Roberto Ascione, CEO,

Healthware Group

"Digital is the sole way that healthcare can be effective and sustainable, especially as we could potentially confront bigger crises if we judge by global demographic changes combined with climate change."

Healthware was founded 25 years ago and grew into one of the world’s largest digital health players. Could you tell us a few words about the company and its mission? For a long time, Healthware has worked at the intersection of the digital transformation of the life sciences. We have always looked at one fundamental issue: how to improve health outcomes through the use of technology, directly or indirectly. We were one of the first organizations in Europe to build a digital awareness website when we started in the mid-nineties, together with the rise of the internet. Though we’re based out of Italy, our main markets are shared between Italy, the UK, and Finland. Italy accounting for about 20% of our total revenues. Now we are a global leader in healthcare digital innovation, combining innovative R&D capabilities focusing on digital medicines and digital therapeutics, with commercial and medical operations for our own products and services as well as for established and emerging life-sciences and DTx companies and other healthcare stakeholders. Proprietary software platforms, specialized media and educational assets as well as a corporate venturing arm, ensure accelerated product development, close integration within the innovation ecosystem, continuous pipeline development and market access. Healthware has evolved to offer digital therapeutics (DTX) products co-developed with industry partners. Could you elaborate on this expertise and share some recent project examples? Besides our service go-to-market offer to pharma and medical devices companies, we are also producing end-to-end DTX, always together with our partners. Applying our accumulated patient-centric innovation designs and our experience of running predictive analysis and behavioral modification processes, Healthware Therapeutics acts as a digital pharma company. We recently worked with Paginemediche, Italy’s largest medicine platform that created the first Covid-19 chatbot globally. After one year of data collection since opening the open platform in Italy, the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) has approved for publication an observational study showing that the platform can predict any spike in the virus two weeks before any other available KPI indicator. This technology could have immense applicability in chronic disease monitoring. The observational study was done with the Rome-based Bambino Gesù hospital. Another example is a VR-based treatment for severe chronic pain, developed for the Finnish company Orion. This DTX largely outperforms the gold-standard chemical treatment and is a huge breakthrough for pain management. How do you observe the uptake of DTX by the industry? In the past four or five years, the industry has come to realize there is an imminent and radical marketplace transformation whereby they will be marketing not just drug-based interventions, but also drug + software interventions, as well as software-only interventions. Sooner rather than later, approved prescription DTX will be either software alone or software plus pill, and my view is that the software will play the lion’s share of the therapy. More companies are starting to invest in DTX start-ups, running in-house innovation programs, or looking at partnerships. How do you see the life sciences company of the future and what is Healthware’s role in this sense? The life sciences company of the future will be focused on the patient’s journey, creating meaningful patient and consumer experiences, as well as implementing early diagnostics and data. In this scenario, tech companies, health insurers and drug makers will be competing for the patient’s attention. Healthware evolved dramatically over the past five to six years through acquisitions, so today we brought in more components that ultimately lead to that same mission: making sure that the future of healthcare looks very different from the past. My vision is not delivering drugs [ONLY], but empowering people to stay clear of diseases by caring about each person, individually and on their own terms. I call this approach a shift from cure to care as part of a healthcare model much more focused on prevention and wellbeing. Could you share a final message with our audience? Digital is the sole way that healthcare can be effective and sustainable, especially as we could potentially confront bigger crises if we judge by global demographic changes combined with climate change. The unprecedented amount of funding and public attention presents us with favorable circumstances to deploy tech innovations. We must take action now and do it right because we may not meet with such an opportunity twice.