The New Players in the Game: How Start-ups are Changing Digital Health

The healthcare game is changing, and new players are entering the field.

In 2015, over 1,000 unique entities made equity investments in digital health companies, over four times as many as 2010. The digital health trend is on the rise, and everyone wants to be a part of the action. There are too many people are using health apps to ignore—fifteen percent of global Internet users accessed health and fitness apps on a monthly basis in 2015.

In our digitally connected world, traditional healthcare organizations can’t afford to neglect the consumer preference for mobile health (m-Health) solutions, or the rise of digital health tech start-ups that bridge the gap between provider and patient.

Digital Health Players

The key players in traditional healthcare have always fit within one of three categories:

  • Providers (hospitals, clinicians, physicians)
  • Payers (insurance companies)
  • Patients

But with technology changing the face of modern healthcare, tech companies and other new players have made their way to the list.

The Value of m-Health Applications

As patients, providers, and payers are seeing, there is plenty of value to be found in m-Health applications.

Digital health apps come in many forms, from fitness trackers to diabetes-monitoring apps to psychiatric monitoring tools. Each app promises improved healthcare quality and efficiency in some form, usually at a fraction of the cost of old-fashioned health tracking methods.

When users can self-monitor and self-report healthcare information to a clinician’s Electronic Health Record through a patient portal, healthcare organizations receive far better insight into their patients’ overall health. And even when clinicians aren’t involved, digital health start-ups are giving patients ways to gain better visibility into their health.

Although healthcare app adoption is on the rise (projected to be a $27 billion industry by 2017), the healthcare industry has traditionally been slow to change. Industry disruption doesn’t happen overnight. Digital health start-ups have the benefit of designing their applications to integrate with pre-existing healthcare software, but the other players in the healthcare game can’t adapt so easily.

Tech Start-up Agility

Tech companies move fast. Start-ups can rise and fall in a matter of months. Compare this to the traditional healthcare behemoth, a complex collaboration amongst private clinicians, business providers, and governmental bodies. Combine this with strict regulations and pre-existing processes, change within these systems is slow, and when disruptive new technologies are involved, risk-averse healthcare administrators don’t always see the benefits initially. However, while providers fear wasting resources and funding, the other side of the perceived risk is the main value of partnering with digital health tech start-ups: innovation.

In the last few years, there has been a trend of large multi-national tech companies partaking in investments and acquisitions in the field of digital health. For instance, Apple acquired health startup Gliimpse, an m-Health app provider seeking to create a centralized hub for patient-reported health information. Samsung is also among the big companies investing in digital health; Samsung Strategy and Innovation Center teamed up with Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences, combining the Internet of Things (IoT) with nutrition data to provide insights for healthy living.

The benefits of these collaborations are mutual—investors become more involved in a growing industry and consequently become relevant in decision-making, and start-ups receive the necessary funding and resources to launch their products.

Where is Digital Health Heading?

The rise of digital health within the traditional healthcare infrastructure raises a few questions about where the industry may be headed. For now, tech companies are a supplement to healthcare providers. The technologies are being developed, but most haven’t yet been integrated into hospital workflows. However, as collaboration with fast-moving digital health start-ups becomes more common, these companies will have more influence into how healthcare is managed. In the future, we may even see these tech companies directly shaping the trends that govern consumer healthcare, or even more, customizing their products to be more directly consumer-oriented, without the involvement of healthcare providers.

Want to get connected with innovative digital health start-ups? Use our Start-Up Nation Finder to explore which resources best fit your needs.

Want to get connected with innovative start-ups? Use our Start-Up Nation Finder to explore which resources best fit your needs.


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