The overturning of Roe v. Wade, the market recalibration and the funding landscape shift could well be the pivotal moments we look back on this year, the experts say.
Good afternoon! We know that our health tech experts can't actually predict the future, but in today's edition, we asked them to think about what 2022 will look like once we're on the other side of it. Specifically, we asked them to tell us what moment they thought would stand out as the biggest of the year for their field, whether that was something that's already happened in the first six months or something they were expecting to happen in the second half. Questions or comments? Send us a note at email@example.com
Co-Founder and CEO at Truepill
To me, the biggest moment in health care in 2022 so far was the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. Addressing women’s access to health care in light of these legislative changes will be an important focus for the health tech industry for the foreseeable future.
With the backdrop of the pandemic and the recent Supreme Court ruling, virtual health care experiences are more important than ever. Over the last two years, many consumers utilized telehealth, at-home diagnostics and prescription delivery for the first time. Now we’ll see these experiences become the norm — and even the preferred method for accessible care at scale. For the first time, both health tech disruptors and incumbent health care companies are prioritizing the patient experience and delivering modern, digital care to millions of Americans.
This moment in time reminds me of why Truepill was founded in the first place: to make health care accessible and convenient for everyone. Our founding story is rooted in supporting many of the women’s health brands that are pioneering the way care is delivered. The need for their transformative work has never been more clear, and we’ll continue to support them as they navigate this evolving environment.
CEO and founder at Forward
When we look back on 2022, I believe many people will begin to realize that health tech devices have been created in the wrong order. When you look at digital cameras from 20 years ago, they were cool, they were awesome, but they didn't really do that much. In comparison, the iPhone changed everything because it connected to several other devices. It turns out that many health tech devices today are much like the early digital cameras from previous decades: Though they may look good and perform well, they can’t do much beyond what they’re designed to do.
Every day I wake up and my ring tells me I slept terribly. Of course I slept terribly! Duh, thank you, now what? The point here is that these devices must be connected to a broader network to have a profound impact in today’s world: They need to be connected to your doctor. They need to guide people on what to do next, when to change their diet, when and how to change their exercise, help people with their mental health and ultimately change their life. But these devices aren’t doing this. Why? Because they’re not my doctor. It's like your Nest without your iPhone. It's like your connected TV without your iPhone. For meaningful impact, people need a base where all things can connect in a cohesive and informative way. Right now, people don’t have that, and we need to create that digital doctor first so all these things can plug into that system.
Co-CEO and co-founder at GoodRx
The recalibration of the market is what we will think of when we look back at 2022. The digital health investment bubble of 2021 has undoubtedly burst. After Q1, we had an inkling. But as Q2 wraps, the data is clearly there. Many people in the industry — in my mind too many — are focused on exactly how tight the market will get and how fast. What I’m more interested in is how health tech will adapt and even reinvent itself in this new environment that demands more from us. This needs to be top of mind for not only earlier-stage companies seeking funding but larger, public companies as well. Ultimately, we all need to bring our work back to the value we add to health care’s end users. That’s not just consumers but also health care providers. What do they want? For consumers, is access enough? I’d argue no. They want — and deserve — quality health care. For providers, does the current set of health tech solutions help or hinder burnout? Do our solutions make it easier or harder to deliver care? If we focus on these questions, instead of the market dynamics, we will prevail. When we look back at the end of 2022, I predict that the “winners” in our industry will be those that take the needs of multiple stakeholders into account, that are willing to take on and solve complex problems like drug pricing and how to make hybrid care models work, and that prove their outcomes and impact.
Neta Gotlieb, Ph.D.
Lead clinical research scientist at ŌURA
The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is one of the most consequential moments for health tech this year.
Although women make up roughly half of the global population, women and their reproductive health have historically been underserved by medicine, science and tech. Technology that advances reproductive health research is more important than ever. Women use apps and tools to accurately predict when their periods are coming, know when their fertile window is and understand their family planning. Yet the SCOTUS decision to overturn Roe v. Wade imperils the health of women and the progress of critical research in this space.
We have only recently begun to include people with cycles in research and tech, and directives to go back to the "calendar method," tracking cycles with pen and paper, or using emojis or code words instead of "period" sends us back even further.
Furthermore, as scientists become cautious or hesitant to collect sensitive physiological data for the privacy and safety of study participants, we will face inevitable implications of hindering scientific progress, decreasing innovation and lessening inclusivity and diversity.
That said, this decision requires health tech companies to be transparent in their dealings with user data, and increased transparency is not a bad thing. Consumers will, and should, further raise their expectations of us, demand that their privacy is protected and look to have full visibility into how their data is collected and used.
President and CEO, Clinical Effectiveness at Wolters Kluwer Health
The pandemic accelerated a long overdue focus on innovation and solutions to combat critical challenges around health care delivery, including disparities across groups, high costs and poor outcomes. This, combined with record digital health investment, has resulted in a swath of new market entrants. In the last two years alone, average valuations have tripled to $73 million and helped grow digital health unicorns to a cohort of 85 companies.
But there are signs that the digital health bubble is in trouble. Following 2021’s blockbuster year for digital health, Q1 funding in 2022 fell to $6.0 billion, 18% lower than the preceding quarter. By the end of 2022, we’ll very likely see the market reset to value, as there is a growing realization that bringing change to industries as nuanced by heavy regulation and established practices like health care is incredibly challenging.
New market entrants including existing tech companies will realize the challenge of understanding and competence required to produce the high-quality, trusted, evidence-based and actionable clinical content that is crucial in this space. We see the market driving a pivot to more partnerships between large health care incumbents and digital health startups. A partnership with an established, reputable company can deliver solutions that quickly inspire trust as well as help avoid costly missteps from learning hard lessons along the way.
SVP of product at One Medical
It’s well-known that the pandemic has led to unprecedented burnout in the health care industry – according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 1.7 million people have quit their healthcare jobs in 2022 alone. The last two years have also rapidly increased how heavily providers have adopted tech into their patient care practice. A March 2022 study found that 88% of clinicians agreed that ‘tech-savviness’ will be increasingly important in their daily work, but at the same time, 69% also said digital health technologies are a challenging burden, and a majority expressed that telehealth will negatively impact their ability to demonstrate empathy with patients. In other words, providers are feeling like technology is making their jobs harder, not easier.
In light of this, there's a collective realization across health care organizations that we need to be more intentional and thoughtful with our goals and expectations for health tech. As tech leaders, we must build new technology in collaboration with our clinical teams to make sure that it meets their needs. This means instead of building more technology that providers have to use, we’re building technology that better navigates patients into the most efficient care, automating workflows and cutting down on tasks providers and administrators hate to do. We must allow our health care providers to practice at the top of their license in a sustainable and enjoyable environment or we will not have any providers left to care for patients.
Head of personalized healthcare strategy at Roche/Genentech
In health care, we are already seeing how the convergence of science, data, analytics and technology is improving research and development; enhancing our ability to deliver personalized diagnosis and treatment; allowing for faster access to medical interventions and supporting the ongoing monitoring and care for patients.
In 2022, I think this momentum will continue to build and accelerate the seamless integration of digital technologies into everyday patient care. At Roche, we are developing disease-specific algorithms for use with wearable technologies to monitor patients with difficult-to-track, progressive diseases. By understanding a patient’s health metrics, day-to-day and over time, care can be more accurately tailored to each individual.
For example, Roche has already developed integrated solutions like smartphone-based apps that, through digital assessments, can collect precise, real-time data using active and passive monitoring to help track subtle changes between doctor visits. I believe in 2022 we will continue to see an acceleration of these types of technologies, helping enable more data-driven clinical conversation and health care provider decision-making in ways that are useful and supportive to clinicians, while also impacting and optimizing patient outcomes.
President and CEO of Omron Healthcare
A contender for biggest “moment” for health tech this year may not actually be a product launch but rather a realization among patients and physicians leading to widespread adoption of telemedicine and remote patient care that can evolve the health care landscape.
Over the previous two years, the pandemic forced telemedicine experiences. Access to physician offices was limited, and patients had to learn to use new technologies to connect with their doctors remotely.
This year, telemedicine and remote monitoring tools moved from mandated to preferred. Patients who engaged in telemedicine experiences realized they could use connected medical devices at home to capture and send accurate data.
For example, A-fib and irregular heartbeat are often missed when checking blood pressure at the doctor’s office, and A-fib carries a five times greater stroke risk. Now, with tools like Omron Complete, the first blood-pressure monitor with built-in EKG, patients can monitor their condition from home and use our Connect app to send data to their physician. We’ve heard stories from our customers who detected A-fib at home, sent the reading to their doctor and began treatment that greatly reduced their stroke risk.
According to data from March 2022, more than half of medical practices currently use remote patient monitoring services, and half of those practices not yet using these technologies plan to in the next two years. That would represent a major step forward for adoption of this health tech and behavior change for patients and physicians.
Kevin McAllister ( @k__mcallister) is a Research Editor at Protocol, leading the development of Braintrust. Prior to joining the team, he was a rankings data reporter at The Wall Street Journal, where he oversaw structured data projects for the Journal's strategy team.
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