Q&A: Why evidence-based leadership is essential for digital therapy
In August, Swing therapy take FDA Breakthrough Device Designation for smartphone-based fibromyalgia management digital therapy. Now, the company has raised 10.3 million USD in Series A round to support a new clinical trial targeting FDA De Novo.
The startup’s CEO, Mike Rosenbluth, sat down with MobiHealthNews to discuss why Swing’s first product focuses on fibromyalgia and what it takes to incentivize providers to embrace digital therapies.
MobiHealthNews: Can you tell me a little bit about how digital therapy works for fibromyalgia?
Mike Rosenbluth: We are working on two different digital interventions to test another approach. The first is ACT, or acceptance and commitment therapy. It was a 12-week program. So a patient would interact with it daily and spend about 15 to 20 minutes on it.
People with fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions can try to figure out how to reduce symptoms in life naturally and how to make life changes to make their symptoms more manageable. This can lead to a lot of avoidance when people really are no longer living the lives that are meaningful to them. And so what the ACT is trying to do is help people accept, which is not so much to say that you’re doomed to the disease, but to say that the disease is there and you can live your best life. alongside the symptoms and pain.
Therefore, [it’s] really trying to think about how you can change your relationship with pain – this is easier said than done – but trying to get to a point where you are living a fulfilling life where the Symptoms of illness are more bothersome than a central part of your life.
The second intervention we are testing is a digital symptom tracker. This is where you’ll monitor your symptoms on a daily basis, and people with chronic pain and various illnesses often find it helpful to review their symptoms over time. They will also have access to general health education articles and fibromyalgia health articles.
MHN: Why did you decide to start with fibromyalgia?
Rosenbluth: When I started the company with Jazz Venture Partners, we were really interested in autoimmune diseases and chronic pain, realizing that there was a number of healthcare resources spending in these areas. While many treatments are effective, there is still a real gap in care and real opportunities to do better for these patients.
In the end, we talked to a lot of doctors and a lot of patients, and really pointed to fibromyalgia as a place to start. We are a super evidence-based company. There is 1A level evidence around behavioral therapy, but really lack access to them. We think that by using software-based approaches we can really give patients treatments that can help them and do it at scale.
If you talk to practicing physicians, they realize that these treatments are effective and beneficial, but often, the pathways of referral aren’t there. So if you’re a primary care physician or you’re a rheumatologist, you won’t have the Rolodex pain psychologist you normally refer to unless you’re at a specialty clinic or Mayo Clinic or some chronic diseases. pain centers, where most people don’t have access. Finding these things really creates a burden on the patient, which is really difficult.
And that lines up with buy non-drug products for chronic pain management, [which] is quite specific. So there’s not much trained professionals out there can do this, and a lot of them don’t have insurance, and it’s inconvenient to come in. For the most part, patients are told, “Here are some medications that can be beneficial, we encourage you to exercise and that’s all I can do for you.”
MHN: So you recently announced Series A. Can you tell me a little bit about how you would use this investment?
Rosenbluth: So our first priority is Prosper-FM . Study. That’s our key study, studying these two different digital interventions. And use it, if the results are positive, to apply for FDA approval. I’ve always believed that to really change the standard of care, you need evidence. I think this is probably our fifth clinical study that we’ve done in various forms.
We are also planning to open a telemedicine clinic. Those plans are in the works right now, and so we’ll talk more about it later. But the general idea is that, as we really understand more and more of this patient population, we realize that digital treatments can be really powerful and even more powerful than providing This patient is a care professional who truly understands their illness.
MHN: What do you think needs to happen for digital therapy to go mainstream?
Rosenbluth: I will tell [there are] three areas. One, I think, is maturity and clarity of the return path. I think that’s clearly a challenge – not just to get adopted but to keep investing and succeeding in this area. If we can demonstrate a sustainable and economically viable business model, I think that’s very important.
The second is around, how do you actually get this in patient hands? Innovating the business model and trying to figure out how doctors can be more comfortable prescribing new treatments that they may not be familiar with.
And then I think the third thing just revolves around this commitment to evidence and evidence that can change the standard of care and be incorporated into the guidelines. I think once you start seeing these technologies and approaches in guidelines, I think that can also help change the behavior of doctors and payers.