Healthcare Technology Featured Article

February 26, 2020

The Rise of Health Technology Startups

Healthcare innovations are happening at a fast pace, and the startup ecosystem is a major reason why. If you take a look at some of the most revolutionary changes in healthcare tech over the last decade, you’ll notice a major spike in the role startups play within the healthcare ecosystem. These emerging organizations are lean, flexible, and ambitious; indeed, they will continue to shape the industry on a global scale moving forward. Here are some of the factors that influence the rise of health technology startups:

Incubators and Accelerators

Incubators and accelerators are designed to help propel the growth of startup companies. Incubators tend to focus on new startups with disruptive technology, while accelerator programs are often longer and emphasize scaling emerging startups that have already seen a bit of traction. Although they differ in these key ways, there are several similarities. Both offer mentorship, administrative resources, networking opportunities, and Demo Days that give startups the chance to connect with potential investors.

In the past, securing funds and growing a healthcare business has been notoriously difficult, as there are significantly more hurdles, barriers, and red tape to break through. As the startup scene grows, some programs have spawned with niche focuses, and more and more incubators and accelerators are exclusively seeking startups in the healthcare space.

Illumina, a genomics company, started its own accelerator program in Foster City, California. On an annual basis, five startups focusing on specific healthcare tracts are chosen to participate. Over the course of six months to one year, these startups are provided with financial investments, technology advancements, business strategy assistance, and pitch development aid. Intuitive-X, Blueprint Health, and Novartis Biome are just a few other incubators that focus on healthcare tech.

Social Determinants of Health

Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) are comprised of the circumstances an individual is born into that ultimately shape their complete health. These circumstances are beyond the realm of a person’s control and can be the “root causes” of many health inequities. After all, our health is partially determined by the economic and social advantages and disadvantages that we have no control over. Social determinants include:

  • Gender inequality
  • Social support
  • Early childhood development
  • Racial segregation
  • Exposure to violent behavior and crime rates
  • Availability of transportation
  • Educational opportunities

According to the World Health Organization, “these circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power, and resources at global, national and local levels.” Considering these social influences, it’s important to note that many of these factors happen outside of the doctor’s office—and yet, the majority of healthcare spend in the United States is geared towards healthcare initiatives in the clinical setting. Today, healthcare entrepreneurs are striving to address this issue.

In an interview with Healthcare IT News, Joanne Lin, a principal at Newark Venture Partners, a VC firm that specializes in healthcare technology, discussed how AI and predictive analytics are playing a big role in the ability to close social and economic gaps in the Western healthcare industry.

“Healthcare data has grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade, but just because this data is now available does not necessarily mean it is being utilized effectively,” she said. “If we can collect standardized SDOH data at the individual level, it must also be incorporated into population health management platforms to inform care coordination efforts.”

Proliferation of Agile Methodologies

Without the proliferation of groundbreaking software development tools and methodologies, the acceleration of health technology startups would be much slower. Modern companies are spearheading software projects by using a Docker registry, Helm repositories, Kubernetes, and several other key DevOps tools. Agile innovation methods have greatly increased software success for several reasons.

For starters, it has improved speed to market, namely in part to the automation afforded by the aforementioned cloud applications. But it has also helped boost the productivity and motivation of IT teams, who have more room to focus on creating key solutions and building code, and less manual hours on testing and deployment. Growth and innovation are the cornerstone of agile workflows, and although traditional methodologies (like waterfall) still exist, agile has become the norm.

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