Last month, Peter Finnie hosted a panel discussion at the LSX Healthtech Leaders Virtual 2020 conference. In this article, Peter summarises the panels discussion on emerging trends within digital innovation and the health and medical sector.
To set the scene, McKinsey said earlier this year that, as a result of Covid-19, digital had vaulted five years in as little as eight weeks. There’s no doubt in my mind that this incredible spike will have a massive impact on digital health and medtech.
But what did my panellists have to say on what we can expect?
David feels that while there are many key trends in the healthtech sector taking place right now, there are four in particular that stand out to him:
- Decentralisation of care
- Personalised medicine care
- Value-based care
- Preventative medicine
Of those four though, he pointed to decentralisation of care as the one that’s been accelerated the most in the current pandemic. This is a result of trying to keep patients out of hospitals and having them diagnosed elsewhere, such as at home, which is the big paradigm shift.
Describing 2020 as a tipping point for digital health, Michal pointed to statistics that have seen digital health go from a growth projection of fivefold over five years at the end of 2019 to surpass that dramatically. “We’ve had a 4,000% increase in telemedicine, from 11% in the United States to over 50% now,” she detailed. “I think that there's a lot of excitement in digital health. On the telemedicine platforms, we will see more and more convergence of technologies coming from entertainment, engagement, personalised medicine, prevention – all driven by data that will come and support this industry.”
THE ROLE OF BIG PHARMA
I was curious to know how my guests felt on the subject of traditional big pharma embracing innovation, or whether it’s tech startups that are shaping the direction of digital health. This was a topic close to the heart of Patrick, who worked in pharma for ten years. “Some of them are absolutely investing their way in, so they are learning with startups in their investment arms, or in close adjacency and others are hiring a digital officer who will try and pivot the business model of pharma,” he opined. He went on to note that they’re huge slow-moving companies with big margins and have a long way to go. He believes the key for them is a big hunt for patient data to better improve their own medicines when securing regulatory approvals.
THE MOST EXCITING AREAS OF DIGITAL HEALTH
Like digital itself, digital health is an incredibly broad space that presents a plethora of opportunities for technologists to innovate with and investors to back. As such, I wanted to hear what those joining me felt were the most exciting areas.
Kamran pointed to what he called “taboo subjects within health” that have been given a digital revamp as a focus area for himself and Octopus. He’s looking for “a solution that users are able to honestly engage with that has the ability to unlock a huge amount of latent demand.” Based on that, the areas deemed taboo by society include mental health, sexual health, addiction, fertility and menopause. “All of these areas are increasingly able to be serviced through digital offerings and in their own right are all absolutely massive markets. We see an opportunity for digital health to increase both accessibility and affordability in areas within health that are deeply emotive and personal to so many.”
Having been investing in biotech and medtech for 15 years, as well as worked in pharma, Josep finds therapies of most interest. It’s about looking for those “ways to bring to patients augmented capacities, whether through current existing drugs or therapies that can be provided directly by that technology,” he explains.
Given my position as a patent attorney, it was only right that I brought up the subject of patents and IP protection. I wanted to know where IP features in the due diligence process of investors and how they businesses are articulating their position on IP.
Keen to respond, David detailed that many companies raising later investment rounds don’t emphasise their IP as much as they used to. “What I don't see often in the investor decks is an IP strategy explained,” he said. “It might sound boring, but it’s still the core of the technology and I want to see and understand what the IP strategy is, how they built their IP stack.”
I agree with that sentiment, of course. But on the flip side of that, just because you can patent something doesn’t mean you should. Businesses should carefully explore whether trade secrets are better and remember that data is incredibly precious and should be cared for and treated as such. I’d even go as far as to say that data is absolutely everything and just as important, if not more important, as filing patents. Indeed, to Patrick’s point about big pharma – data is key.
It was a real pleasure hosting this panel and hearing everyone’s input, so I’d like to thank all of my guests for joining me and offering such illuminating insights. And as I said at the start, there’s no doubt in my mind that a massive impact on digital health and medtech is occurring as we speak. Let’s ensure we’re all prepared to ride this new wave.