Digital support must be integrated into every therapy and medical intervention

By Artur Olesch

Access to data gives doctors and patients knowledge they need for accurate decision-making. Thus it is a game-changer,” says Regina Hodits, the Managing Partner at Wellington Partners Life Sciences and a member of Sidekick Health’s board of directors. In an interview for The Sidebar, she envisions a novel, connected care model for chronic patients.

With a Ph.D. in biochemistry and as a post-doctoral researcher at The Medical Research Council (MRC) in Cambridge (UK), Regina Hodits found herself in the center of the fast-growing biotech sector.

Fascinated by the acceleration of life sciences in the 90s, she set herself a goal to translate great scientific discoveries into life-changing solutions. That was why she transitioned from a research lab to investing in revolutionary ideas and innovations for patients, especially those with chronic diseases.

“The life science industry embraced the digital revolution exceptionally late. Meanwhile, it is evident that the patient journey will depend on access to data. Data provides insights into patient behavior and enables doctors to make evidence-based decisions. Data allows patients to understand themselves and their diseases better,” Regina reasons why the Wellington Partners decided to invest in Sidekick.

“What is so special in digital therapeutics? One solution can be replicated millions of times and made available for everybody as an app.”

 

The information follows the patient, not the other way around

The priority of every healthcare system is to either prevent people from falling ill or deliver the patients the right therapy at the right time and place. Heart diseases, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD), arthritis, and other chronic conditions affect approximately 50% of the population, accounting for around 80% of healthcare costs. Apart from the financial aspect, let’s not forget the patients and the psychological burden they face. 

“Digital therapeutics can be distributed with classical therapies and thus enhance the care patients receive,” Regina Hodits explains what fails in today’s patient journey. “You go to the doctor, receive a prescription, buy medication, and… you are left alone until the doctor will see you again. In the meantime, nobody knows if the therapy is working or not.

As many questions arise, patients start to search for the answers on the Internet. And often, they find misleading information. That’s why, at Wellington Partners, we were looking for a platform that gives the patients the information they need to make informed decisions. But also a digital tool for healthcare providers to track the patient journey throughout the treatment period,” she points out.

“Doctors should prescribe not only medicines but also apps that will guide the patient. Soon there will be no drug prescribed or intervention ordered without an app to follow up the results. I think it’s irresponsible to send patients home without Sidekick. The therapy is far more than medicine.”

 

A recipe for a trusted digital health therapeutics solution

The DTx market is getting very competitive. The technology can be copied. Still, unique data, an exceptional organizational culture, and communities of loyal users are not easily duplicable. These are the critical foundations for a successful provider of digital solutions.

“If you don’t know who all your relevant stakeholders are, it won’t work. If you don’t have industry-experienced people on the board who believe in the mission you want to undertake, it won’t work. What counts is the ability to change the founders’ vision into life-changing innovation. And Sidekick is well on its way to doing so by creating an ecosystem of partnerships, experts, and users, making meaningful connections between all relevant stakeholders. They think about the patient, practitioners, pharma, providers, and payers as part of the solution.”

The most potent driver of inevitable changes in healthcare is the informed and data-empowered citizen. During the COVID-19 pandemic, digitalized healthcare systems are performing much better. Just to mention Taiwan, New Zealand, Iceland, and Singapore.

Digital infrastructure and access to data helped them track infections, react appropriately, coordinate testing, distribute information, monitor patients, and even vaccinate millions of people faster. Regina notes that patients are getting frustrated with old-school healthcare systems, and therefore, they won’t accept this inefficiency any longer.

 

Putting the pieces of the “life science cosmos” together

Many economic sectors have benefited from technological innovations for decades while healthcare lags behind. This is odd considering that health is the number one priority for all people, with few exceptions.

In the view of Regina Hodits, it’s a paradox that for a long time, we were more focused on protecting data – which are already secured far better than paper files – than on protecting the health of patients. To the harm of us all, discussions centered around data protection have delayed building digital health infrastructure. 

Luckily, we have reached a point where reforms are unavoidable. Decision-makers, doctors, and patients have realized that healthcare systems are malfunctioning. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed this painfully. Individuals have seen that technology can make life easier, including in healthcare.

People switched to electronic communication with doctors; telemedicine is now on the agenda of most care providers. Digital-friendly regulations have been passed to foster the development of digital health solutions. Access to data has become the most formidable power of 21st-century health systems.

Regina Hodits concludes: “DTx can reach a number of patients we would never be able to reach with physical medical solutions. By now, personalized advice and continuous feedback are at your fingertips. Every person has the right to get the best diagnosis, the best possible treatment, and the best possible knowledge to support their decisions.

And finally, patients have the right to know where they are on their health journey and what the next steps are. This can only be achieved by injecting digital solutions into life sciences.” 

 

Founded in 1998, Wellington Partners is a leading European Venture Capital (VC) firm investing in early- and growth-stage life science companies, active in the fields of therapeutics, medical technology, diagnostics, digital health, and industrial biotechnology.