Sunday, November 27, 2022

Big Health CCO Gabriela Perez on what’s next for the digital therapeutics space

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In early February, Big Health announced Gabriela Perez had joined the digital therapeutics company as chief commercial officer. She most recently worked at the reproductive care-focused Ovia Health, which was acquired by Labcorp in August last year

Perez sat down with MobiHealthNews to discuss her new job, what she’s learned from past roles and how the digital therapeutics space might evolve. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

MobiHealthNews: You just joined as chief commercial officer. What are some of your plans as you start this new role?

Perez: As any good chief commercial officer will tell you, it’s about eliminating friction towards revenue. It’s about delighting our customers and giving them a reason to stay with us and trust us. And it’s about delivering results, proof. Proof that by entrusting us with their population – be that health plan members, employees, families – that we are able to have an impact in a positive way for those individuals. 

And so that is my goal. It’s doing the right thing for our customers, delivering on our promise – which is results, impact, clinical evidence – delighting the patient and the client in the process. And of course, the cherry on top is to deliver on the revenue expectations.

MHN: You’re coming to Big Health from Ovia Health, and then you were also at a telehealth platform before, Best Doctors. So what have you taken from those past positions? How do you think that’s going to affect your thought process as you move into Big Health? 

Perez: So I think as any leader, you learn in each opportunity that you have. And it’s not about taking the same playbook again and again and again. Just because you’ve been successful doesn’t mean the next time around is the same thing. It’s about adapting, adapting to the changes that the market is asking for. The speed of innovation in healthcare is so exciting. So you’ve got to adapt to the circumstances. 

First and foremost, you have a strong culture of evidence base and research. It matters. And that’s why I chose to come here. It matters, this culture of research and proof that is third-party validated. Second, it has to have this purposeful design and engagement.

Just because you create it doesn’t mean that people are going to use it. So making frictionless enrollment – once you’re there, making a sticky engagement – that is what leads ultimately to the outcomes that you want. Recognize that we are in the era of ‘I want it to be personalized, participatory, predictive and preventative.’ That is very important, that member-centric approach to the design of your solution. We are in a world of experiences, right? 

And then lastly, it has to have a component of an innovative model. You can innovate pricing. As an example, when Big Health pioneered in their partnership with CVS Health, how a digital therapeutic becomes a known drug option in the market can be delivered attached to a PBM pharma expense.

If I may add, there’s an app for everything. And the buyer is vendor-fatigued. And I think Big Health is doing an extraordinary job of removing friction to a path where we can deliver the solution to people who need it most.

MHN: How do you think the reimbursement landscape might change in the coming years? Do you think the employer market will still be a big space to look at for Big Health? Or do you think you’ll work more with insurers? Are there other ways that you might consider trying to get reimbursement for your products?

Perez: You have to take an ecosystem approach. It’s not one-shoe-fits-all. By that I mean the plan sponsor comes in various shapes and forms. It could be an employer. Let’s remember, more and more employers are becoming self-funded. They’re taking control of their expenditure, and they’re looking at both a cost containment tool, such as Big Health, as well as evidence-based therapeutics to support their population.

Then you have other types, plan sponsors, payers. The insurance market is ready for that disruption. The best way to think about it is you have three modalities of care: You have person-to-person. The second modality you have is medication, and the third modality is digital medicine, where you no longer need to depend on a medication, and/or a combination. So we’re moving into this third modality of care.

MHN: So your products so far are in the mental health space, like Sleepio for insomnia and Daylight for anxiety. Do you think that’s a particularly good focus for digital therapeutics?

Perez: The reason mental health is a great place to do something is because the problem is massive. So why don’t we tackle one of the biggest problems of our society? Makes sense to me.

Second, we are now embracing and eliminating the stigma and taboo associated with mental health. That is an extraordinary moment that we’re living in now, and to be able to say, ‘I need help.’ So why not lean forward and tackle this important, devastating situation that exists at every age, in every gender and ethnicity? We believe in creating a conclusive solution of high impact for big problems. And that’s where we’re tackling first. 

Also, we follow the science – cognitive behavioral therapy – how it can be deployed in a more efficient, scalable way. Future state, I am excited. And that’s why I chose to be part of the digital transformation in digital medicine.

The possibilities are endless. Yes, you can tackle the programs that we have in multiple areas, musculoskeletal, metabolic disease, fertility, oncology, and so on. And so the question is, how do you make it accessible for the populations that need it? And that’s where we are, at the forefront of innovating in this space.

MHN: Bouncing off of that, when you’re talking about making it accessible to all these different populations, what do you think when you’re thinking about how to make it accessible? Are you considering broadband access or access to devices? What are some of the things that you need to consider when you’re like, “Okay, these are all the groups that need to be able to access Big Health therapeutics.”

Perez: It’s about distribution more than the format. So you want to be available through your payer, your employer. You may have other programs, points, solutions that are addressing perhaps your physical health – like musculoskeletal or metabolic. And so it’s not that you can compartmentalize your health, your mind and body. And so right now, rather than adding more fragmentation to the way you deliver care, why don’t we think about a holistic way?

So rather than you trying to find us here, and find your musculoskeletal over there, and your telehealth over there, we can bring a clinical pathway, a care pathway, with a very simple way of accessing. So that’s what I mean by access, we call it an “always-on strategy.” So being available, wherever you are, whenever you need it, at the time that is helpful for you.

MHN: So when you’re kind of talking about metabolic disease or musculoskeletal, would you consider making your own products? Or do you think you would try to acquire other companies that have their own solutions in that way?

Perez: Just to clarify, it is not that Big Health is going to become a musculoskeletal or metabolic disease company. Those condition-specific point solutions exist. And when you’re addressing someone with chronic pain, diabetes is a great example, right? You’re treating the disease, but it also can be complemented with emotional health.

Coming from women’s health – fertility – you are addressing the physicality of infertility treatment, but it also comes with anxiety, depression, and so on. That’s where we complement in the care delivery. That is combined.

I think you are getting into, where is our product pipeline? So we continue to stay focused on our mission, which is bringing millions of people back to good health. And that includes, of course, depression at different ages. We are working already with oncology organizations to support that population as well. So we’re really, really excited. And we’ll be making great announcements in our product pipeline as we release those in the market.

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