Healthtech is one of the hottest industries to be playing in right now.
VCs are flocking to healthtech startups when previously they were a no-go zone. Some are even calling healthtech the new fintech. Big call.
After all, who wouldn’t want the chance to impact a critical pillar of society?
To get the hottest goss, we chatted to Em Casey - a self-proclaimed “Medicine Defector” who has made the leap to tech & startups. She joined us recently for a masterclass on all things healthtech.
👋 Hello! Who dis?
Em is the founder of What the Health, an idea that was going to be a podcast at first, but is now...
- A Substack newsletter featuring fortnightly healthtech roundups and “medical musings” on trends and topics across the healthcare system.
- A growing community with monthly meetups, and
- A job board of the best (and sometimes hidden!) roles that are floating around the Aussie healthcare space.
“Empower patients & professionals to create better health experiences & outcomes. I believe we can do this by creating quality content, community, and collaboration in the space, which is an interesting intersection to sit on”
🔥 Why is healthtech so hot right now?
Simply put, healthtech changes lives.
Ok ok, there’s a bit more to the story there. Healthtech is having a pretty good run with record funding, especially in the US - I’m talking 30 Billion dollars here, with a B.
These are just some of the trends that are driving the growth of healthtech.
1. Personalised Medicine
“Previously in medicine, we’ve treated things as very black and white. But we all know that everyone’s different”
With advancements in scientific and technological capabilities, we no longer need to treat patients as cookie-cutter archetypes. What medicine to take, the dosage of it can all be personalised based on the fact that we simply know more about patients that we treat.
2. Data…it’s a mess
It’s hard to believe that in this day and age, a lot of hospitals are still using paper forms. In a lot of situations, data quality and the capturing of data is sub-optimal. The same data can exist in completely different states depending on the hospital. Interoperability - the ability for systems to talk to each other - is a real buzzword these days in healthtech.
Em stresses the importance of establishing a baseline where all hospitals should have electronic health systems. This is the jumping-off point for a lot of high-potential technology solutions for healthcare problems.
3. Experiences - optimising, designing and streamlining
“We’ve come a long way with technology, but we’ve been trying to squeeze them into processes that are decades, if not, a hundred years old”
We’ve seen how Amazon has really changed the way we think about e-commerce and logistics. Who would have thought that we’d be able to consistently get our online shopping to our front door in just a couple of days?
Nothing of that sort has happened in the health industry...yet.
While technology has been powering ahead, the process side has not kept up which means that we’re trying to fit our technology into outdated ways of working.
Em talks about the need to co-design with the end-users, or better yet, redesign the entire workflow altogether.
“Just because something has always been done in a certain way, doesn’t mean it should be”
4. Co-design & collaboration
Healthcare has always tried to be patient-centric, with healthcare professionals working collaboratively in teams.
However, the reality is that it’s more of a paternalistic model; what you’re given is what your healthcare provider prescribes. Patients usually don’t get a lot of choice in matters pertaining to their own health.
Don’t get us wrong, listening to healthcare professionals is what we should do. The issues arise when patients see multiple healthcare professionals and none of them have context on the advice that has been previously given. In the end, it’s the patients’ quality of care that suffers.
5. Patient Empowerment
“Health has been about fixing things when they go wrong, instead of fixing things before they go wrong”
We’re starting to see the rise of products that empower patients to look after themselves. There’s a big movement towards preventative healthcare which has also fuelled the trend in health-related content.
A great example is Eucalyptus, a company that has launched multiple brands including Kin (women’s fertility telehealth), Software (skincare and tele-dermatology), Pilot (men’s telehealth) and Normal (sexual wellness).
6. AI (buzzword alert!)
This ties back to point 2 around data quality and the capturing of data. Unfortunately, we are a lot more behind than we think when it comes to artificial intelligence and its application in health.
The business model for AI-driven companies in healthcare is also quite new and unproven. While successful AI companies might be successful from a tech perspective, they might not be from a business perspective. We can expect to overcome this in the future, but for now, it’s still a key consideration especially when it comes to things like VC funding for startups.
🦘 What’s healthtech like down under?
Australia is pretty blessed to have a universal healthcare system. In a recent survey performed by the Commonwealth Fund, Australia’s healthcare system performance ranked 3rd out of 11 developed countries, including Canada, the US, UK, NZ and more.
However, COVID has revealed a lot of cracks in the system. We’re definitely a bit behind in terms of healthcare technology compared to the UK and US. Up until now, there hasn’t been a pressing need for the Australian healthcare system to innovate.
“It’s not a tech problem, it’s a people problem. There’s a huge disconnect between people, operators, industry, education and capital. We need to invest in the seedlings of our companies and the real baseline structures to build our healthtech capabilities...it will happen but it will take time”
We’re already seeing more investment into healthtech incubators, accelerator programs, partnerships between universities and hospitals. It’s very new especially for Australia - we are all learning, so it will take time for the real impact to be visible.
Investing in Healthtech
Healthtech has been notorious for being a high-risk space when it comes to investment. Blackbird initially avoided investing in healthtech companies. However, as the space has developed and grown, they are now investors in many healthtech companies including Harrison.Ai, See-Mode, vexev and Eucalyptus.
Digital health is less risky in terms of regulation and compliance, and there’s usually a more clear-cut business model too. It’s deep-tech that’s a bigger risk - where cycles are much longer and there are a lot of hurdles to jump through e.g. clinical trials.
Australia is a pretty small market for healthtech investing and we historically have not been able to invest in the long cycles required to see high returns. As we can see though, the game is definitely changing.
💪 So you want to break into the healthtech space?
Em’s laid out a neat “checklist” for getting a foot in the health-tech door. As with most things, it starts off with a good Google session - check out what healthtech startups have been funded recently, open programs, VC & investor resources, and of course, Em’s Substack, What the Health 😉.
Like many startup roles, they’re usually a bit hidden, so check out our previous newsletter for our tips on how to land a role with LinkedIn DMs.
To sum it up nicely from Em:
“It’s currently a mess, but it sure is fun and the party’s just getting started!”
Health is such a critical part of everyone’s lives, and the innovation in the space is only getting better (and faster!). Australia is still early to the game, so there’s probably no better time than now to make your mark in Healthtech!