May 15, 2019 – The DCRI will bring its regulatory experience and clinical expertise to the conversation surrounding digital therapeutics.
The DCRI has joined a new alliance focused on bringing digital therapeutics solutions to patients.
The Digital Therapeutics Alliance (DTA), formed in 2017, works to improve access to digital therapeutics for patients, providers, and payers, in an effort to reduce costs and enhance individualized health care. The DTA currently has 25 members, and the DCRI is the first academic member.
“The DTA seeks to broaden the global digital therapeutics conversation within their organization, and the DCRI brings a different perspective,” said the DCRI’s Scott Kollins, PhD (pictured top), who helped lead the DCRI’s application process to join the alliance. “This is a good way for to us to continue and amplify our work in digital therapeutics and potentially become leaders in the space.”
Kollins, whose research focuses on neuroscience and behavioral science, said the focus on clinically validated, technology-based interventions sets the DTA apart from other digital health organizations.
“Digital health is a broad umbrella term that can refer to many things,” Kollins said. “The DTA distinguishes itself by focusing on evidence-based therapeutic interventions that can prevent, manage, or treat a medical disorder or disease.”
The DCRI, Kollins said, can help companies clinically evaluate these interventions in a quickly growing space that can be difficult to regulate.
“I think the value of the DCRI comes from being able to help manufacturers distinguish themselves from many other companies and apps that are out there claiming they can do certain things, such as improve attention or depression or obesity, without any evidence,” he said. “Both with our clinical research and our regulatory knowledge, we can be the ones who are helping digital therapeutics companies rise above the din.”
As Kollins explored the opportunity for the DCRI to join the DTA, it eventually became clear that he was not the only DCRI faculty member who was interested in the idea.
Cardiologist Ann Marie Navar, MD, PhD (pictured bottom), was also looking into the alliance, engaging in conversation with Bray Patrick-Lake, the DCRI’s director of stakeholder engagement who also serves as a founding strategic advisor to the DTA.
Patrick-Lake brings her expertise in patient engagement to the alliance and said she looks forward to the work the DCRI can do to help advance the work of framing and defining the digital therapeutics industry.
“It was important to ensure that the patient voice was front and center,” she said. “For example, accessibility is crucial for patients, but we can’t increase access without evidence that an intervention works. The DCRI can help with the evidence piece through clinical trials, which can in turn improve access issues, such as reimbursement mechanisms. Joining the Digital Therapeutics Alliance enables the DCRI to implement rigor in the development of a new field.”
Navar agreed, adding that although digital therapeutics is currently a hot topic in healthcare, more work needs to be done to effectively deliver solutions to patients. She hopes that the DCRI’s membership in the DTA is a step toward completing this work.
“The promise of digital therapeutics is great, but for now we’re seeing mostly hype and clinically have seen very little on the delivery side,” Navar said. “At the DCRI, we feel that this is an area where strong clinical research is needed to help define where these solutions can actually make a difference on health.”
As the DCRI’s chief of digital health and strategy, Satasuk Joy Bhosai, MD, MPH, spends much of her time thinking about these opportunities. Bhosai is part of the DCRI committee working on the alliance.
“There are a lot of new digital technologies popping up, but we need to help provide guidance around clinical evaluation,” she said. “We can partner with innovators shaping these technologies to help them ensure their innovations actually translate to meaning.”
Now that the DTA membership is official, Kollins said, one of the first steps is to bring together researchers within the DCRI who are pursuing work in this space.
“There are many people within the organization doing relevant work, but this is a good time to centralize that work and set some strategy around digital therapeutics,” Kollins said.
“To be recognized as a digital therapeutic requires that a product go through a series of rigorous clinical trials to substantiate its outcomes,” said Megan Coder, executive director of the DTA. “The DCRI has a deep reputation in inclusive clinical trial design and execution and we welcome them to membership at DTA as our first academic member.”