Pharma companies considering digital health solutions are faced with several options ranging from building an entirely bespoke product, to customizing a solution on an established platform, or simply rebranding an off-the-shelf product.
For many digital health solutions, the use of a platform is often considered the ideal approach to take. Building customizable elements on top of existing infrastructure facilitates the creation of a differentiated solution without a long time to market. It offers a low-risk, cost-effective approach, and places you in the strongest position from which to grow your product. The ability to also re-use the platform across different brands or therapy areas in the business, allows for easier expansion of a company’s digital health offering throughout more areas of the business and into new regions.
A platform approach allows differentiation in key areas
Highly differentiated solutions are possible using a platform and are in fact more likely to succeed with this approach. The underlying infrastructure and core solution elements are pre-existing, so there is no need to redo what is already in place. Instead, time and resources can be focused on the aspects of the digital solution that will differentiate it in the market and best address the needs of end users and other stakeholders.
Lower risk and costs involved in using a platform
There is always a level of risk associated with bringing a new product to the market. The use of a platform to build that product can reduce the level of risk incurred during the development stage. Using a customizable platform-based solution means benefiting from a platform that may already have been validated, where established processes and learnings gained along the way bring clear benefits. It means the testing and learning process can instead focus on ensuring that the custom solution is meeting specific needs of patients, their care team, and other key stakeholders. This will result in much lower risk while still retaining flexibility and unique customization, which improves the product’s chance of success.
Some platforms enable best-in-class third-party digital therapeutics to be incorporated, to address comorbidities, reducing the innovation burden. Platforms can also support integration with the healthcare ecosystem; a heavy investment that should not rest with every new solution.
Platform-based products scale and grow best
Building your original solution on a customizable platform means you can go to market relatively quickly with a unique solution that targets specific needs. A platform that is maintained and continuously updated by a provider and built upon a flexible and scalable infrastructure, enables improvement and expansion of your solution and can be quickly iterated based on real-world experience from users.
Opting for a platform approach and more importantly, choosing what type of platform to use for your product, will determine the trajectory of the wider digital health project in question. If the organization’s digital health strategy includes targets for growth across brand and business units, if the product is likely to become a regulated solution by integrating with other medical devices, if there is a requirement for compliant access to health insights from the data, or if you need a modern technology stack that is always up-to-date to address cybersecurity, a platform places you in the best position to do all these things, while also giving value for all stakeholders for the foreseeable future.
It also then makes scaling the resulting services enabled by the solution within your company and across other regions feasible.
As cloud and consumer technologies evolve rapidly, keeping up can be a constant and costly task. A platform can insulate solutions from this by providing services whose evolution will occur without impacting the applications built on top.
Selecting the right type of platform to meet your needs is vital
There are many benefits of using a platform to build your digital health solution. Yet, careful consideration must be given to the type of platform you choose and its ability to meet the immediate and long-term goals for your product.
Many digital health platforms are essentially public cloud platforms with a very thin layer of digital-health-specific infrastructure.
A different type of platform is offered by some digital health companies; one that includes pre-existing infrastructure and customizable pre-built aspects common to many digital health solutions. In short, these ‘customizable platforms’ include platform infrastructure and reusable components such as care plans, medication management, content, device integration, questionnaires, support for analytics, secure role-based user-management, and more.
The final type of digital health platform is usually packaged with a pre-existing solution interface; this can be rebranded but not customized to suit specific needs. Many of these ‘off-the-shelf- platform/solution offerings tend to be in very highly prevalent chronic diseases such as diabetes, where leveraging the partners existing patient base is more important than brand differentiation.
Bringing a digital health product to market is a complex process, but the right platform approach can make that process more efficient without compromising on differentiation, or future expansion plans.
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