Though Covid-19 has taken a toll on various sectors of life, it is also continuing to spur innovation. For example, for the healthcare industry, technology has become a necessity and this is paving way for more market opportunities and new collaborations. Data has become very important for the healthcare stakeholders and thus data-dependent business models and technological advancements are on rise. Various consumer-centric services are taking control to make it easier for the patients to navigate healthcare.
Healthcare AI trends
The pandemic has reshaped the healthcare industry and has created new demands. This is the reason why various healthcare companies are adopting advanced technology to meet their challenges.
Organizations are selling AI SaaS to the healthcare industry so that they could use AI to design latest and advanced products for their sector. For this reason there was record funding in Q3’20 in the healthcare AI; the deal count closed at 122 which is as high as it was in 2019. There were around 11 healthcare AI companies that closed at more than $100 million during 2020 and most of them were related to AI for drug R&D. During the pandemic there were different AI trends that were noted, which are as follows:
Faster and more advanced MRI and CT scans
MRI and CT scans are better, faster and cheaper than before. This has made it easier for the healthcare providers and the patients as they have to spend lesser time and the exposure is also reduced to chemicals and radiations. In coming months, it is expected that the AI-assisted diagnostic radiology and other products will become more popular.
Instant at-home testing
The second trend that is noted is of at-home rapid testing and instant blood test results. The latest technology is transforming the smart devices such as mobile phones into powerful diagnostic tools for the interpretation of the healthcare related results. The smartphones are equipped with AI layer that can be used by the non-expert users to interpret the test results. The picture below shows how people are tested for Covid using nasal swab.
Digital and AI slides are becoming a norm in the labs. Digital pathology and AI are becoming more popular as it allows the imaging device to capture high-resolution images of the samples. A pathologist can now view the images on computer remotely instead of having the samples slide under the microscope. Following shows an image published by Google for tumor detection:
Early drug discovery is another important trend that surfaced during the pandemic. Earlier, the introduction of drug took more than a decade as it required research, approval, and distribution. However, now researchers, pharma, and universities are using AI to understand the diseases such as the novel Coronavirus in a more comprehensive way.
AI driven diagnosis and monitoring
AI driven monitoring is becoming common in wards, nursing homes, and other healthcare related facilities. Introduction of the passive biometrics also reduces the risk of exposure to the virus in the healthcare workers. The devices are equipped with sensors that can send alerts to the supervisor or healthcare workers.
Partnership and acquisition for AI based solutions
Hospitals and companies are partnering with companies that provide AI based solutions to them. Federated learning is also being practiced to learn about the diagnosis and detection of various diseases such as brain tumor.
Robotic Process Automation
The demand for tech is continuously rising during pandemic and that’s why hospitals are considering AI and RPA for revenue cycle management. The Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is used for office-based tasks that are repetitive and automated. The revenue generating operations such as submitting claims to insurers, verifying patient’s insurance eligibility, identifying the medical codes, and others are now benefitting from RPA as it is allowing these processes to raise more money as ever.
Healthcare sector highlights
The healthcare industry funding reached record breaking heights during Q4’20 but the deals count went down from 1572 to 1373. The mega-rounds continued to rise throughout 2020 but the early stage deals dropped off in the Q4’20. The SPACs played an important role in the digital health exits during Q4’20 and the top funding rounds of Q4’20 included:
5. We Doctor
There are many new themes that emerged during pandemic and I believe they are going to last even when the pandemic is over. Following are the highlights of the state of healthcare:
From Q1’16 to Q4’20 the earnings calls mentions of machine learning or Artificial Intelligence faced a rise. Following are the top AI deals that focus on provider workflows and genomics:
ü The company Olive disclosed a funding of $459 million and raised an amount of $226 million; the Select investors were Tiger Global Management, Google Ventures, Sequoia Capital, Dragoneer Investment Group, and General Catalyst. The company Olive makes use of AI-based robotic process automation for reducing the manual provider workflows.
ü Tempus disclosed a funding of $1070 million and raised an amount of $200 million. The company used machine learning for analyzing and building a library of molecular genomic and clinical data that focuses on personalized treatment in oncology. This was the second largest funding in AI in the Q4’20.
ü LeanTaas disclosed a funding of $224 million and raised an amount of $130 million. The company uses AI or machine learning for operating rooms, doctors, patient beds, and other resources for patients that need them the most.
ü Sophia disclosed a funding of $251 million and raised an amount of $110 million. Sophia is a startup company that uses machine learning for determining optimal treatments for diseases and analyzing the genomic data.
ü Babylon disclosed a funding of $735 million and raised an amount of $100 million. The company is a startup that uses AI chatbots for offering medical care and for screening patient symptoms.
Moreover Nym is another company that is working on the machine learning software for automating medical coding to ease the billing processes in hospitals. The company uses natural language processing for interpreting the unorganized physician notes and also assign billing codes automatically to the procedures and patient’s symptoms. Google’s GV is leading this series-A round and has also participated in the Series G of the financing by Olive Company.
Companies are using telehealth to deliver a plethora of services to the patients remotely. The telehealth startups were able to raise $3.3 billion in Q4’20 which was a record high. There Telehealth startups expanded their offerings and made acquisitions to enhance their work. Some noteworthy companies in this regard are Talkspace, Ro, Livi, and Health Hero. Talkspace recently acquired ‘Lasting’ which is a relationship counseling app and Ro acquired Workpath for providing in-home care services across the nation.
Talking about the early stage deals, the share hit the lowest point in the last quarter of 2020. The early stage deals included Seed, Angel, and series-A rounds. The Text-based primary care companies like K-Health and 98Point6 raised the late-stage rounds and the business continued to speed up in the remote monitoring space.
Companies are designing and manufacturing medical devices that help in diagnosis, cure, treatment, mitigation, prevention, or monitoring of the diseases. The medical devices startup raised around $6 billion in the last quarter of 2020 but the number of deals dropped to 378 from 501. Also, the exit activity reached the highest point in 3 years. There were many digital therapeutics that got approvals from FDA and medical 3D printing startups managed to raise early-stage funds.
There are companies which are applying technology to solve issues related to psychological, emotional, and social well-being. The funding in this sector increased by 30% but the deal count dropped. Companies like Spring Health and Modern Health closed large mid-stage rounds. These are the platforms that help the people solve their queries related to treatment of depression and mental health. The mental health provider tools also raised the early rounds. Some of the mental health provider tools include Headway, Aifred health, and OSmind. Apart from that, mental health partnerships are being continued across the country.
There are companies which focus mainly on providing services and healthcare products to women. The funding in this regard dropped slightly in Q4’20 along with the number of deals. The mid-stage biopharma deals managed to get the interest of the key investors. Virtual maternity health solutions like remote monitoring, integrated care, and education are on the rise.
Omics involve companies that focus on capture, sequencing, or/and analysis of genomic, proteomic, transcriptomic, and/or metabolmic data. The Omics funding reached record high during the Q4’20 but there was a decline in early stage deals. Acquistions are also continued for lots of omics use cases and the notable companies include horizon for drug discovery, Thrive for diagnostics, and Readcoor for sequencing.
Cyber-security also holds an important position in the state of healthcare as it provides security the companies providing healthcare services. There are digital threats such as phishing, malware, insider abuse, and other types of dangers which a company needs to be protected from. There was a strong demand for data protection during the last quarter of 2020.