The urgent need to improve the delivery of healthcare, and the emergence of new and innovative technologies, is driving the growth of digital health.
Tech startups are spearheading this charge, chiefly by identifying — and making strides within — areas of the industry that are most vulnerable to disruption, including genomics, pharmaceuticals, administration, clinical operations, and insurance. It’s important to monitor these startups, and the companies funding their efforts, to determine how the healthcare space will evolve and innovate moving forward.
AI In Healthcare
AI, often used as an umbrella term to describe types of technology that can simulate human intelligence, is the most hyped — yet underexplored — segment of healthcare.
Global AI spending in healthcare is projected to grow at an annualized rate of 48% between 2017 and 2023, surpassing $22 billion by 2023, according to Research and Markets.
There are five key business areas in healthcare in which AI can improve clinical operation workflows, present revenue-saving opportunities, and foster the emerging field of preventative medicine: administration, big data analysis, clinical decision support, remote patient monitoring, and care provision. Business Insider Intelligence delved into the impact of AI in healthcare in a recently published research note.
Top 5 AI Startups In Digital Health
We selected each startup based on the funding it’s received over the past year, the product it offers, its position as a leader in the specific field it’s in, and the notable investors funding it. We limited startups to the US in part due to the availability of information and the need for internal consistency, but also because the US is a global leader in emerging digital health technology.
1. Bay Labs
Notable investors: Khosla Ventures, NewYork-Presbyterian
Why it’s worth watching: Bay Labs applies a combination of ultrasound and deep learning — a form of machine learning — to cardiovascular imaging to more accurately diagnose and manage heart disease. Bay Lab’s technology is designed to help medical professionals of all skill levels perform and interpret echocardiograms.
Demand for AI-enabled clinical decision support services will surge as the need for care outpaces the number of physicians in the US. The American Association of Medical Colleges predicts a shortage of 46,000 to 90,000 primary-care physicians by 2025. Bay Labs’ offering is an example of how AI can help to empower nonspecialist care providers — or even nonmedical caregivers — to perform tasks in understaffed areas of medicine.
What’s next: Bay Labs will likely place a greater emphasis on automation in the future. Ben Ling, the general partner of Khosla Ventures — which has a strong interest in automation — joined Bay Labs’ Board of Directors in December 2017; Khosla Ventures’ founder Vinod Khosla predicted during a presentation at the Health Innovation Summit in May that 80% of doctors will be replaced by machines. Additionally, the high likelihood that AI-infused services will disrupt medical imaging indicates that automation will become a key focus for the company.
Notable investors: Khosla Ventures, Drive Capital
Why it’s worth watching: Healthcare administration is ripe for disruption. Between 1975 and 2010, there was an explosion in health administration jobs, according to Athenahealth analysis of industry data. CrossChx’s AI-infused bot, Olive, automates many of the administrative tasks that interfere with health systems’ workflows. Business Insider Intelligence estimates that as much as 73% of administrative tasks in healthcare can be automated, leading to significant cost savings for health systems and clinics.
As of February, Olive is being used in around 50 hospitals, and CrossChx aims to reach more than 100 by the end of 2018.
What’s next: Olive is focused on “low-hanging fruit,” such as insurance eligibility checks, prior authorizations, and appointment reminders and scheduling. However, as Olive becomes more “intelligent,” it will likely expand to more complex tasks. There’s also vast opportunity to expand to new areas that track closer to the path-to-care, such as connecting lab data between health systems, CrossChx’s senior director of engineering told ColumbusCEO.
Notable investors: Merck Global Health Innovation Fund, Safeguard Scientifics
Why it’s worth watching: Prognos’ substantial IP holdings give it a lead over the competition. The startup has developed more than 1,000 proprietary machine-learning-enabled algorithms that focus on lab data management and analysis for some 50 conditions, such as diabetes, asthma, and non-small cell lung cancer.
The company taps more than 14 billion medical records from over 180 million patients to derive insights. It also boasts the largest registry of diagnostics information for more than 30 disease areas.
What’s next: The company is forging ahead with precision medicine — medical care designed to optimize patient outcomes for particular groups of patients using genetic and molecular profiling. Prognos currently works with more than 20 pharmaceutical organizations to create targeted mapping of patients. Precision medicine is a major focus of the US National Institute of Health (NIH). For instance, in 2015 NIH’s National Cancer Institute (NCI) invested $70 million to develop effective therapies for the treatment of treatment of cancer based on the individual genomic data. Prognos is well-positioned to leverage the increasingly important segment.
Notable investors: Omron, Mayo Clinic
Why it’s worth watching: AliveCor’s KardiaBand EKG reader received FDA approval in November 2017 as the first medical device accessory for the Apple Watch. The device attaches to a slot on the band of an Apple Watch, and the wearer can touch the sensor to get an EKG reading. This provides an alternative to other forms of mobile heart-rate monitoring such as smartphone attachments and traditional EKG measurements, which require an in-office visit. AliveCor also introduced a new software feature, SmartRhythm, that uses AI to analyze heart rate and provide personalized insights. KardiaBand EKG reader received FDA approval in November 2017 as the first medical device accessory for the Apple Watch.
What’s next: AliveCor’s early-mover advantage has enabled it to forge partnerships with leading wearables makers, health systems, and insurers. In May, the company announced the results from its partnership with the Mayo Clinic to demonstrate the potential for the KardiaBand to detect a patient’s risk of arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death despite displaying a normal heart rhythm on their electrocardiogram, for example.
AliveCor also leads the industry in collecting data for specific chronic illnesses. For example, AliveCor announced in April 2018 that it had already recorded over 25 million ECGs — the largest data set ever collected by a consumer ECG.
Notable investors: Chengwei Capital, Launchpad Digital Health
Why it’s worth watching: Sensely offers an AI-enabled virtual nurse that gathers a patient’s symptoms and medical history, and presents a list of possible diagnoses. It can then redirect the consumer to a nearby clinic or specialist if necessary. The chatbot functions across text, voice, and video, and the information that consumers share is collected in their medical records that can be shared with the consumer’s physician.
The chatbot is also able to detect a patient’s mood with empathy sensors and can respond in kind and alert the user’s physician if the mood triggers a mental health warning.
What’s next: Healthcare is increasingly value-driven, and services that can enhance physicians’ ability to provide positive outcomes for patients will be crucial to health systems. Fifty-percent of US physicians want better access to patient data, such as medication adherence, prescription costs, and clinical history, according to Surescripts. Consumer-facing chatbots that can record patient data outside of a clinical setting and offer it to physicians will aid doctors’ efforts to address patients’ needs.
Sensely is making strides to tap into the international market, which offers substantial growth potential. The app is working with the UK’s National Health Service, and the US’ Mayo Clinic. The company also partnered with Chinese health InsurTech startup CareVoice in May 2018 to power CareVoice’s new virtual health assistant.
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