Why is e-health so challenging and how to succeed in it?

Maximilien Fournier
Mar 18 · 3 min read

E-health, i.e. digital processes in health, has attracted entrepreneurs, investors, corporates, physicians and public health organizations for decades now. Indeed, the medical environment is seen as roughly inefficient and with a huge technological debt. Therefore, most people think that applying innovations that have been developed in other environments would have an immense impact on the health system.

However, the specificities of the healthcare environment have been largely underestimated which explains the gap between expectations and real life experience in terms of e-health. Here are a few:

  • Healthcare environment is composed of numerous players (patients, physicians, hospitals, governments, insurance companies) which all have different interests;
  • Regulatory bodies impose constraints on all players, which is positive in terms of patients’ safety but creates inertia and slows innovation down;
  • Each country’s healthcare system has its own characteristics and is usually highly complex;
  • Generating revenue in the short term can be tough as you need to fit into existing revenue streams and patients are not prone to pay out of their pocket.

At Omnes, we invested in Therapixel which is developing an AI-based algorithm for mammography diagnosis. We analyzed hundreds, if not thousands, of startups in e-health and we truly believe that Therapixel has what it takes to be highly successful.

Let me give you some background on breast cancer. First, mammography screening is systematically performed on women over the age of 40 in all developed countries. The reason is pretty simple: the 5-year survival rate is close to 100% for women with early breast cancer diagnosis, and is about 22% for women with metastatic breast cancers. Therefore, early treatment can have a huge impact on patients’ survival! In the United States , 40 million mammograms are reviewed by radiologists every year, which represents a $1Bn market.

Mammography imaging

Since the 1980’s, researchers have tried to develop algorithms that could help physicians increase the number of mammograms they interpret (especially as only 0.5% of mammograms are found positive, i.e. most of them do not contain any cancer). But this has been unsuccessful.

Now let me tell you why, in my opinion, Therapixel is so unique:

  • The team is composed of highly talented individuals and their technical background is outstanding. They proved it by participating in the Digital Mammography Challenge, which is the largest international AI competition ever organized on breast cancer diagnosis with a $1.5M money prize, where they ranked first (by far). The goal of Therapixel is to outperform best radiologists in terms of diagnosis accuracy, and we have facts that let us think they will achieve this in the coming year.
  • The clinical benefit (earlier diagnosis, less accuracy variability between radiologists) is straightforward for patients and public health organizations.
  • The Return-On-Investment is clear: providing a tool that will allow radiologists to improve their productivity in terms of mammogram diagnosis, which will increase their revenue.

At Omnes, the VC team’s expertise is both in the digital and healthcare environments (which is key for investing in e-health). We have financed very successful companies on the tech side (BlaBlaCar, Sigfox, Aldebaran Robotics) and on the health side (Enterome, ArgenX, Biovex). We can match the technological potential of tech innovations with the deficiencies and constraints of the healthcare world. And we believe that is why we can help Therapixel make it to the next step, especially by getting access to our network of experts in numerous topics (regulatory, clinical, technical, commercial launch, marketing, etc.).

But most importantly, scaling up a startup from the beginning is part of our DNA at Omnes (I was personally an entrepreneur before joining Omnes). We know the path forward will be like going into a rollercoaster and we will be there to help Therapixel focused on what matters the most to fulfill their mission.

It is only the beginning of the story for Therapixel, and we are very excited and honored to participate to this mission. Now let’s get this adventure started!

Maximilien Fournier

Written by

Ex entrepreneur and VC at Omnes Capital. I invest in early stage startups in therapeutics, medical devices and e-health.