Every January we bring our Munich and Warsaw teams together to enjoy a snowy event in the Bavarian Alps. Aside from being a wonderful social event in a breathtaking part of the world, it brings together colleagues who rarely meet face-to-face.
Our team is approaching 70 people and, for many of us, our winter offsite has itself established as a welcome opportunity to mingle and better understand what is happening in all those parts of smartpatient that we might not be in touch with during our day-to-day tasks.
Additionally, this year’s event was the greatest reflection yet of the trends that are occurring in the world of digital health.
Pivotal Growth. Or: New Faces, New Capabilities, New Accents
Over the last year, our MyTherapy platform has developed into the world's fastest-growing disease management platform; our team has grown along with it. As we all gathered at Munich’s Hackerbrücke bus terminal, the hugs shared by familiar friends were seemingly outnumbered by the handshakes and introductory pleasantries exchanged between new acquaintances.
Considering the number of our colleagues who were unable to make the event for one reason or another, the growth of the team in the last year was striking. This is, of course, a testament to the quality of the work we produce. Additionally, though, it reflects the growing demand for products such as ours throughout the healthcare sector as digital solutions become increasingly accepted and expected.
The manner in which our growth reflects the state of the industry goes beyond hard numbers. With the potential for digital medicines to have a positive impact on outcomes becoming increasingly clear, we have also grown in terms of the capabilities we possess in the team as we strive to fulfill it. New members of our quality management team, for example, have brought with them the know-how required to introduce more stringent and comprehensive measures required to meet medical device regulations.
Our IT support, editorial, design, and data science teams are just some of the others to have experienced a similar broadening of capabilities. As well as reflecting our evolution as a company, it reflects the maturing market in which we are operating, the increasingly high standards that are being set, and the development of regulatory and legislative measures.
The increasingly diverse nature of the capabilities within the team is mirrored by the variety of places from where we hail. We have always been fortunate enough to attract people from around the globe and that trend has continued in the last year. From Mexico to Russia and well over a dozen countries in between, the cultural backgrounds possessed within our team help create a wonderful melting pot when we all get together.
We are now operating partner offerings in more than 20 markets around the globe. We strongly believe our policy of international recruitment – whether permanent employees, working students, or interns – has played a major role in allowing us to deliver both MyTherapy (which has active users in over 220 countries and territories) and partner offerings worldwide without sacrificing quality or compliance.
The Talk of the Team: Applying an Agile and Patient-Centric Approach to Medical Devices
Having got our exercise for the day in walking up to the hut, we enjoyed a typically Bavarian food platter (known as Brotzeit), and eased into our cozy surroundings. A myriad of topics were soon made the subjects of countless conversations around the room.
Of the topics that were related to work, medical devices, digital therapeutics, and reimbursement were among the most enthusiastically discussed.
They are the subjects that are moving tools such as apps from the periphery of healthcare to the mainstream and, subsequently, shaping the direction in which we are moving as a company. As a result, they are either directly or indirectly influencing the nature of the work each of us performs daily.
Although we have long anticipated digital offerings would move in this direction, there is a sense that 2020 will be a ground-breaking year. It is the year we expect to launch our first medical device in the US, while Germany’s Digital Care Act (‘Digitale Versorgung Gesetz’ or ‘DVG’) coming into effect opens the door to app reimbursement on a scale never before seen.
For each of us, it is a unique and exciting opportunity to be at the forefront of a young, developing market and to play a part in helping it mature into one that can benefit millions of people worldwide.
Naturally, therefore, topics such as DTx and medical devices were the focus of fervent chatter, as well as being central themes to the ‘state of the union’ speech that was delivered by our leadership team. The fast-moving world of agile product development does not always seem to go well with the formal design control requirements of medical devices. We've developed a unique approach for getting the best out of both worlds, and it was impressive to see the entire organization embracing it.
(Patient-Voice) Content is King
Another topic that was focused upon in the aforementioned speech was content. Content doesn’t tend to receive the same attention in our regular meetings as, for example, product development, yet it is a vital component of patient engagement.
Engagement is to digital therapeutics what adherence is to regular medications. Just as regular medications can only work when they are taken, digital therapeutics can only work by holding a patient’s attention and generating engagement. Given the efficacy of digital therapeutics relies on behavioral change, content is a fundamental component. It must be accessible, educational, and engaging.
Creating such content is not straight-forward, particularly as it needs to engage a diverse range of patients. In much the same way our programs go through countless iterations in a never-ending pursuit of usability and functionality, content is constantly tweaked and improved in search of greater engagement among more patients.
Essentially, the message that was delivered during the team event is that we are not simply a ‘tech’ company but a ‘product’ company. The components of our products are interdependent; technical advancements alone cannot create effective digital therapeutics without generating engagement, while the best content in the world will be wasted if the technical platform is substandard or inaccessible.
Getting the entire team together for events such as this helps everyone understand the multitude of roles within the company and appreciate the work done by those they may not directly work with daily.
It is fair to say that this year’s winter team event was a hugely successful and thoroughly enjoyable one. Among the fun, food, and weißbier, the event reflected the direction in which the industry is heading and the role our company is establishing for itself within it.
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