With the UK summer reaching its peak, now seems a fitting moment to reflect on an eventful and tumultuous first half of 2023 in the healthtech sector. Fortuitously, the Phlo Connect team and I have been tracking the ups, downs and breakthroughs in the healthtech sector since January, as well as looking ahead to consider what the remaining months of the year will bring. So, I gathered input from the team and caught up with our healthtech industry partners to deliver you a 2023 healthtech digest that will bring you right up to date with the developments that matter most.
In line with the soaring demand for rapid access to care, the market for digital health vertically-integrated micro providers (VIMPROs) has continued to expand. However, patient expectations of VIMPROs have never been higher - to survive in a newly crowded space, providers must be able to offer - as standard - instant-book virtual appointments with specialist clinicians, a seamless prescription and medication delivery service, and competitive pricing model.
Dermatology is one sector that has translated particularly well into the VIMPRO model, with AI image analysis and video consultation technology enabling swift diagnosis and seamless personalised prescribing. Subsequently the past six months have seen continued growth in the popularity and accessibility of digital skincare - both for aesthetic and medical reasons. Leading private digital providers include skindoc, The Dermatology Partnership, Derma Consult and DigiDerm, all of whom are leveraging the Phlo Connect technology stack to integrate digital generation, signing and dispensing of prescriptions.
Sexual healthcare VIMPROs have continued to advance their work in filling gaps in care provision and providing stigma-free advice and support to underserved patient groups. The 2023 frontrunners in this space include The Lowdown, a fully-online contraception review, advice and prescriptions platform, and Hello Eve, a platform providing women with discrete and convenient access to affordable daily and emergency contraception. Meanwhile, Hims is providing men with consultations and discrete direct-to-door treatment for erectile dysfunction (ED) and premature ejaculation (PE). I expect that as these providers grow a loyal and more sizable user base, they will continue to increase the scope of their services and the types of treatment on offer.
Defying the startup sector funding slowdown, in the first half of 2023 we’ve seen several strong raises from those healthtech startups that are able to display consistent growth and solid commercial models. TympaHealth, a startup building a digital solution to treat hearing issues, raised $23m (£18.5m) in a round led by Octopus Ventures. Meanwhile, Sweden-founded Neko Health secured €60 million investment from several big-name tech founders to expand its preventative care model and advanced body scanning technology into other European countries.
Daye, who announced a £10 million Series A at the end of 2022, have continued to make headlines in women's health in 2023. In July, they announced the planned launch of the first virtual Period Pain Clinic, a new service that will give women access to personalised treatment plans for menstrual pain and related gynaecological conditions.
And of course, I could not forget to mention the two landmark moments at Phlo Technologies in 2023 - in February we announced our £10m Series A raise, and in April we completed our acquisition of the UK arm of our closest competitor in the B2B market: the US unicorn Truepill. An exciting six months indeed!
After years of predictions and pilots, we are finally seeing successful examples of wearables and remote patient monitoring technologies shifting the locus of care delivery from hospitals to the home. For the first time, connected devices (such as blood pressure, glucose and oxygen monitors) are providing healthcare teams with the real-time data they need to action preventative remote care plans.
According to NHS England there are now more than 340 ‘virtual ward’ programmes across England, where remote monitoring tech is being used to increase system capacity in a sustainable manner. It’s hugely encouraging to see these successful examples of healthcare delivery being adapted to make the most of innovation in wearable tech and ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT).
It is impossible to reflect on 2023 without touching on the shockwaves that generative AI have triggered this year. Although, reassuringly, there seems to be no indication doctors will be replaced by ChatGPT any time soon, several promising areas have been identified for the practical application of AI tech and large language models (LLMs) in healthcare. These include:
As investor cash and government funds are poured into AI innovation, it remains to be seen where the most impact will be made - and which companies will seize the largest market share.
At the start of this year, the Australian government made a landmark decision to change the classification of two compounds, psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) and MDMA, so that they can be prescribed by psychiatrists to treat depression and PTSD. Other governments, health systems, and psychedelics researchers will be watching the impact of this reclassification closely, and it is likely that some will consider following suit. Could 2023 be the year UK authorities seriously consider recognising psychedelics as medicines, in light of the current lack of options for patients with specific treatment-resistant mental illnesses?
The question of how the power of patient data can be safely and effectively unlocked is going to continue to dominate discussions at the highest levels of the health and healthtech sector this year. The volume of data points is increasing exponentially, and AI-powered analytics are delivering new use cases for this information - from personalised care planning to streamlined service delivery. However, if risk to patient privacy is to be eliminated, stringent regulations and security technologies must be adopted across the board. I expect to see increased scrutiny on how organisations in the health and care ecosystem collect, store and manage data as they pursue a more evidence-informed and joined-up approach.
My verdict on 2023 at this half-time point? The post-pandemic healthtech hype is over. It is being replaced with a laser-focus on data-driven innovation, fuelled by AI and technology advances - that speaks directly to the most pressing pain points felt by clinicians, health systems and patients. The pace of change is faster than it has ever been, so buckle up and get ready for further disruption and more surprises as we hurtle towards 2024.
With so much happening in 2023, let us know what your standout healthtech moment has been.
Start the conversation and see how we can build the change together.