Digital therapeutics in APAC: 3 ways to speed up adoption

Published on 08 December 2021 Read 25 min

The growing aging population and rising healthcare costs are driving the demand for digitalization throughout the patient pathway, from diagnostics, monitoring, to therapy. According to the Digital Therapeutics Alliance, digital therapeutics are “evidence-based therapeutic interventions driven by high-quality software programs to prevent, manage, or treat a medical disorder or disease”. In the Asia-Pacific (APAC), adoption of digital therapeutics is lagging behind major markets like those in North America or Europe. Therefore, in this article Alcimed aims to highlight 3 ways to increase the adoption of digital therapeutics in APAC.

1. Increasing awareness and access to digital therapeutics in APAC

Relatively new in the ecosystem, there is still a lack of awareness from stakeholders – both patients and healthcare professionals alike – on the full potential of digital therapeutics. This is especially true in emerging countries of the APAC region.

In emerging countries, awareness and acceptance of digital therapeutics is still low when compared to countries such as Japan, South Korea, or Australia, although access and usage of technologies is increasing rapidly, enabling more integration of digital therapeutics. Therefore, it is important to raise awareness and increase acceptance of digital therapeutics for the necessary stakeholders in the ecosystem, such as the payers, providers, and research communities.

What can be benchmarked, for example, is the case of Liva Nova’s VNS Therapy system, SYMMETRY™, for difficult-to-treat depression, who provided two years of clinical data and health economics to promote acceptance and trust with providers in Australia.

Learn more about our experience in digital therapeutics or DTx >

2. Stabilizing payment methods and reimbursement of DTx

Healthcare costs is one of the major factors in decision making when deciding treatment, which is why obtaining reimbursement is crucial.

In Germany, for instance, the first prescription digital health application has been approved for reimbursement in September 2020, and since then, more prescription digital therapeutics have followed. It was found that as a result of this reimbursement, there is an increase in adoption of prescription digital health applications.

To illustrate, Sympatient GmbH’s Invirto app has been released since 2019, and was approved for reimbursement in December 2020; it was found that prior to reimbursement, the app’s average download per month was around 200 downloads, whereas the number of downloads increased by 105% after approvement for reimbursement to 415 downloads per month [1].

In APAC, more mature countries in the region such as Japan, South Korea, Australia, Taiwan, and certain provinces in Mainland China have been more mature in reimbursing prescription digital therapeutics. On the other hand, there is still uncertainty in gaining approvement for digital therapeutics in other countries, where local reimbursement requirements for prescription digital therapeutics still need to be understood.

In Indonesia, for example, digital health regulations are in a very early stage in development, primarily focusing on data security and privacy. However, because of the recent pandemic accelerating, the uptake of digital health solutions, the Indonesian government has been putting more support into the area, starting with telehealth applications.

3. Creating meaningful incentives

With numerous options for digital therapeutics today, the ones that are most successful in adoption are those with meaningful incentives and human-centric design, as it naturally boosts customer engagement.

One type of incentive could be to make the process enjoyable and distract the patient from possible pain via gamification. In a collaboration between the National University of Singapore, Marsiling Grassroots Organisations and Sunlove Marsiling Senior Activity Centre, a flight simulation game has been developed to help seniors combat and detect early cognitive decline. Gamification was stated to motivate the seniors to adhere to the tool, and the easy-to-understand format helped them pick up the game quickly.

Gamification could be incorporated with technologies such as VR to enhance user experience as well. In Japan, Jolly Good, the medical VR company, has recently launched a specialized DTx Division for the development of digital therapeutics using VR and AI technologies targeting mental illnesses.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of digital solutions in healthcare has been accelerating now more than ever. Among them, digital therapeutics has been recognized for its effectiveness and accessibility, however, compared to other markets such as the United States and Europe, the Asia-Pacific region is still lagging in adoption. To increase uptake in the region, advocating and increasing awareness could be done to inform the public about the full potential of digital therapeutics. Reimbursement would also increase adoption, and industry players will have to work with governmental institutions to renovate and standardize reimbursement policies and regulations for local countries. Lastly, innovation developers should pay attention to make their solutions as user friendly and engaging as possible to maximize adherence. With those points taken into account over time, Alcimed is looking forward to see an increase in awareness and experience with digital therapeutics in APAC.

About the author, 

Tara, Consultant in the Alcimed’s Healthcare team in Asia-Pacific


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