The COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for the rapid growth and widespread adoption of digital health solutions. Telehealth, in particular, has taken centre stage, becoming a necessity in a world where remote care is crucial for maintaining public health. This trend has persisted since the onset of the pandemic, as evidenced by the innovations and investments in the digital health market. Alternative models of healthcare are emerging, focusing on delivering personalised solutions directly to consumers, empowering them to take control of their health, and optimising healthcare systems to improve overall health outcomes.

The digital health landscape is evolving rapidly, with advancements in remote consultation, mental health support, at-home diagnostics, patient monitoring, and the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and generative AI (GenAI). These technologies are not only improving access to healthcare services but also transforming the way care is delivered, making it more efficient, personalised, and patient-centric.

The Rise of B2B2C Models in Remote Consultations

The growing adoption of remote medical consultation has been driven by several factors, including advances in digital health technologies, the increasing demand for more accessible and affordable healthcare services, and the need to address healthcare disparities in underserved communities. The COVID-19 pandemic has further catalysed this trend, as the need for social distancing and infection control measures has necessitated a rapid shift towards telehealth and virtual care delivery. As patients and healthcare systems alike recognise the benefits of these platform, there has been an increasing adoption of the model, with a shift to B2B2C models.

Companies such as Teladoc and Amwell are partnering with insurance providers to integrate their services into insurance packages. Increasingly, especially in Europe where the healthcare systems are plagued by an increased strain on public resources, government entities have been increasingly integrating remote solutions. In the UK, eConsult collaborates with the National Health Service (NHS), enabling NHS-registered patients to access remote consultations seamlessly. This integration with the public healthcare system demonstrates the potential for remote consultation to enhance the efficiency and accessibility of healthcare services at a national scale.

Employers are also recognising the value of remote consultation in promoting employee wellbeing. Eden Health in the US offers services directly to employers, allowing employees to access healthcare conveniently.  This approach ensures employees have ready access to medical consultations, which can lead to improved health outcomes and enhanced productivity by reducing the time and money employees spend seeking medical care.

Furthermore, remote consultation is expanding beyond virtual interactions alone. US company TytoCare based in the US is enabling remote medical examinations by combining telemedicine with specialised devices. This advancement allows healthcare professionals to conduct comprehensive examinations remotely, enhancing the scope and effectiveness of remote consultations. By enabling remote examinations, these solutions bridge the gap between virtual and in-person care, providing a more holistic approach to patient assessment and treatment.

Mental Health Remains a Prominent Theme

The increasing prevalence of mental health disorders, coupled with the stigma surrounding mental illness and the limited access to mental health services, has prompted a surge in the development of digital solutions aimed at addressing these challenges. From mobile apps that offer mindfulness exercises and cognitive behavioural therapy to online platforms that connect individuals with licensed therapists, digital health technologies are providing new avenues for people to access mental health support. These innovations not only offer convenience and anonymity but also have the potential to bridge the gap in mental healthcare access, particularly in underserved communities.

Companies Lyra, Talkspace, BetterHelp (owned by Teladoc), and SonderMind have emerged as key players in the US market, providing accessible and affordable mental health support. These platforms offer a range of services, including teletherapy, self-guided mental health programs, and online communities for peer support. By leveraging technology, these solutions enable individuals to access mental health support from the comfort and privacy of their own homes, reducing the barriers to seeking help.

The benefits of digital mental health solutions extend beyond improved access. These platforms often utilise evidence-based therapies, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), which have been proven effective in treating a wide range of mental health conditions. Digital solutions can also provide personalised support, tailoring interventions to individual needs and preferences. Additionally, the anonymity offered by digital platforms can encourage individuals who may be hesitant to seek help in person to take the first step towards improving their mental well-being.

In the business-to-business (B2B) space, Spring Health collaborates with employers and health plans to deliver mental health services to their employees and members. This approach recognises the impact of mental health on workplace productivity and the importance of providing comprehensive mental health support as part of employee benefits packages. By partnering with employers and health plans, digital mental health solutions can reach a wider audience and ensure that mental health support is readily available to those who need it.

The integration of digital mental health solutions with public healthcare systems is another promising development. In the UK, Ieso works with the NHS to provide mental health support to patients, by partnering with trusts around the country, enabling registered therapists to provide one-to-one written therapy.

Chronic illness management, patient monitoring & at home diagnostics

The management of chronic illnesses and patient monitoring is another area where digital health solutions are making a significant impact. Remote patient monitoring using wearables and Internet of Things (IoT) devices is becoming more widely accepted and relied upon, particularly for managing chronic conditions and post-operative care. In the last few years, we have seen the emergence of solutions for vital signs monitoring devices. For example, VitalConnect, leading player in wearable technology for remote and in-hospital settings in the US, focuses on biosensors that monitor vital signs like heart rate, respiratory rate, and temperature. In July 2023, the company secured a $30 million Series F funding round to further develop and expand its technology and support partnerships with major US hospitals to enhance remote patient monitoring in inpatient settings.[1]

Similarly, Colorado-based BioIntelliSense has developed the BioButton, a multi-parameter wearable device designed for continuous vital sign monitoring, including skin temperature, respiratory rate, and heart rate at rest. In mid-2021, BioIntelliSense completed a Series B funding round totalling $45 million. The company partnered with Medtronic in 2022, enabling the Medtronic Patient Monitoring business to offer access to a medical-grade device that provides continuous vital sign measurements of general care patients in-hospital and post-discharge.[2]

We have also seen the emergence of solutions addressing specific conditions. BioSerenity, a French start-up specialising in remote brain monitoring, designs connected medical devices for diagnosing and monitoring neurological conditions, sleep disorders, and cardiovascular health. By leveraging physiological sensors, an IoT platform, a mobile app, and AI technology, BioSerenity identifies digital biomarkers to enhance patient care. At the close of last year, they secured a €24 million investment to expand beyond their primary markets of France and the US.[3] In the UK, Charco Neurotech has developed the CUE1, a wearable device that alleviates Parkinson’s symptoms through non-invasive neuromodulation therapy. The CUE1 delivers controlled vibrations to specific body areas to reduce stiffness and slowness. Charco received early investments from the Imperial College Innovation Fund and a $10 million seed round in 2021.[4]

The importance of remote patient monitoring lies in its ability to provide continuous, real-time data on a patient’s health status. This data can be used to detect early signs of deterioration, monitor treatment effectiveness, and adjust care plans as needed. By enabling healthcare providers to remotely monitor patients, these solutions can improve patient outcomes, reduce hospital readmissions, and enhance the overall quality of care.

The use of remote devices by healthcare professional echoes the increased usage of commercial monitoring devices such as the Apple Watch, Fitbit and Oura ring, and health apps by individuals. As the data they provided by the latter has become increasingly sophisticated, they have demonstrated the viability of their integration into the traditional diagnostics and monitoring process. For instance, in a study conducted by Clue, 30% of the respondents with diagnosed endometriosis found that the data recorded on the app, specifically through their condition management feature, was instrumental in convincing healthcare providers to perform additional testing and reduce their time to diagnosis. This is critical as endometriosis affects over 10% of women and takes on average 5 years to diagnose.[5]

Digital health innovations are also empowering individuals to take charge of their health with at-home diagnostics and symptom checkers are gaining popularity, with companies like Healthily which offers testing solutions for sexual health, allergies, and other conditions. These solutions allow individuals to self-administer tests in the privacy of their homes, reducing the need for in-person visits to healthcare facilities, enabling early detection and intervention.

The benefits of at-home diagnostics extend beyond convenience. These solutions can also help reduce the burden on healthcare systems by minimising unnecessary visits to healthcare facilities

Solutions enhancing Healthcare Provider Efficiency & Collaboration

Digital innovations are not only benefiting patients but also transforming the way healthcare providers operate. The importance of these solutions lies in their ability to streamline processes, improve efficiency, and enhance collaboration among healthcare professionals, ultimately leading to better patient care and outcomes. Below are a few examples of targeted innovative solutions.

Triage and intake management

Triage and intake management play a crucial role in the efficient and effective delivery of healthcare services. Triage, the process of assessing and prioritising patients based on the severity of their condition, ensures that those with the most urgent needs receive prompt attention, while those with less critical issues are directed to appropriate care pathways. Intake management, on the other hand, involves the systematic collection and organisation of patient information, including medical history, symptoms, and insurance details, to facilitate smooth entry into the healthcare system.

Infermedica has developed a comprehensive medical guidance platform to enhance early symptom assessment and digital triage, improving communication between physicians and patients.  The benefits of intelligent triage systems extend beyond improved efficiency. By automating the initial assessment process, these systems can help reduce the workload on healthcare professionals, allowing them to focus on providing high-quality care to patients who need it most. Additionally, intelligent triage systems can provide patients with personalised recommendations for self-care or guide them to the most appropriate healthcare setting, reducing unnecessary visits to emergency departments and optimising resource utilisation.

Virtual wards and hospital at home

Virtual wards and hospital at home programmes represent a paradigm shift in the delivery of healthcare, offering patients the opportunity to receive high-quality, acute-level care in the comfort of their own homes. Huma are developing platforms that enable healthcare providers to monitor and manage patients remotely, extending care beyond the walls of traditional healthcare facilities. These solutions leverage a combination of wearable devices, mobile apps, and remote monitoring technologies to provide continuous, real-time data on a patient’s health status.

Moreover, by enabling patients to receive care in a familiar environment, surrounded by family and loved ones, virtual wards and hospital at home initiatives promote a more patient-centred approach to healthcare delivery, empowering individuals to take an active role in their own recovery and well-being.

Medical teleradiology

By leveraging advanced telecommunication technologies and digital imaging platforms, teleradiology enables the remote transmission of radiological images, such as X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs, from one location to another for interpretation and diagnosis by qualified radiologists. This innovative approach offers numerous benefits, including improved access to specialised expertise, reduced turnaround times, and enhanced efficiency in the utilisation of radiological resources. Moreover, teleradiology facilitates the provision of round-the-clock imaging services, ensuring that patients receive timely and accurate diagnoses, regardless of their geographical location or the time of day. As the demand for radiological services continues to grow, driven by an ageing population and the increasing prevalence of chronic diseases, the adoption of teleradiology is set to expand further, playing a vital role in improving the quality, accessibility, and cost-effectiveness of diagnostic imaging services within the healthcare ecosystem.

French start-up Deeplink Medical has developed an innovative platform that enables healthcare professionals and radiologists to remotely exchange, review, and interpret medical images, including MRI, PET, and standard radiography modalities. The platform is particularly valuable in rural and underserved areas with limited specialised radiological services. By facilitating remote diagnostics, the company enhances the efficiency and reach of healthcare providers’ radiological services.

Peer-to-peer live surgery assistance

Peer-to-peer live surgery assistance is an innovative approach that harnesses the power of real-time communication technologies to enhance surgical expertise and improve patient outcomes. By leveraging secure data transmission systems and advanced video conferencing platforms such as Proximie’s live assistance platform, experienced surgeons can now provide remote guidance and support to their colleagues during complex surgical procedures. This collaborative model enables the sharing of knowledge, skills, and best practices in real-time, allowing surgeons to tap into the collective wisdom of their peers and navigate challenging surgical scenarios with greater confidence and precision. Live surgery assistance is particularly valuable in cases involving rare or complex conditions, where the expertise of a specialist may not be readily available on-site. Moreover, this approach facilitates the dissemination of cutting-edge surgical techniques and technologies, promoting the adoption of evidence-based practices and fostering a culture of continuous learning and improvement within the surgical community.

Women’s health going strong

Adding to the diversity of these solutions, FemTech, is a rapidly growing sector that focuses on developing products and services specifically tailored to women’s health needs. From period tracking apps and fertility monitors to breast cancer screening devices and menopausal symptom management tools, FemTech encompasses a wide range of innovations designed to empower women to take control of their health and well-being. The vertical is now valued at $28 billion, up from $500 million[6] a decade ago.

As highlighted in our recent FemTech blog, the potential to revolutionise the way women approach their health and bridge the gender gap in medical research and care, this vertical is attracting substantial investment and attention from entrepreneurs, investors, and healthcare providers alike

Expanding Horizons: Penetration into New Fields

As the digital health landscape continues to evolve, and government and employers’ health plans expand to cover new areas we expect growth and penetration in new fields.

With the increasing prevalence of obesity and related health issues, there is a growing demand for effective and accessible weight management solutions. As such, the growing focus on GLP-1 medications for weight loss is projected to become a $100 billion market by 2030. These medications are proving effective in helping individuals manage their weight, which is critical in preventing several chronic conditions. Companies like Oviva in Switzerland and Calibrate in the US are leading the way in this space, providing personalised programs that combine medication with lifestyle coaching, dietary guidance, and continuous monitoring to achieve sustainable weight loss and improve overall health.

The importance of digital weight management solutions lies in their ability to provide comprehensive, evidence-based support that goes beyond traditional diet and exercise programs. By leveraging data analytics and AI-powered algorithms, these solutions can tailor interventions to individual needs, preferences, and lifestyles, increasing the likelihood of long-term success

Dermatology is another field where digital health solutions are gaining traction. Companies like FORMEL Skin are leveraging digital technologies to improve access to specialised dermatological care, particularly in underserved areas. These solutions combine teledermatology, AI-powered image analysis, and personalised treatment recommendations to provide individuals with convenient, high-quality skin care.

The Role of AI and Generative AI

The healthcare industry, with its vast amounts of complex data, knowledge-intensive tasks, and need for personalised care, is particularly well-suited to benefit from the application of AI and GenAI. One of the key ways in which they are making an impact is through the analysis of data generated by wearable devices and telehealth platforms. The proliferation of these technologies has led to the creation of vast “data lakes” that contain valuable information about patient health, behaviour, and outcomes. By leveraging AI and GenAI to analyse this data, healthcare providers and researchers can gain new insights into best practices for treatment and disease prevention, ultimately improving patient care.

Lark Health in the US uses AI to provide personalised health coaching and support. By analysing data from wearable devices and patient-reported outcomes, these solutions can provide tailored recommendations and interventions that are optimised for each individual’s unique needs and preferences.

Diagnostics is another area where AI is making significant strides. Skin Analytics in the UK are leveraging AI algorithms to improve the accuracy and efficiency of skin cancer detection. By analysing images of skin lesions and comparing them to vast databases of known cases, these solutions can provide rapid, accurate diagnoses that can help prioritise cases and ensure timely treatment. The importance of AI in diagnostics lies in its ability to augment human expertise, reduce errors, and improve outcomes for patients.

In the mental health domain, AI-powered platforms could offer new ways to provide support and care. These solutions may include conversational agents that can identify signs of depression or distress, providing on-the-go support, and connecting individuals with human therapists when needed. By leveraging natural language processing and machine learning, these solutions can provide empathetic, personalised support that is available 24/7, improving access to care and reducing barriers to seeking help.

The impact of GenAI extends beyond clinical applications and into the realm of biotech and drug development. Insilico Medicine and Exscientia, frontrunners and innovators in drug development, are utilising GenAI to accelerate the drug discovery process, forming partnerships with industry leaders such as Bristol Myers Squibb and Bayer to develop novel therapeutic solutions. By leveraging GenAI to analyse vast amounts of biomedical data, identify promising drug targets, and optimise drug design, these solutions can reduce the time and cost of drug development, ultimately bringing new treatments to patients faster.

Looking Ahead: Consolidation

The digital health sector has undergone a recalibration since 2021, with valuations adjusting after a period of rapid growth. However, it is not all doom and gloom, as of May 2024, the health tech and biotech sector is the vertical with the most venture deals above $100m with c.40 deals; this is almost 4x the number of deals in AI, the second most vertical with mega-deals. Whilst most of these mega deals are in biotech and reflect a trend of investments in more mature companies (in this case, with development further along the funnel), we see this as a clear indicator that there is ample capital on the sidelines waiting to be deployed. Additionally, we expect exits and consolidation are likely to increase over the next 18 months, with the pipeline of mature companies reaching an all-time high.

Furthermore, we anticipate transatlantic consolidations across the vertical. One low hanging fruit is for US players in remote consultation aiming to grow in Europe to enact it through acquisitions as the vertical becomes saturated, particularly in the mental health space. Similarly, consolidation across the value chain is also expected to create broader digital heal players which would encompass the likes of sexual health, telemedicine, mental health etc. This is expected both within venture-backed companies to maximise exit potential and from established healthcare companies looking for digital solutions to complement their offerings. Specifically, in the biotech end, there is also a cliff looming ahead for pharmaceutical companies as several major patents are due to expire, which will result in tremendous revenue drops if they have not guaranteed new pipelines through acquisitions.

Overall, as the health landscape continues to evolve, collaboration between traditional healthcare companies and digital health start-ups will be crucial in driving innovation and improving patient outcomes.

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