Silicon Valley’s Knights in Shining Armour: How digital technologies came to save healthcare

MeST seminar with Professor Susi Geiger (University College Dublin)

This presentation is a reflection on a recent move in healthcare toward so-called ‘digital therapeutic’ technologies. Digital Therapeutics (or DTx, as they are called by their proponents) are a category within digital health technologies that heavily borrows from conventional and recognized healthcare therapies. Often (but not exclusively) DTx technologies are directed at conditions including mental health issues, prediabetes, chronic diseases and other such diseases that conventional ‘sick care’ is not well equipped to cater for. Those who devise, sell or otherwise promulgate DTx insist on its potential to overcome healthcare inequalities, access and pricing issues while maintaining and in some cases improving clinical quality standards.

The research I present is based on an ethnography of DTx entrepreneurs based in the Silicon Valley ecosystem as well as a discourse analysis of tweets, websites, newspapers and policy documents of the development of DTx as a distinct market category between 2014 and 2018. By analyzing how the market for DTx is shaped in the broader context of the Silicon Valley digital technocracy, the presentation critically engages with the technologies’ emancipatory and democratic potential – and argues that despite the now ubiquitous warnings against digital hegemony, privacy and discrimination, DTx may in fact be a force for the better in the long term.

Susi Geiger is a Full Professor of Marketing & Market Studies in the College of Business, University College Dublin, and holder of a European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant, “MISFIRES and Market Innovation,” which studies activism in health care markets. Her research focuses on how complex markets are organized, with specific interests in technology and health care markets, and how they could become more equitable and just.

She has published numerous articles on this issue, including in Organization Studies, Research Policy, Marketing Theory, Business & Society, and Journal of Cultural Economy. She has also co-edited the volume Concerned Markets (Edward Elgar, 2014). Visiting appointments have included the University of California at Berkeley, Stockholm School of Economics and Ecole de Mines ParisTech.

November 20, 2019, at 10:00-11:30, in room 5.0.22 at CSS, Øster Farimagsgade 5A, building 5