By Sanjana Basu, Radical Ventures

The Future of Healthcare

The COVID-19 pandemic has served as a major inflection point for the adoption of healthcare technology. This is the second of a two post series — see the first post that details this inflection point and what we describe as the adoption imperative.

Digital tools are leapfrogging into mass scale adoption. Patients who experience benefits such as time saved, reduced costs, and better outcomes during this period of experimentation will not switch back. Similarly, providers who begin to reap benefits from cost and capacity returns that accrue from using digital tools are unlikely to reverse these decisions.

The shifts arising out of the pandemic will play out in two waves. At Radical Ventures, we are investing in ambitious, deeply technical teams positioning themselves atop these adoption waves where there is a clear and massive market and an opportunity to become the category winner. Further, we acknowledge that this period of mass adoption has also exposed grave inequities that exist for patients and their families. Through our investments, Radical Ventures is prioritizing technology solutions that address these challenges.

Wave 1 (Now)

During this period we believe digital tools become mainstream in healthcare, laying the data, digital infrastructure and behavioural foundations for the deep tech solutions of Wave 2. While we expected this wave would happen over the next 3 to 5 years, COVID-19 has compressed this timeframe and we expect much of this wave to occur over the next year.

  • Remote primary care and delivery will become the new normal. Going to a crowded doctor’s office, hospital or clinic for primary care — like picking up digital imaging CDs — will be augmented by a spectrum of tried and tested digital tools at the fingertips of consumers. This phenomenon is already playing out across a variety of markets. In this article, McKinsey predicts that $250 billion of healthcare spend will be virtualized.
  • Digital infrastructure tools will be adopted by provider systems. There will be an increased demand for front-office and back-office tools integrated into clinical workflows that expand clinical bandwidth and improve financial efficiency. Interoperability, healthcare data security, payment and CRM solutions amongst others will see increased deployment as systems rebuild the back-end or add more layers above the existing system. According to the American Medical Association’s latest research, there has been an increasing use of digital tools by physicians across a range of areas including point of care and workflow enhancement.
  • Remote assistants and sensors will see major adoption across clinical settings driven by an increased trust in these solutions, as well as more sophisticated digital infrastructure.
  • AI-powered clinical decision support is starting to gain trust amongst providers. AI for medical imaging will see increased usage and practices like radiology, pathology, and dermatology will become embedded in the systems. This MIT Technology review article highlights the use of AI to triage COVID-19 patients and reinforces how the barriers to adopting AI are being eliminated during the pandemic.
  • Pathogen and epidemic identification and tracking software will also see an uptick. Governments across the world are contemplating or deploying automated contact tracing technologies in order to reopen economies. Toronto-based Blue Dot, a company that uses AI to track infectious disease outbreaks, was amongst the first to report the pandemic. We are seeing some of these epidemiological adoptions of AI up-close, as Radical Ventures has worked to support the Ontario government deploy a fully anonymized and secure health data platform to fight COVID-19.
  • Inventions that fast-track the medicine-to-market process including AI for drug/vaccine discovery will see acceleration during this period. There is an acute urgency to build a discovery process that can effectively respond to this and future pandemics. Benevolent.AI’s use of AI to identify existing drugs that may be effective in treating COVID-19 exemplifies how researchers and pharma are increasingly applying AI to drug discovery and development to speed up complex work that in some cases is beyond human capability. Another article quotes leaders from Pfizer, Roche, and Novartis who discuss the growing importance of data to their practices. Needless to say, there are massive opportunities to apply AI to these datasets and a significant number of startups in this space (such as Deep Genomics, Cyclica, Atomwise and Recursion) who already use AI platforms for drug discovery and development.
  • Digital “medication” or wellness tools supporting mental health will see steep growth as second order impacts arising out of the crisis and beyond (changes to the way we work and entertain ourselves, amongst others) take hold. Many governments, employers, and payers are already taking steps to address this looming crisis. Last month, Kaiser Permanente announced it would provide Livongo’s mental wellness app free to its 12.2 million members.

Wave 2 (Starts now and accelerates in years 3–10)

We believe deep technology solutions will be built upon the digital infrastructure and massive datasets built in Wave 1. AI will be a primary driver of this second wave of healthcare innovation.

  • A new end to end digital and synthetic drug/biologics discovery and development process is emerging, relying heavily on AI and the computational power of algorithms. We will see a number of platforms and tools that will enable the industrialization of smart design in the biotech space. Our first investment in thi s space is Aspect Biosystems, a Vancouver based 3D bioprinting platform. The platform is at the forefront of the next generation of regenerative medicine and is working on multiple human tissue programs focused on improving the way we treat diseases.
  • Healthcare will be consumerized further. Consumer products equipped with deep tech capabilities will have a direct influence on meaningful health outcomes. This category builds on a growing trend of patients becoming creators and consumers of their own health information.
  • There will be a layer of tools to support the “omni-channel” delivery of healthcare. As digital healthcare tools become mainstream in Wave 1, patient fulfillment (treatment / care journeys) will take place both online and offline. Like retail consumers who browse online before shopping offline, healthcare consumers will fulfill different parts of the healthcare journey across physical and digital formats. As an example, a healthcare consumer may prepare for surgery via a telehealth visit, go into a hospital for a procedure and then recover at home using a digital care plan administered through their smartphone. To enable seamless online and offline journeys, an ecosystem of acquisition, management and payment tools will emerge.
  • Healthcare services will move to the home, and we will see the emergence of a remote home suite with a myriad of connected devices, remote tools, and at-home services. This will be supported by mass scale deployment of virtual healthcare delivery and remote patient monitoring of Wave 1.
  • AI-enabled clinical decision support tools will improve dramatically beyond human capability as these tools leverage data collected from mass-scale digitization of Wave 1. Computer vision technology will give rise to a new breed of fully AI-enabled hospitals and clinics. In a recent piece in the Lancet, Dr. Arnold Milstein, Professor of Medicine and the Director of the Clinical Excellence Research Center at Stanford University, outlined a number of ways computer-vision applied to sensors may dramatically improve health outcomes. These deployments have already begun at scale.

DawnLight

In anticipation of these waves of innovation in the healthcare sector, we are excited to announce our investment in DawnLight. We believe DawnLight will be an important global leader in the application of advanced technologies that puts caregivers in the best position to provide the highest quality of care possible.

DawnLight’s solutions will deliver high quality healthcare to patients at home by understanding their real time health status continuously and objectively. For those with chronic conditions, the edge-AI enabled sensors may assist with detecting early signs of deterioration, enabling earlier interventions and, potentially, avoiding hospital stays. In hospitals, DawnLight can track patient vitals continuously, reducing medical professionals’ workloads thereby allowing them to focus on the more complex and demanding aspects of healthcare decision making.

The DawnLight team is committed to building a scalable platform solution that integrates online and physical world information, increasing patient independence, delivering high quality care while decreasing healthcare costs. Remote assistants and sensors will see major adoption across clinical settings driven by more sophisticated digital infrastructure and trust in digital healthcare tools. DawnLight’s long term vision builds upon this and a confluence of healthcare trends covered earlier. Its world-class team of technologists, health care experts, and social scientists is led by Dr. Jia Li and Dr. Arnold Milstein, supported by high caliber advisors including former Stanford Healthcare COO Dan Ginsburg and former Philips Healthcare CEO Deborah DiSanzo.

Final Thoughts

We expect momentum in the healthcare sector to accelerate significantly. To understand the outsized opportunity presented by healthcare innovation, it is instructive to consider the story of the CD and how a company like PocketHealth is helping hospitals leverage digital technology already familiar to consumers to eliminate the legacy technologies that are overdue for replacement.

From social networks and smartphones, to the cloud and AI, consumer technology has undergone multiple eras of innovation since the height of CD adoption. Meanwhile, thanks to entrenched ways of doing business and vested interests, healthcare innovation has too often been stuck 20–30 years in the past. This delta of innovation represents the near-term, 
Wave 1, opportunity.

The COVID-19 pandemic has helped eliminate regulatory and behaviour barriers, causing a massive acceleration of digital adoption in healthcare. As a result, the Wave 1 adoption timeframe has been compressed from ~5 years down to 1 year. As that innovation delta continues to be bridged by Wave 1 solutions, Wave 2 state-of-the-art deep technology and AI solutions are beginning to be deployed, ushering in a new era of healthcare that is preventative and truly personalized.

— R —

About the Author

Sanjana Basu is an Investment Associate with Radical Ventures. Sanjana is passionate about the healthcare space and the many companies that are using deeply disruptive technology to advance the sector. Prior to Radical, Sanjana worked at the strategic investing and incubation arm of the Tata Group, the $100B Indian conglomerate based out of Mumbai, India. At Tata she was involved in investing in and incubating technology enabled ventures in the fintech, retail-tech and mobility-tech space, the operational support of early stage portfolio companies as well as the end to end management of exits. Sanjana also worked as an Investment Banking Analyst at Barclays focused on M&A and DCM. She completed her MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore and her undergraduate in Economics & International Relations from Tufts University in Boston, US.

If you are building a business that enables this new era of healthcare, have thoughts that resonate or have a different point of view, let’s chat! sanjana@radical.vc