Health tech grows…but where are the investors?

Health tech, digital health, wireless health, telehealth, eHealth, mHealth, connected health…while the terminology proliferates, the hype curve grows ever steeper and the conferences/cocktail parties ever buzzier, where is the investment? David Doherty’s identified 16 billionaires investing in health tech, but David Shaywitz writing in Forbes, who’s been up and down the biotech curve, is noting that VCs who should be gravitating to digital health, aren’t.  This is even though they have the most experience scouting the territory: the medical problems to be solved, the stakeholders, the development curve. This isn’t to say that some are actively investing and others are observing the waters–he cites PureTech Ventures, Venrock, Fidelity Biosciences as the former–but when he cites a principal of a major biotech VC openly tweeting a withering view of most ‘digiHC’ (another term!) as without a real business model, ‘more sizzle than steak’ and ‘merely a bubble’ equivalent to (US) cleantech….it’s ‘perception is reality’ time. So before mHealth starts connecting to genomes, some successful exits need to go on the scoreboard first. Life Science VCs: Definitively Indefinite About Digital Health

Perhaps too much of consumer directed health tech focuses on how novel it all is–which can sell in the short term–with an emphasis on low-cost apps and Quantified Self trackers. But neither right now, with a few exceptions, have the push from the physician–and their advocacy requires multiple steps to achieve: awareness, trial, validation and support. Also from ForbesDigital Health Strategy: From Novelty to Necessity. An overview of how this can work for apps is what Happtique has accomplished to date in establishing standards, a certification program and a platform to facilitate physicians in prescribing apps and backing them up with patient educational materials. App Prescribing: The Future of Patient-Centered Care (Health Care Blog)

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  1. Donna Cusano

    David Shaywitz is concentrating on VCs who’ve been in the biotech space. My first thought here was ‘once burned, twice shy.’ The second is time frame mismatch–VCs operate on an 18-24 month time frame from entry to exit, and whether mHealth or not (e.g. EHRs, home based telehealth or telecare) companies in this field need a longer horizon to evolve and integrate. I’ve seen too many instances of investors who are barely at the table before they’re heading for the door, demanding a quick sale so that they look good.It distorts how decisions are made by the company management at a critical time. Perhaps it’s just as well that they are not that attracted; it might spark more bootstrapping, creativity and alliances. (On the other hand, I’ve seen VC money come into companies and the CEO turns into a sailor on shore leave.) Or bad ideas will get killed earlier. Do these billionaires have a different mind-set? I wonder….