There are a number of mega-trends happening concurrently in healthcare. Each one is creating unique opportunities. Together, they signify a tectonic shift in the industry.
Wearable hardware devices have penetrated the mass population. Early adopters in the form of self-quants provided a beachhead to companies such Fitbit, Basis, and Pebble. The success of these fitness devices has drawn the attention of the bigger players, including Samsung, Google, and Apple. The spectacular rise of these wearables can be attributed to the success of the smartphone. Smartphones (and tablets) have led to the commoditization of small electronic components. This massive scale continues to drive down the cost while improving the power and battery life of devices. In effect, these pocket computers provide a conduit for cheaper, less powerful devices and sensors to collect and transmit data via Bluetooth low energy (BLE) to remote cloud databases.
The major technology companies are well aware of the potential wearables represents to consumer electronics and mobile applications. Each of the major app publishers have released their own APIs for developers to create apps capable of harnessing the wearable devices of the future – Google’s Google Fit and Apple’s HealthKit
Personally, I’m unimpressed by the use cases delivered by current wearables. I don’t really care how many times I toss in the night or how many steps I take during the day. However, I absolutely see where this is going. Imagine being able to monitor the physiology of a patient in a clinical trial, specifically around the time that the drug is administered. Now imagine if an entire late-stage clinical trial can be carried out at home (or work). Wearable biomonitors have the potential to revolutionize the way drugs are developed, reducing the burden on patients and driving down the cost of a trial. A critical aspect of any new healthcare product today is the ability to reduce the overall costs to the system.
Not quite as trendy as wearable technology, yet just as important, is healthcare reform. The Affordable Care Act is triggering substantial change in the industry. While some of it is net negative, such as the medical device tax, much of it is positive. To start, it is resulting in more insured individuals across the country, which means more healthcare will be consumed than ever before. In addition, the ACA is creating interesting opportunities for improving patient health and patient care. Until recently, hospitals have not been accountable for coordinating patient care following discharge. The ACA requires hospitals and providers to coordinate post-discharge patient care, which as you can imagine, has created a huge software opportunity.
Timing inherently plays a role in entrepreneurship, and it tends to come in waves –software in the 80s, Internet in the 90s, web in the 2000’s, and most recently, mobile apps. These areas will continue to provide opportunity to savvy entrepreneurs. However, there is a multitude of factors simultaneously contributing to radical changes in the healthcare ecosystem. When a $3 trillion industry gets shaken up, entrepreneurs smell blood.
Other interesting healthcare startups:
• Flatiron Health
Alexander Dahmani is a Ph.D. candidate in Microbiology & Immunology at Columbia University. He is a Fellow with InSITE and Columbia Technology Ventures. In addition, he is the Founder of QuiO Technologies, a startup developing the first connected drug delivery system to help patients suffering from chronic conditions treat themselves with biological therapies.