Healthcare systems have been under pressure all around the world – and not just because of corona. (Yes, there’s no article these days without mentioning the ol’ c-word.) In fact, the global pandemic has rather made the pre-existing conditions of Western countries’ healthcare systems painfully visible. Austerity policies and privatisation have increased the pressures of consolidation, leaving healthcare professionals overworked, under-equipped and underpaid – and patients running the risk of being underserved.
These conditions vary from country to country of course – but are always partly caused by health systems and governments not making full use of the potential of digitisation. The COVID-19 crisis has boosted both the need and thus interest for innovative solutions. Digital health, or eHealth, products and services are in higher demand than ever. Relevant verticals include telehealth, health analytics and mHealth, while contact-tracing apps, such as the ones initiated by startups like finleap, or developed by SAP & T-Systems in Germany, are currently driving the increase in popular interest around eHealth products.
The global digital health market is expected to reach US$511 billion by 2026, with an impressive growth rate of roughly 26% per year. As a reference: Germany’s entire annual public health spending is at $330 billion. While the US and China are leading in digitisation of health systems with 21 and 9 ehealth unicorns respectively, other markets are picking up the pace and have massive revenue potential. In addition to seeing the pharma companies and key players like Siemens Healthcare and Cisco Systems get their fingers in the mix, global tech players such as Google and Amazon as well have discovered the potential of the market.
But the crucial impulse will have to come not from the private but the public sector. Indeed, we’re detecting an increasing willingness from governments to establish public-private partnerships to help create faster, better and more effective health services. The message is spreading at an increasing pace that data and digitisation can reduce costs by improving prevention, speeding up emergency care, raising the quality of patient services and allocating budget and staff economically.
We picked some of the most promising companies from Europe and the US. With an unwavering eye on data privacy, maybe governments can pick at least some ideas out of the infinite sea of healthcare innovation – many of which could help improve healthcare systems in a sustainable manner. Here’s our selection.
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Telemedicine is the new black. Stockholm-based KRY, one of Europe’s largest digital healthcare providers, secured a €140 million Series C back in January (for a total funding of €200 million). They offer an app for online appointments with doctors or other qualified health professionals within minutes using a smartphone or tablet. Founded in 2015, KRY has enabled over 1.4 million completed patient meetings.
And the global pandemic has confirmed the significance of its product – and of decentralised, patient-centric health services too. “It’s needed at times of crisis,” Johannes Schildt, Founder and CEO, told CNBC in April. “Every single consultation that can be done online should be done online. There’s a lack right now of safe and secure tools that are built for this.” Consequently, KRY has seen clinical consultations more than double since February.
KRY is seizing this opportunity to meet their responsibility: They recently announced the expansion and mobilisation of their services to support the fight against COVID-19. In the Heinsberg region of Germany, for instance, they’ve enabled access to free GP consultations, while in the UK they’ve been chosen by the NHS as one of the preferred digital healthcare suppliers to provide additional COVID-19 capacity. And they’ve spread their guardian wings beyond Europe too: KRY launched its video consultation platform Livi Connect in the US just in April.
Online medical care to date can be somewhat impersonal. That’s what Munich-based Medicalmotion aims to change with their personalised health app. With their integrated and AI-fueled health assistant, the app recommends individual exercises for both body and mind on a daily basis, in order to prevent and offer therapy for around 100 different diseases.
Founded in 2017, their goal has been a world without lifestyle-related illnesses. Utilising cutting-edge technology, specialist science and medical knowledge, they’re taking on their big rival, Kaia Health (notably also based in healthtech and startup mad Munich and who’ve also recently launched in the US after two big funding rounds).
They’ve also shown their chops during the current COVID-19 crisis: With lots of people stuck at home (and less mobile than before!), new health issues are arising due to lack of movement. That’s why Medicalmotion is currently offering three months free use of the app for eager users.
In another example of the current ‘serve don’t sell’ spirit, UK healthtech startup Patchwork.Health has made its COVID-19 staffing solution freely available to all NHS Trusts to support the UK healthcare system in the ongoing pandemic.
Patchwork’s technology allows hospitals to advertise urgent shift vacancies to tens of thousands of qualified medical professionals through the company’s partnership with the British Medical Journal.
The London-based startup has also won the support of Wagestream and Truu ID to further ease the burden on the UK healthcare systems and its staff. Wagestream will enable clinicians to access their wages as soon as they need them, and Truu ID will enable the instant passporting of credentials, helping Trusts around the UK to validate clinicians and onboard them in as little time as two minutes.
‘Stay at home’ has been THE slogan of 2020. But getting tested at home is still something in its infancy in both availability and awareness. This is a challenge Cerascreen, a digital health startup offering home tests, has been tackling since 2012 in their home base of Schwerin in the north of Germany.
For the consumer at home, it’s a doozy: You send your blood, saliva, urine or breathing gas sample back to them and you’ll receive your results online within 48 hours. No waiting times. No doctor’s visit. No risk of being turned away or infecting others. They can test you for a number of things: food intolerance, analysis of intestinal bacteria or a Depression Package which tests your vitamin B12, vitamin D and serotonin levels. They’re TÜV-certified – meaning their products have been approved by a product verification body in Germany – and work exclusively with certified laboratories.
Particularly of note – and something that everybody is after right now – is the cerascreen® coronavirus antibody test, which offers the consumer a chance to take their sample at home before sending it over to a specialist laboratory. And they’ve hit the ground running, having already checked over 250,000 samples and registered more than 50 test kits.
“Hi, I’m GYANT! How can I help you?” GYANT uses conversational AI to make patient interactions with the healthcare system more individual and productive. Its customisable, deep intelligence-powered platform helps navigate patients to the appropriate care setting and relevant in-network resources. San Francisco-based GYANT helps health systems implement digital patient journeys to effectively onboard new patients, efficiently serve existing ones, and automate certain processes. It ultimately allows health systems to solve traditional complex care issues, improve workflows and reduce costs.
The company, founded in 2016 by Pascal Zuta and Stefan Behrens, just recently announced a new virtual assistant solution specifically designed for health systems to offer patients an accessible COVID-19 screening assistant. The free AI chat solution, the COVID-19 Emergency Response Assistant, offers screening and care navigation support as well as patient education on symptoms and prevention.
Ottonova is Germany’s first purely digital private health insurer – and investors have strong faith in its success. The Munich insurtech startup received €60 million of funding back in November – securing further (as of yet undisclosed) investment in 2020. The ambitious mission to disrupt the rather difficult health insurance market started in 2017, but really only took flight since running TV ads on German TV stations of ProsiebenSat1 and cooperations with Seven Ventures, CHECK24 and Blau.
Their digital health services are suitably elevated. An around-the-clock concierge service via call or chat ensures patients can always receive help. They’ve also made screenings for prostate, breast, skin and cervical cancers possible for younger people who often don’t qualify for tests under standard insurance practice. Oh, and they’ve been guzzling up some statuettes: with their supplementary dental insurance recently the test winner of renowned German consumer organisation Stiftung Warentest!
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