While healthcare technology has been an attractive space for investors and entrepreneurs over the last decade, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed in many ways how we think about healthcare. It brought to light the need for accessible remote medicine and the need for quick and reliable testing.
Startups in the space now face an altered landscape, complete with new trends and new opportunities. Here’s a look at three recent healthcare technology startups that have either launched or pivoted to take advantage of pandemic-driven trends.
Kry goes global
Before the pandemic, healthcare companies spent years trying to push telehealth as the next evolution of healthcare delivery. While in some markets they began to succeed, in big healthcare markets like the US, it never gained significant traction. Despite efforts to drive adoption, the use of telehealth services by patients in the US had only reached 28% by 2019, even though it’s a more cost effective option.
However, the pandemic reversed these trends. Due to social distancing and quarantine rules, millions of Americans turned to telehealth for the first time. This created new opportunities. One company, Swedish telehealth startup Kry, took notice and made a pivot by launching a free online health consultation app called Livi Connect, which offered Americans on demand telehealth services.
The gambit worked and Kry saw its usage double throughout the pandemic, leading to a Series D cash infusion this April. Their experience points to a new opening for telehealth startups in the US, which should be able to capitalize on the growing acceptance of the technology. With estimates that the market that will be worth $298.9 billion by 2028, there is still opportunity for new entrants.
Happy Seniors meets senior care challenges
Among the hardest hit during the pandemic were senior care facilities. As home to the elder who were most vulnerable to the virus, they were ground zero for its spread, and the pandemic uncovered some serious deficiencies in how many of those facilities were run.
One of the lingering effects of the crisis in the senior care industry is what experts are calling a “pandemic of despair” among residents, where they continue to face psychological trauma from the virus. It’s a problem that a startup called Happy Seniors aims to solve.
The startup is working to combat loneliness among seniors by implementing direct messaging between caregivers and family members, and a one-tap solution for ordering special gifts for delivery right to their loved one’s door.
In addition, they’ve built a digital management platform that helps senior care facility managers gain unprecedented insight into their operations. The system enables seamless communication among staff members, solicits and tracks feedback from residents, and alerts managers to operational difficulties before they get serious.
Happy Seniors CEO Alex Bubnov says, “COVID dramatically impacted senior citizens and their loved ones, as there were no dedicated tools or products that could help seniors stay connected to their family. Many seniors were just by themselves during these difficult times. With Happy Seniors, family members will be able to stay in touch with their senior relatives 24/7 and remain an essential part of their social lives. The platform is designed to help alleviate loneliness and isolation for seniors in addition to keeping and improving the connection to old friends and family members.”
Happy Seniors reflects a burgeoning trend to modernize the senior care space. In a market worth around $740 billion, there are ripe opportunities for entrepreneurs.
Ava joins Covid-19 surveillance efforts
Early on in the pandemic, one of the great challenges facing public health experts was finding ways to track and measure the spread of Covid-19 among the general population. While there was still a shortage of PCR testing available to help, a variety of medical device manufacturers looked to fill the void. One of them was Ava, a female fertility-focused wearable device startup.
Their flagship product, which is a bracelet designed to track fertility cycles, recently went into clinical trials to test its ability to detect pre-symptomatic cases of Covid-19 using machine learning algorithms. In early tests, the device was 71% effective at spotting infections, which is already better than many of the rapid antigen tests in regular use today.
Ava’s foray into Covid-19 detection models reflects that device manufacturers see an opening and demand for at-home diagnostics, even when it’s not their primary focus. It’s one of the reasons why Apple tested turning its watch into a mobile EKG machine even before the pandemic.
Wearables already have much higher penetration rates than conventional at-home diagnostic products and companies, and nimble startups in the space can take advantage of that.
The bottom line
The pandemic opened doors in the healthcare space and accelerated already existing trends. Smart entrepreneurs can find opportunities to capitalize on this, and more importantly, improve healthcare outcomes.