Despite uncertainty about national healthcare policy, investors continue to fuel the red-hot health technology sector, which leverages innovation in the quest to improve outcomes, streamline care and cut costs.
Digital health startup firms banked $23 billion in venture funding over the past seven years, according to analysis from Rock Health. In 2017 alone, digital health investments hit an all-time high approaching $6 billion, with a record number of “mega-deals” (each exceeding $100 million) coming to fruition. Repeat investments also reached a peak last year, indicating confidence in future growth.
Rock Health’s research reveals the top value propositions funded during 2017:
- Consumer health information (investments of $1.6 billion) — Empowering individuals to better understand their own health and the overall healthcare system.
- Clinical decision support and precision medicine ($811 million) — Delivering timely information to providers to help inform care decisions and/or tailor the prevention, management or treatment of disease.
- Fitness and wellness ($752 million) — General health maintenance and promotion, where illness prevention does not associate with a diagnostic billing code.
- Disease monitoring ($517 million) — Using biometric devices to track specific clinical conditions.
- Disease diagnosis ($493 million) — Identifying specific clinical indications.
- Non-clinical workflow ($482 million) — Managing administrative operations such as scheduling and billing in a provider setting.
In short, digital health has aggressively moved past the fledgling stage. From here, innovators will need to demonstrate much more than a unique idea. They’ll be asked to show verifiable advancement in building, sustaining and scaling a profitable business model.
Venture capitalists aside, doctors and researchers agree that technology-backed breakthroughs will figure prominently among major medical developments expected in 2018.
Cleveland Clinic, which annually publishes a top-ten list of innovations vetted by an internal panel of physicians and scientists, predicts disruption in areas such as diabetes management, telehealth and centralized monitoring of hospital patients.
For example, a closed-loop insulin delivery system, essentially an artificial pancreas, will improve outcomes for Type 1 diabetes patients and increasingly be reimbursable by insurers this year, according to the report. The system will continuously link a monitoring device to an insulin pump to stabilize blood glucose at an unprecedented level, rather than requiring the patient to determine how much insulin to inject.
Also on the immediate horizon, distance health technologies will be widely adopted, with 90 percent of healthcare executives reporting active or emerging telehealth programs. Telehealth is now integrated with more than 19 million patients using attachable devices to record and report medical information. The technology will remove geographic barriers to care, enabling timely treatment to vulnerable populations at significantly reduced cost.
We’ll also see provider organizations implementing “mission control”-type operations, through which off-site personnel use sensors and high-definition cameras to monitor patients’ blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, oxygen level and other essential readings. This type of system can double the number of monitored patients per technician while initiating advance warnings of trouble in areas such as cardiology wards.
The Agility Factor
Disruptive healthcare technologies typically incorporate some aspect of data integration geared toward actionable intervention or prevention that justifies initial and ongoing investment. The takeaway for healthcare decision-makers is that traditional spending on day-to-day IT activities will give way to hand-picked services available through the cloud.
“The role of the chief information officer won’t be so much operations and keeping disks spinning and data centers powered as much as it will be integration and figuring out how procured cloud services fit together,” observes John Halamka, MD, CIO at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
“So you might even imagine that IT departments will start to shrink because so much of what we have done in the past with internal staff will be done with cloud-hosted services,” Halamka continues. “And the great joy of this is that if you don’t like one cloud-hosted service, you can change it. So it’s going to give you some agility.”
NetDirector’s cloud-based HealthData Exchange precisely fits today’s model for disruption with low-cost, high-speed data and document sharing capabilities. For more information on the HealthData Exchange platform, please contact us or request a free demo.