The Four Drivers of Success in the Patient-Oriented Digital Health Solutions Market

Patient-oriented digital health solution providers seem to have finally found the drivers of success for their digital offerings designed around the various needs of patients. A comprehensive service offering leveraging technology to capture mobile usage behavior patterns together with device and sensor capabilities, robust clinical evidence on the use of digital tools, access to investments, and the ability to partner with ecosystem players are the differentiating factors for successful patient-oriented digital solutions. The digital oncology market provides a good example of how best-in-class companies implement the four success drivers.

Over the years, players in the digital healthcare ecosystem have tried to develop and disseminate digital solutions for patients and users to use. Most solutions failed because too little patient/user value and lack of support from stakeholders of the healthcare industry incl. health insurances, regulators, HCPs and the healthcare industry.

Due to the pandemic, only a few digital health solutions, such as those for diabetes, mental health, appointment scheduling, weight reduction, or telemedicine, have been able to successfully integrate themselves into patients’ everyday healthcare. Many other healthcare specialties, such as oncology, neurology, respiratory, or cardiology, have not been able to develop patient-focused digital health solutions that are generally recognized and widely accepted by the patients.

This is about to change. Digital solution providers have started to improve their value proposition not only for patients/users but also for healthcare stakeholders.

Leading digital health solution providers from almost all segments of the market now seem to have understood what is needed to develop and distribute a successful patient-oriented digital health offering. Leading digital health solution providers significantly improved their services in four main areas:

  1. moving from single use case solutions to multiple use case offerings as well as smart technology usage,
  2. improved clinical evidence,
  3. improved access to investments,
  4. and the improved ability to partner with the other digital health players in the ecosystem.

The digital oncology solutions market with more than 18 million1 cancer patients diagnosed every year, sets a good example for the changes that the industry is going through.

From single use case support to broad offerings:

Single use case digital health offerings represented the majority of digital health offerings in the past. Patient-oriented digital health solutions typically supported just one use case like symptom tracking, education or community support, which corresponds to low usage by the patients. The service offerings of digital solutions have recently been significantly enhanced by expanding their offerings into other areas, making the digital health offering a true patient companion.

For example, in the digital oncology solution market, leading companies have enhanced their solution offerings with capabilities beyond symptom tracking or pill reminders with personal HCP support, clinical trial finders, or peer group support.

Solutions now are often able to create automated personalized health reports, which help HCPs identify relapses in a timely manner and pose a great opportunity for further expanding reimbursement opportunities. With multiple use case offerings through digital tools, usage of these solutions has increased significantly.

Improving clinical evidence:

The available clinical evidence proving digital solutions work was very limited in the past. This has gradually changed over the last years, with thousands of published clinical studies showing positive patient outcomes or efficiency gains.

For example, solution providers in the digital oncology market have conducted more than 600 clinical studies over the last few years showing an improved quality of life, medication adherence, better control of fatigue, higher physical activity/performance status and an improvement in diet. Investing in clinical studies has become a must-have for most digital health market segments.

See also R2G’s analysis about the digital clinical trails market (Link).

Access to investments:

Over recent years, the total amount of investments made into the digital health industry has doubled every year, reaching $29 billion in 2021 (Rock Health). Even though investors favourites changed over time from insure tech, to telehealth, to mental health and DTx, almost all digital health segments were able to collect more investor money over the last years.

Another reason for the increased financial resources that leading digital health providers can devote to the further development and dissemination of their solutions is that traditional healthcare companies including pharmaceutical companies have shifted their focus from in-house development to partnerships. As a result, selected digital health companies had financial resources that exceeded their sales many times over.

Ability to partner:

In the early days of the digital health economy, there was a lot of ignorance and a great lack of understanding on both sides (start-ups and the health industry) about the business models and limitations of the other side. In 2019, it was reported that three out of four partnerships between established companies and start-ups initiated in previous years, have failed to meet their goals. (R2G: Partnerships in Digital Health – What are the breaking points and how to successfully build partnerships? Nov 2019).

Leading digital health companies now have enriched their teams with former managers from e.g., pharmaceutical or medical technology companies and created a value proposition that enables them to work with established healthcare companies.

For example, in the digital oncology market segment, 50% of the leading digital health companies have a partner offering and a growing list of partnerships. Another example is the digital therapeutic solutions market segment, where almost all leading solution providers have partner offerings from the industry.

On the other hand, leading incumbents in healthcare have learned (through trial and error) how to form and manage partnerships with much smaller companies in a market with much shorter product development cycles.

The digital health industry is now in a much better position to serve patients with digital solutions. Companies should learn from leading digital health offerings in almost all market segments and adopt their offerings as well to gain more usage and grow their business. In doing so, companies should pay particular attention to the four success factors for patient-oriented digital solutions that have emerged in recent years.

R2G works with digital health companies and established healthcare companies on digital health strategies and innovation management. For more information, reach out to [email protected]