Read / Write Pharma Part 3/6: Meet Harriet from Digilive

In the last two posts adapted from Dominic Pride's Giant Health talk we've met Ilse - our unwell person and Giles - the maker of her drug therapy. Now we meet Harriet from Digilive.

Within moments of meeting Harriet you’ll realise she’s sharp. She’s been overachieving since the age of five, has a first class MSc and a ground-breaking PhD. She’s two years out of the University of Golden Triangle and is true to form, still overachieving as CEO of Digilive, the start-up which she founded to commercialise the findings of her thesis.

Not surprisingly Digilive is going really well and is one of the most popular digital wellness apps because it’s engaging to use and is underpinned by strong scientific rationale. Venture capital backers can't give her enough money.

Let's take a Look at Harriet’s “Stuff”- the things which she and her team deal with every day.


And when we look at Harriet‘s stuff it looks very different from Giles’s.

Digilive started with a website but its meteoric adoption came through the app. Most of its users are connecting Digilive to their out-of-date wearables that they’ve bought for £10 on eBay.

Harriet doesn’t have any clinical data - or at least none which would be readily accepted by the medical establishment. To be honest, she doesn’t have hundreds of millions of dollars and three years to spare.

What she does have is very strong indicative data. These suggest that there is patient benefit to be gained from the app, and her stats show that a majority of patients are adhering to the digital therapy which Digilive delivers. They also show a strong correlation (but not causation) linking Digilive usage and improved outcomes.

At the heart of what Harriet does is an algorithm - series of ones and zeros. This algorithm calculates what patients need and delivers it to them when and wherever they need it.  The more customers the service acquires, the better the algorithm gets, and the more effective the treatment becomes.

Like most clever digital businesses, Digilive is built on a different kind of API, an Application Programming Interface, a set of technical protocols which can be exposed to any digital service.  That’s how Harriet can get her algorithm from her servers out into sites, applications and wearables, and harvest the data back.

Today that API serves a website and app. Tomorrow it could power Apple Watch, Amazon Alexa or whatever other technologies customers are adopting.

So What?

  • Digital Services are doing well without the lengthy evidence cycle which medicine expects.
  • Clever services use a different kind of API - an Application Programming Interface to future-proof themselves from rapidly changing tech.
  • The algorithms are pushed and pulled to wherever they are needed and APIs also enable data to be gathered.

In our next post we'll look at what happens when Giles and Harriet think about working together.



Dominic Pride