Mayank Kale, CEO & Founder, Loop Health

Before joining this company, Mayank has worked with companies like Apervita, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Pugmarks Holidays & others. His passion is making preventive and primary healthcare services accessible to everyone. He has worked with governments extensively in Maharashtra, Sierra Leone and Uzbekistan, providing the best telemedicine and EMR services to over 500,000 patients.

 

The WHO defines health technology as the “application of organized knowledge and skills in the form of devices, medicines, vaccines, procedures, and systems developed to solve a health problem and improve quality of lives”. Simply put, it is used to describe any technology-enabled service or product that helps prevent, diagnose, or treat disease. This includes pharmaceutical services, devices, procedures and organizational systems used in health care. Even as the traditional healthcare sector has been gradually making advances in the medical world, the Covid—19 pandemic has necessitated a paradigm shift of sorts in how patients, or end consumers, are seeking healthcare solutions. 

Take for instance, the noteworthy increase in usage of wearables, telemedicine, online consults, and digital payment usage since the virus first made its appearance in early 2020. The change is palpable and consumer driven. And now it appears that genomics, diagnostics, and remote monitoring of health through apps and portals offered by health tech companies and start-ups are shaping the new normal and can help redefine the healthcare landscape in the post-Covid environment.   

As everything becomes virtual, traditional health tech firms–grappling with the pandemic situation, and adapting their setups to fulfill other aspects of medical care–have an opportunity to reinvent themselves. At the same time, newer entrants to the field can and are leading the way with innovative tech products, aimed at revolutionizing health care for all involved stakeholders. 

The question is how can health tech organizations adapt their business strategies to address a range of possible challenges in the new normal?

Challenges

A report by McKinsey predicts that the global market represented by the health technology sector, which stood at about 350 billion US dollars in 2019, is expected to grow 50% by 2025. Furthermore, the health technology sector received US$5.4 billion in venture capital funds in the first half of 2020, a record in the history of healthcare. 

While this opens a plethora of mind-boggling possibilities for disruptive changes in the sector, preparing for the future of healthcare in a VUCA world with economic, regulatory, and social opacities lays out its own challenges. 

This, in part, is because despite the lucrative numbers, health tech companies face a downward-sloping demand curve indicative of the necessity for scaled innovation while enhancing product quality at a competitive price. While this is not an easy task, the opportunity it affords is unique and the pandemic-induced drivers have given it viable wings.  

How can health tech startups stay relevant in these times

To stay relevant in the new landscape, healthcare start-ups need to understand consumer needs to build their digital health systems. They also need to understand the full ramifications of how information technology can address the challenges and opportunities of this new normal.

Understanding patient concerns, harnessing data, developing preventive health mechanisms to keep people healthy, and capitalising on insights and innovation from new technologies will be vital to the future growth for health tech companies. 

Key Areas of Focus

Health tech firms can win in the new health economy if they offer high-value products and services—not just those with cutting-edge technology and clinical impact, but also those that can reduce the total cost of care. The new normal digital health agenda for these firms will need to focus on three overarching specifics: building collaboration and partnerships; understanding changing consumer behaviour and needs in the context of the financial impact of the pandemic and last but not least adoption of advanced virtual care to bridge the gap between old healthcare and health tech. 

  1. Firstly, companies in the health tech space must invest in understanding changing consumer behaviour and spending patterns.

This will not only help these firms benefit from a better psychosocial understanding of patients, but also develop solutions that will help them get better and stay healthy.  Once the players comprehend the environmental and social obstacles that keep people from staying healthy with the use of data and technology, they can deliver bespoke, personalized and more precise health care experiences and solutions to their patients. This will not only make the experience more human, with an empathetic understanding of the challenges people face, but also more meaningful to an individual’s specific needs. Coupled with this, developing an understanding of the economic or financial barriers to health faced by certain segments of society can help deliver sustainable and affordable solutions to these marginalized sections. 

  1. The second area that needs immediate attention is building effective collaborations and partnerships across sectors. 

New models of healthtech should enable improved access to specialist consultations for patients at hospitals or homes without having to transport the patients to different facilities. 

To stay in tune with evolving technology, design good user interfaces, handle cybersecurity threats and keep costs in control, healthtech companies should find the right partner to fast-track their product differentiation journey and leverage from existing tech solutions. Tech collaborations with firms that offer holistic infrastructure, security, maintenance and compliance support can afford a competitive edge to tech startups. 

Similarly, health tech start-ups could learn from consumer facing tech companies, to help develop offerings that keep people well for and demonstrate value to their consumers. 

  1. The final vital area of focus for the health tech sector is to bridge the gap between old health care practices and health tech by adopting virtual technology. 

It is vital for health tech organizations to embrace discovery and delivery models for the future of health. As discussed above, due to the pandemic, patients sought to safely seek offsite treatment for both the Covid-19 virus as well as other major and minor ailments, pushing the volume of tele consults quite dramatically.  In response, providers hastily put together available digital tools to construct telecom bridges for virtual health consults. While these workarounds proved good for rough and ready usage, they are not robust enough to sustain a permanent solution with high volumes. 

Nonetheless, the groundwork for both patients and doctors –in seeking and delivering care– via virtual consults has been laid. Industry players should use this development to accelerate and push these solutions beyond traditional boundaries. As there will likely be an increase in cases, which use remote monitoring, teleconferencing, and digital data collection tools to conduct trials outside of traditional clinical trial sites–health care startups must find innovative solutions to build stable and sturdy channels that address logistical, financial, and clinical concerns for all involved stakeholders. So for example modern health systems will need to assimilate digital health records, define protocols for meaningful telehealth visits, work out payment methodologies for tele consults, reimagine hospital and physician setups and practices in virtual spaces and ensure remote monitoring helps shift chronic disease management to the comfort of homes. 

The sheer urgency of the Covid-19 crisis led to a lot of experimentation with new ways of managing patient care, especially with regard to clinical and operational processes. Driven by necessity to save lives, health systems developed new ways to do teleconsulting, relied on the use of videos and chatbots to respond to patient queries and collaborated across specializations to coordinate care. Even without a ravaging crisis, health firms should try and reinforce these gains and see how best they can quickly and efficiently respond, make decisions and find ways to use new digital technologies. 

All in all, digital health startups can play a key role in redefining health solutions in the new normal by bringing together processes and systems for improved efficiency, convenience and financial viability. While it has taken an unfortunate pandemic to bring about this unforeseen disruption in status quo, it should be treated as a tremendous opportunity to create a new health ecosystem that thrives on a culture of wellness and prevention.

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