7wireVentures Strategic Perspective: Predictions for the Future of Health in 2020
The sun is setting on another exhilarating yet tumultuous decade for the American healthcare industry. There was of course the signing into law, implementation and evolution of the Affordable Care Act. We also saw the beginning stages of artificial intelligence and machine learning, major advocacy for the removal of data silos, the wearable craze, and more recently, a major challenge in addressing the opioid and behavioral health crises.
As investors, the last 10 years have been invigorating. Digital health is here to stay. Technology has opened so many doors and created an enormous opportunity for innovation across the healthcare industry. This positive momentum has encouraged new investors, some supporting healthcare for the very first time, to enter the market, while existing investors such as our team at 7wireVentures will remain quite active.
But the excitement isn’t just spreading from promises and visions. Many digital health startups have established tangible outcomes and validation in return on investment to their customers. This is a positive sign – an indication that there is real value being created in our sector.
“Many digital health startups have established tangible outcomes and validation in return on investment to their customers. This is a positive sign- an indication that there is real value being created in the sector.”
We don’t see this momentum slowing anytime soon. As we move into the 2020s, here are some of the catalysts and evolutions that we’ll be paying the most attention to. We will continue to collaborate with current and future portfolio companies on these areas to help improve our healthcare system.
7wireVentures predictions for 2020
PREDICTION 1: CONSUMER EXPECTATIONS STRENGTHEN
First, consumers will expect health providers and payers to offer holistic, personalized health services as the new standard of care. More than ever, consumers are becoming empowered by access to information and a plethora of digital health platforms. They will want (and then expect) solutions that factor in biology and genomics, lifestyle and socioeconomic characteristics, and environmental influences to produce better health outcomes. Our 7wireVentures thesis of the Informed Connected Health Consumer will only prove to be more prevalent in the decade to come.
PREDICTION 2: SEAMLESS INTEGRATIONS IMPROVE CARE
Concurrent with this, consumers will increasingly demand a seamless, integrated “digital front door”, a conduit that provides convenient access to appointment scheduling, care records, and insurance information. Those on the service side will use this to directly engage with consumers, drive better adherence rates, behavior change, and service utilization, particularly when it comes to chronic condition management.
PREDICTION 3: PERSONAL DATA FURTHER EMPOWERS CONSUMERS
One key positive result of rising consumer awareness is that people will become the hub for their own health information and, even more importantly, become active participants in managing their health. We are going to see more and more individuals be better informed of their health profile, predispositions for certain conditions, and their willingness to harness preventative medicine.
PREDICTION 4: TECHNOLOGY SERVES AS A BACKBONE
Fourth, while we mentioned this current decade produced the early momentum we are seeing behind artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare, this technology will eventually become the foundation of first-line digital interactions between consumers and health institutions. AI is a core piece of the backbone behind the “digital front door” assisting with triaging, guidance, scheduling and administration, care coordination and even delivering low acuity therapeutics. We’re confident that AI will better enable many more doctors, specialists, and providers to practice at the top of their license.
As part of the maturing AI landscape, voice technologies and natural language processing will become more advanced, making pivotal contributions to healthcare. Specifically, these technologies overhaul caregiver workflows, lessen the growing administrative burden that’s leading to burnout, and facilitate more quality time between providers and patients. We have already seen a transformation in voice through the new Livongo (a 7wireVentures hatched company) partnership with Amazon Alexa to deliver health nudges in a HIPAA-compliant Amazon Alexa Skills program.
WHAT THE NEXT DECADE WILL LOOK LIKE?
It’s impossible to look ahead and not wonder what role major tech companies are going to play in the evolving healthcare ecosystem. Yes, companies including Microsoft have dabbled in healthcare services before — but the last 12 months or so are unlike anything we’ve ever seen with the uptick in activity from Apple, Amazon, Google, and Samsung. The pace at which big tech and retailers, like Best Buy, wade into healthcare is going to accelerate. Why? It’s due to promising findings and results from earlier forays into healthcare and forward-thinking health system and health plan executives who are now willing to opportunistically partner with strategic organizations to meet the new healthcare consumer — where they are. What lies ahead in terms of innovative consumer health devices, more user-friendly platforms to access information and other technological advances will be one to watch.
“Why [have we seen an uptick in major tech company activity in healthcare]? It’s due to promising findings and results from earlier forays into healthcare and forward-thinking health system and health plan executives who are now willing to opportunistically partner with strategic organizations to meet the new healthcare consumer — where they are.”
Finally, what will this new climate look like for self-insured employers (who cover tens of millions of lives)? Substantial evolution in this area started with the adoption of on-site health clinics and fertility benefits. Forward-thinking employers will continue to build a suite of health benefits services to manage costs, and to better compete for talent. Areas including behavioral health and prenatal care are poised for growth and hopefully more widespread availability.
We at 7wireVentures are energized by the promise of the coming decade, the opportunities to improve the lives of those who are faced with health challenges, and the democratization of these advances to the wider global community.