple sclerosis patients.
Chris Wassden, chief strategy officer at HappyPhys, says these partnerships add access points for patients who can use their products. Sat down with MobiHealthNews To discuss the company’s partnership strategy, the business environment of digital therapeutics, and how to encourage physician adoption.
MobiHealthNews: HappyFi has recently announced a number of partnerships, including one with Biogen and another with Anthem. Why is this partnership meaningful for your company?
Chris Wasden: For us, we are focusing on the individual patient. That patient goes by different types of titles. Some call them members, if you have a health plan. Some say patient, if you are a physician or pharma company. If you are an employer, some people call them employees. But they are all the same person. They have a star of challenge when it comes to healthcare-related issues.
What we get is that our experience in helping patients solve their mental and physical health problems means that in order to reach that patient, we need to have multiple channels to provide them with our services and offers. This is why you see us in the pharma relationship, the health planning relationship, the employer relationship. I think increasingly you will see that with our healthcare provider relationship as well. Because they are all partners who can help provide services to our patients.
MHN: How do you choose a partner? Does it depend on the condition or the health concerns you are focusing on?
What: You first have to look at it from our perspective of how we sew our products and services together, which we call a sequence. So a sequence is a specific collection of products and services – some ours, some third-party – that we’ve put together around a specific medical condition.
The sequence for us begins with the application of our patient community. Which we call Copa. We have Kopa for pregnancy. We have it for MS. We have it for psoriasis. In that community, our patients help patients, but we then also include physicians. So physicians can help patients in the context of that community.
Then we can try to make people understand how long they have had the disease, what kind of therapy they are doing, what is working, what is not working. We can guide their patient journey towards other digital products and services. These may include things like mental health solutions to our well-being, or it may include an MS-specific product that we have developed that helps patients deal with stress and anxiety, depression and fatigue.
So that’s what we do. We look and see where we can move the needle on mental health in a related medical condition and then set up a sequence. And we will have partners in these sequences. Now we don’t have exclusive contracts with pharma companies or health plans.
So the things that we have announced with Anthem or Biogen we can do with other companies in the same place. Much of this is driven by our patient-centered approach. So if you are an MS patient, for example, you may be on biogen medication one day, you may be on Novartis medication one year from now. Then you can stay in Sanofi’s drug for three years from now.
So you may have to change your medication throughout your patient’s journey. We need to have partners who represent all of your choices so that we can better educate you about your therapeutic options.
MHN: Looking at the more common digital therapeutic space, what do you think the environment is like now? Digital health funding has declined so far this year. Do you think interest in this new method has waned?
What: We have a fundamental view that a disruptive technology – and I will classify digital therapeutics and what we are doing in this space as disruptive – cannot succeed on the same basis and with the same paradigm as existing technologies. Because if it does, it will not be interrupted by definition.
I think what you are seeing right now is the search for the right business model I don’t believe we’re just going to copy the pharma business model and say, “Okay, digital therapeutics are like a drug, so they’ll be paid the same, they’ll be distributed the same, they’ll be used the same.”
We are actually very different. Our methods are different. Our process of action is different. The frequency they are using is different. The data we collect is much more than any drug can collect – aAnd the truth is that we can complement a lot.
We can be complementary to the practice of medicine. We can supplement the use of a drug. We can complement the way you change your behavior and lifestyle around things like diet, exercise, sleep.
So I think you are going to see this evolving model now; We call this technique perfect care. You are going to see this combination of perfect drugs – Which includes digital therapeutics – With step-by-step care, moving from a digital solution to a coaching / therapist / physician service to a digital AI solution.
We personally believe that proper care will become an influential model for prescription digital therapeutics and related services in the future. Look at the integration of these Headspace and ginger, it’s a perfect-care strategy combination. You look at the integration between Teladoc and Livongo. This is a perfect-care consolidation strategy. You look at the integration between Amwell and SilverCloud. This is a perfect-care consolidation strategy.
If you have this new model, how are you going to charge for it? Because there are lots of different pieces, right? There’s coaching, there’s therapists, there’s physicians, there’s digital therapeutics, there’s a digital front door and there’s a consumer-oriented part. You can have multiple different types of partners, from payers to employers, to employers, to pharma companies. And so I think you’re going to find a lot of creative monetization strategies that companies have because they follow proper care.
MHN: How can you get a provider on board? If prescription digital therapies are not a prescription or prescription product, how would you persuade them to recommend them?
What: I interviewed doctors in the diabetes space a few years ago who wrote digital therapeutics, and I asked them, “How do you decide when to write digital therapeutics to a patient?”
And they said, “We have five questions.”
These questions are: Number one, does this patient do what I usually tell him to do? They say that about 20% of my patients never do what I tell them to do. So I’m not going to tell them to do this.
Then they say I have about 20% of patients who do what I tell them to do. So do they really need digital therapeutics? If they do everything else I told them to do, maybe not.
And then they say that 20% of my patients don’t have a smartphone, or they don’t have the data plan they need, or the technical sophistication to do it. I’m not going to write this to someone who doesn’t seem technically knowledgeable enough to use it. Then 20% of my patients don’t have a health plan that would cover anything like that.
They go through that, what results their 20% patients who are good candidates based on their judgment. I am not saying that these physicians are accurate in their assessment and judgment. But whether they are right is almost not considered if they see the world this way, and they will behave this way.
So this is why when we look at these therapeutic fields, we have to think and ask ourselves, “Is this a product that will be prescribed for every diabetic patient? Or will it be prescribed only for 20% of diabetic patients, because this screen, This trajectory that goes through doctors? ”
I think we need to educate our doctors about what is available, which patients will use them and how we will use them.
There is also this concern among physicians, which was really brought to the fore when EMR was taken 15 or more years ago, which means doctors don’t want more data. They have cautious fatigue. They’ve got data fatigue. So if this digital therapeutic generates more data, great, I don’t want to be burdened by it unless it’s an emergency.
So who’s going to determine which data is showing urgent vs. extra data that I can ignore? What are the risks of getting data and ignoring it?
Now, I have brought disruptive technology to the market in the past. One of the things I’ve learned is that you shouldn’t try to convince people against their desire to adopt technology in the early parts of your innovation life cycle.
You’ve got these early adopters of a technology, and the challenge for a company like ours and others in this space is to find those early adopters. Because they are the people with whom you spend your time. If they understand, they will adopt.
Now, that’s only 20% of the market. But that’s okay. Thus all new disruptive technologies are adopted. They are accepted by these groups who are willing to experiment, try new things. They feel comfortable with it and they start using it. Then you’ve got that next group and then the next. Within a decade, you then get mass acceptance.