How has COVID-19 Shaped DTx for the Mental Health Market?
The prevalence of mental health conditions had been relatively stable before 2020, however, this trend changed at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Globally, the mental health of the population deteriorated. According to the OECD, the prevalence of both anxiety and depression increased rapidly around the world, and in some countries, it doubled since the start of the pandemic, especially during periods of high COVID-19 deaths and strict regulations. These conditions affect one in five people, but between 30-40% of those needing treatment for these disorders do not receive it. However, DTx can serve as a mitigating factor for this trend.
During the pandemic, the delivery of these essential mental health services was disrupted and so health care professionals quickly needed to change their modes of delivery. Mitigation strategies for these disruptions included switching to remote care, digital platforms and telemedicine.
Digital Therapeutics (DTx) serves as a potential solution for this need to address the growing demand for mental health services and deliver personalised treatment interventions. The treatment outcomes for mental health are intrinsically subjective and so digital tools can help to improve this by collecting and monitoring digital biomarkers (consumer-generated physiological and behavioural measures).
Our HealthXL insights show that a successful route to market for DTx mental health solutions is through partnerships. Employer and insurance partnerships have shown to be successful routes to market, and following this, pharmacy and hospital partnerships also hold great potential. However, as DTx for mental health is a relatively new solution, there are some key challenges in adopting this such as: low rates of reimbursement, building significant evidence to support their clinical benefits, patient engagement and finally, physician time and awareness.
Despite these challenges, many companies have seen the potential of the mental health DTx market and are becoming increasingly active in this space by launching new platforms or by making significant investments in this area.
Ro, a direct-to-consumer virtual care company, is rolling out a new mental health platform called Ro Mind. This will initially focus on generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) and major depressive disorder (MDD). This service offers patients access to US-licensed providers who can, if appropriate, diagnose and prescribe FDA-approved prescription treatments for anxiety and depression. Ro Mind also works with patients to manage these treatments and track their progress on a regular basis. If patients are prescribed medication, they are supported by Ro’s nationwide pharmacy network. Ro pharmacies coordinate care with providers to adjust dosing and ensure patients receive the appropriate medication when needed. Ro also supports patients by offering psychoeducation through virtual sessions at no extra cost. Ro is also planning to launch more services, including individual and group therapy.
Happify Health has announced the launch of Ensemble, this is the first and only transdiagnostic prescription digital therapeutic for the treatment of patients who have GAD or MDD. Ensemble is prescribed by a clinician to treat these disorders, it delivers skills training based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), mindfulness and related forms of behavioural science-based techniques and activities designed to treat symptoms of MDD and GAD.
Amwell, a national telehealth leader, has recently acquired SilverCloud Health, a leading digital mental health platform. SilverCloud Health offers a range of digital cognitive behavioural health programs which are evidence-based and clinically validated. Their programs have shown results equivalent to face-to-face care for the one in five with diagnosable mental health conditions. Amwell will be able to leverage SilverCloud’s platform to expand its own behavioural health offerings and develop new digital specialty care programs.
Woebot Health recently announced that they have closed a $90 million Series B funding round to advance their relational platform and digital therapeutics for mental health to meet the increasing global demand for these services.
In order to establish product integrity and confirm patient safety, all DTx products should adhere to the Industry Core Principles which are utilised as a guide for best practice to end users, clinicians and payors as they investigate the efficacy and safety of DTx products. These principles state that DTx products should publish clinical trial results, incorporating meaningful outcomes and peer-reviewed journals. They should be reviewed and cleared or approved by regulatory bodies as required to support product claims of risk, efficacy and intended use. The products should only make claims appropriate to clinical evaluation and regulatory status. DTx products should collect, analyse and apply real world evidence and product performance data.
The current capacity for mental health services is buckling under the evident cumulative rise in demand for these services. Digital Therapeutics offer the ultimate solution by expanding capacity to offer these services via technology in a clinically effective and safe way, to reach more people who need support.
Are you interested in learning more about Digital Therapeutics for Mental Health? Join your peers at our upcoming digital health meeting on September 7th, 23rd and 28th.