Health Tech in 2017
Four Exciting Trends and the Startups Leading the Change
No matter what happens to the ACA, the trend of providing value based health care has gained a momentum that won’t be easy to stop. If Trump succeeds in eliminating health exchanges and rolling back coverage in states that expanded Medicaid, providers will likely see a dramatic rise in uncompensated care. Hospitals will bear the brunt of this increase in uncompensated care and have an incentive begin utilizing scalable methods for population health management.
On the bright side, providers are finding innovative ways to manage the the 332% of Americans with multiple chronic conditions. This is an obvious area where technology can improve outcomes and cut the astronomical costs. About 86% of the $2.9 trillion in annual healthcare spending is for patients with more than one chronic condition.
These are some of the trends I find particularly exciting at the intersection of healthcare and technology.
1. Slow Adoption Curves Becoming Faster
Hospitals are more willing than ever to adopt new technologies. This is out of necessity, since increased ACOs, bundled payments, and MACRA incentivize them to seek higher quality outcomes. Providers cannot manage populations, improve quality, and control costs all on their own, so they are seeking out startups to partner with for innovative solutions. Now is a better time than ever to be selling to health enterprise, as they are increasingly relying on startups to enter into strategic partnerships to solve their problems.
Another contributing factor to this trend is that healthcare has finally embraced EMRs (electronic medical records). Thanks, in large part, to the Obama stimulus incentives, hospitals have achieved a 96% EHR adoption rate. Now, they can focus on using the data.
Startups in this space: Founded by Niko Skievaski, Redox bills itself as a “Modern API for healthcare.” The company allows startups to easily share data with health systems, and they are seeing a huge demand from health systems for more data sharing.
2. Automation in Healthcare
Compliance is a huge issue for providers, and automation has the potential to reduce costs by eliminating the repetitive, daily tasks that many physicians face. Robots and software can now streamline the intake process.
Intelligent automation is also on the rise. Sources of data are growing. The data is being captured in EHRs. And machine learning and algorithms help physicians make quick, informed decisions
Startups in this space: Patient check-in startup Yosi, for example, allows patients to check in before their arrival, integrates with EHRs to avoid data entry errors, saves staff time by eliminating paper from the waiting room experience, and allows doctors to make referrals within their own network to improve patient care.
It is inevitable that, in the future, the majority of physicians’ diagnostic, prescription and monitoring, which over time may approach 80-percent of total doctors’/internists’ time spent on medicine, will be replaced by smart hardware, software, and testing. This is not to say 80-percent of physicians will be replaced, but rather 80-percent of what they currently do might be replaced so the roles doctors/internists play will likely be different and focused on the human aspects of medical practice such as empathy and ethical choices. — Vinod Khosla
3. Emerging Technologies Begin to Emerge
We have seen this trend first hand as more virtual reality and robotics companies than ever apply to our health tech program. For the first time ever, a surgeon in London used VR glasses to perform a surgery, enabling medical students to follow along and enhance their understanding of the human body. AR technology has made surgery more precise. Now, surgeons can perform a CT scan and map out the vessels. Then, during surgery, they can overlay the image using an iPad to make more precise incisions. The May Clinic is using VR to treat motion sickness and balance disorders. Draper is testing a method that uses virtual reality data and sensors to diagnose PTSD. The potential of emerging technology in medicine is limitless.
AI is improving quality of care and allowing patients to manage their own health. Microsoft Research created software that uses AI to measure the size and growth patterns of tumors for treatment, as well as allowing doctors to preserve healthy cells while killing only the cancerous tissue. HealthTap uses AI to allow patients to self-triage. Patients enter symptoms and the system applies the knowledge of 104k physicians and millions of patients on the network to diagnose common problems (IE no more looking at WebMD and concluding that you are on your dying breath because you have the symptoms of a common cold).
Startups in this space: BioBots is already printing out bones and living tissue using 3-D printers. Surgical Theater raised a $9m Series A to allow surgeons to pre-plan their tactics in a virtual operating room.
4. Behavior Change for Cost Savings
The drive toward value based care is incentivizing providers and payers to solve the root issues that could prevent costly medical problems further down the road. This means changing consumer behavior in a more targeted way than the first generational of wearable devices like Fitbit. Consumer behavior change startups bringing down health care costs by using behavioral economics, design, and gamification to nudge people into more sustainable, healthy behaviors.
Startups in this space: NextHealth uses analytics to nudge startups to use in-network providers, utilize telemedicine, and avoid ER visits. Wellth has created a behavioral economics solution to create financial incentives to improve adherence and outcomes in chronic disease patients. Patients who use Wellth have lower readmission rates and save avoidable costs. HealthWhiz aggregates the best existing healthcare information across symptoms, conditions, doctors, and costs, then uses this info to identify the right physicians to see at the onset of symptoms. They are currently targeting self insured (self-funded) employers.