Discover more from What the Health?!
Not Another Healthtech Trends Article...
21 HealthTech Trends for 2021 and Beyond
Where attention goes, funding flows and industries grow.
And it’s putting patients, big tech, and health professionals back in control.
Every investor and their dog is talking about AI, remote monitoring, telehealth, and “patient centricity” - but that’s only scratching the surface.
So, here's my take on a few trends and some cool companies to check out…
Hitting Refresh on Prehistoric Process 📱
1) Digital Health Journeys
No shock since the COVID shake-up, telehealth is crushing it, but this is just the beginning. Soon there will be end-to-end services for the whole shebang - booking systems, digital health wallets, recorded consults, payments, patient education options, and check-ins & prompts. Face-to-face consults will have digital journeys for patients and practitioners, helping improve experiences, access capabilities, reducing the waste of time, money, and, preventing things from falling through the cracks.
Coviu is leading the charge with their telehealth platform expanding functionalities at a rapid rate with partners like Medipass for billing, Ezispeak for real-time language translation services. HotDoc has the GP market nailed making appointment bookings a breeze. And virtual clinics like Hinge (US), the first Digital Clinic for back & joint pain, are picking up steam with full-service offerings and awesome outcomes.
2) Hello Personalised Healthcare
We all know one size fits all doesn’t work, so why do we do it for health?
Piggybacking off the wellness and health optimisation trends, personalised health is becoming mainstream. Everything from individual health and digestive analysis with Viome, tracking with wearables and patient devices, or self input apps like Flo, tracking menstruation and ovulation.
You can even get tailored vitamins delivered to your door or check out your genetic background for just $99 USD! It’s still pricey, but as technology advances, costs lower and prevention becomes the preference we’re sure to see it entering everyday care.
This is sure to drastically improve treatment options, improving patient insights, pharmacological development, and increase accuracy of diagnosis and interventions.
3) Digital Therapeutics
Decades of research have gone into the effects of psychological intervention, data tracking, patient education, and intervention programs on health outcomes. Yet with constrained resources collectively we have favoured the quick fix pills and procedures.
With a phone now permanently in everyone's hand, digital therapeutics are breaking down barriers fast. Nerva by Mindset Health use hypnotherapy for IBS and, associated with higher success rates than low fodmap diets. Cycle tracking for fertility and menstrual health with apps like Flo and Natural Cycles are quickly becoming a preferred option. And the mental health category is EXPLODING with apps like Headspace, Calm and Sleep Cycle making meditation, anxiety alleviation, and improving sleep easy.
This category is one to watch - or jump into if you have that entrepreneurial itch!
Patients Take Control 🎮
4) Consumerization of Healthcare
It’s no new concept - Since 2000 there has been talk of how health should be “patient-centred” empowering collaboration on clinical decisions based on needs, values, and preferences. But since our system has failed to effectively put options in the patient’s hands, private companies and the internet are allowing people to do just that.
Hims & Hers in the US just went public despite being only 3 years old with their accessible patient-driven experiences skyrocketing in demand (shock). Eucalyptus in Aus is forging ahead with a similar stream of smashing services, and device companies like Ovira, providing non-invasive, drug-free treatment for period pain, are making alternative treatments easy, appealing, and affordable.
5) Health On Demand
We get food, books, and even toilet paper delivered - so no wonder health is following suit. In November 2020 Amazon, the world's largest logistics network finally launched Amazon Pharmacy and is set to make further moves into the health market, making health more convenient than ever. Uber launched Uberhealth for non-urgent medical transport in the US.
Meanwhile in Aus smaller players are popping up like Medrun, who can deliver you medication on-demand, and DoctorDoctor, providing connected bulk-billed consultation access after hours. Say goodbye to the barriers of time, travel, geography, and the psychological slump of kicking yourself into gear to take action and look after your health.
6) Subscription Health - Sign me up
Health funds have done it for years, but increasing costs and stripped-back benefits don’t bode well for Millenial & Gen Z buy-in. Instead, the VC business model of choice, creating easy access and recurring revenue, has hit the rest of healthcare.
Eucalyptus is rolling out beautifully branded offerings for consumers like Kin, a full-service subscription for women's fertility - taking away the fuss, cost, time, and frustration of upkeep. Whilst Concierge Medicine and other tailored healthcare packages such as Parsley Health (US) for chronic health conditions, provide care offerings you will actually use in a far more cost-effective way - and is connected with increased compliance and improved outcomes.
Doing Things Differently 💥
7) Gamification & Behavioural Change
Imagine if you could actually make health fun?!
An overused buzzword in tech, but with success in financial services, behavioural change, and the rise of esports, there is no doubt that health is ready for an injection of interactivity & fun. We’re already seeing it with communities like Strava for runners, Perx for medication compliance using support and incentivisation, and VR therapeutics like XRHealth enabling effective and enjoyable experiences for rehab.
There's a world of opportunity out there to combine health with the fast growing gaming trend to provide improved outcomes and experiences
8) Incentivising Health 💰
Building on gamification, what better way to get buy-in than a little extra incentive? While many of us can’t justify doing things purely for health's sake, if you put money on the line then it can be the gentle push many of us need.
Classpass does this by setting financial penalties if you miss a class or cancel late, encouraging people to stick to their routine and avoid a $$$ loss.
Perx has inbuilt rewards for its programs. Health insurers like Medibank are playing with programs offering rewards and lower premiums for those who participate in preventative measures. And even super funds like REST played with offering discounts on food and gym memberships to promote healthy behaviours.
Behavioural change creates optimal outcomes for long-term results, but changing the foundations of a system is challenging and costly. Instead, this provides a more affordable approach targeting individuals with great possibilities.
9) Audio & Video… Everything
Ever walked into a doctor's office, then walked out to find hours later you can’t remember what they said? Compliance and patient understanding are tricky, especially in the tiny time frames. So why not take the consult with you?
Audio is on the rise, and studies show that recording consults can help improve understanding, outcomes, satisfaction and doctor-patient relationships. Companies like Otter.ai are able to record, transcribe and produce summaries with keywords both for clinicians and patients. Many clinics in the US are leading the way, so watch out as these types of services and interactions soon becomes common practice.
Network Effects 💫
10) Big Tech Take Over
With widespread infiltration, it’s no surprise that the Giants who control our data, networks and infrastructure are perfectly positioned to dominate. Their insights into our actions are an unparalleled trove of potential clinical data gold. But they've yet to step out of the shadows or show true scalable utility.
Google has it’s Google Health team working on everything from EMRs, AI models, population data, wearables and the new Google Clinical Trials. Apple is deep in the wearables market, also with a clinical trials app and claims it’s “legacy will be in health”. Amazon’s mass-market penetration, supply chain set up, acquisitions and minimal margins have positioned it perfectly to push into health. Whilst Facebook is playing with a Preventative Health Resource, but its health department is yet to reveal what’s really behind the curtain.
11) Health Data
Until recently the databases and systems in healthcare have been insanely siloed, segmented, and often missing the whole picture.
Hospitals are finally migrating to networks of cloud-based and strong server systems instead of segmented department software and paper notes. Patients are even able to participate, with the potential for them to provide data to their treating professionals and other stakeholders (maybe even for $ for research).
There’s a huge opportunity for these streamlined datasets from both individuals and services to accelerate our understanding of health. Providing insights into conditions, behaviours, & biomarkers of individuals and populations. Creating unlimited possibilities for the advancement of research & tech, and interventions.
On the topic of Blockchain - though technologies like these have potential to create solid data storage and identiity services, the reality of any type of migration and implementation for mainstream use is still a ways off
12) Community 🌏
Anyone who has tackled a serious health condition knows it takes a village, requiring far more support than a doctor's consult can provide. Studies show strong support networks infinitely improve outcomes. Thankfully, communities are on the rise with the emergence of specialised virtual support communities, tailored to specific conditions.
Leading the change in Australia we have Meet Arli creating a safe and supportive space for addiction. Whilst in the US Alula for Cancer patients and The Mighty for support and resources for both carers and patients with any and every health struggle you could imagine.
13) Social Media & Forums - Exclusive for Health
Building on Community, though most of us spend our days soaking in social media, we are yet to see a useful and widely adopted platform purely for health.
Most doctor and patient communities still operate out of Facebook groups and Reddit, but it’s only a matter of time before we see some new entrants into the space to help improve access to information, resources, and referrals in a moderated environment. WebMD and others have tried, but someone is yet to nail it... WATCH THIS SPACE.
14) 5 Stars ⭐ Referrals, Reviews, and Reputations
For everything, we can now extensively research, read reviews and referrals from our networks. There’s always multi-channel reliable advice publicly available and we can add reviews to the public treasure trove of data. Yet this hasn’t (really) hit health.
We still largely operate on what our GP or friends tell us, with little to compare or contrast to. Now, this isn’t always a bad thing as Dr Google is dangerous. But if we are empowering people with their health choices (and they’re doing it anyway) - we need to democratise healthcare and put people in an informed position to actually be able to make these decisions, and not just blindly hope we’re stumbling in the right direction.
Good referral and review systems will be invaluable
There are some referral programs and doctor review sites, but until one nails this complex combo and/or gets both sizeable market share and trust - it's inconsistent and unreliable.
System Shake-Up 🌪️
15) Preventative and Proactive Health Prevails 💪
Everyone knows Prevention is better than Cure - for outcomes and our pockets
But with a system built on bandaid fixes and 10-minute medicine, there’s been a reluctance to rebuild the system. Thanks to increased consumer health literacy, rising populations and costs - now it can't be avoided. This includes the much-needed Holistic Health movement (providing a whole-person approach to wellness incorporating physical, mental, spiritual, and social needs) and Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM).
To stay viable, health funds are broadening their services and incentivising activities such as gym, pilates, other extras (even devices) encouraging members to proactively manage their health, and prevent major (costly) health events.
Meanwhile, individuals are investing in their health & wellbeing earlier. From simple apps like Apple Health, to weight management & health coaching with Noom, Mental Health & Meditation Apps, trends like Infrared Saunas, and even proactive cancer risk screening with Eugene, a digital genetic and health screening service.
16) Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) for Health
As health funds struggle to innovate there's pressure for alternative ways to pay for treatments. Afterpay has already entered the arena with dentistry and wellness - so it’s not unlikely the rest of health will be far behind. With more people opting to pay out of pocket for health procedures - this could be big for healthcare access.
Getting many more people to access quality services sooner, stopping prolonged suffering, and improving outcomes without the one punch financial hit.
17) Healthcare @ Home 🏠 The Dispersion of Hospitals
Studies show that patient outcomes often drastically improve when they can either return to or remain in their homes. Remote patient monitoring (RPM) and self-monitoring devices have finally been given their time to shine. From implanted heart devices to wearables, portable devices, and apps. The Global Market for Patient Monitoring devices is expected to exceed $42.9 Billion by 2027.
In Aus we have Medtronic as a major player with multiple offerings. While startups like Nutromics is powering the future of both chronic disease prevention and acute condition management through biosensors and their associated software. Also, NDIS providers and care connectors like Ally Assist help provide the extra care and support needed further preventing health system burden.
Super Suits for Health Professionals
18) AI & Digital Diagnostics - The Darling of Health Investors
AI in health is everywhere and hyped as high as bitcoin. Though the possibilities won’t be realised immediately, AI, automation, and health analytics are set to be the ultimate super suit for health professionals. This killer combo will improve the accuracy and time of diagnosis and intervention, reduce human error, bias, and give doctors and other professionals back their time.
Right now companies like Aidoc are revolutionising radiology, flagging abnormalities helping identify and expedite patient care, whilst Harrison AI is improving IVF outcomes, and expanding into other arenas.
19) Paging Productivity - Tools for Health Professionals
Move over pagers, fax machines, and layers of legacy EMRs. Automation, integration, and streamlining services will save time, money, confusion, stress, and lives. Think Slack, Asana & Airtable but all for health.
Medtasker is a task management and communication platform upgrading the way clinicians work, whilst companies like Med Apps are digitising the old onboarding, education, and guideline systems for clinicians. They recently announced a partnership with NZ’s Celo, to further improve compliance, connection and collaboration.
20) SaaS Platforms 💻
EMRs - Amazing, but also an absolute headache. Thankfully the transition to the new age of software is finally underway. With increasing multi-device capabilities, integrations and user experience (UX) finally being placed front and centre.
Halaxy is an impressive integrated product for practices with everything from appointment booking, telehealth, payment processing, clinical records, analytics, and even marketing campaigns. Hopefully, soon we’ll see these digital systems replace the physical paperwork which is still sent out from hospitals!
21) Open Source Medicine - GitHub for Healthcare
Yet another page from techs playbook. The term open source refers to something people can modify and share because its design is publicly accessible.
TL;DR - sharing is caring
Medicine for all - That’s what Open Source Pharma hopes to achieve.
A movement set up by world leaders to increase access, affordability, resource allocation, and accelerate research outcomes. It’s wishful thinking, but combining existing initiatives and developing a comprehensive, open-source system driven by principles of openness, patient needs, and affordability could be a game-changer.
Big commercial companies don’t like to share - but after the pharma collaboration on the COVID19 vaccine, maybe it’s the start of something and help improve literally millions of lives - got to be optimistic after all!
What did I miss? Got any companies you’re loving?
Let me know by dropping a comment or hitting reply.
And if you don’t want to miss the industry round-up dropping next week, hit the button below! 🍩