A lot of work with the government, at the federal, state, and local levels, particularly around public private partnerships, is in finding ways to ensure that for government to be successful and effective, you have to have business and industry involvement. There’s a really good labor of love that can occur when that’s the case.
By Geoffrey M. Roche, Fellow - The National Leadership Academy For The Public’s Health
If you are a startup in the digital health space, where should you focus? Let’s take a look at six areas that will continue to see growth, and how you can embrace the future.
Without question, the behavioral health space is going to be an important area. The move that has occurred with COVID, to truly have tele-psychiatry and actually have it be reimbursed is a pretty significant move.
Human Centered Components
You're seeing more and more of them. Think about how they can 3D-print hearts and lungs to really get at how they should improve the care and quality that they're doing, and you're seeing a lot more work occurring in those spaces. There’s a lot of opportunities.
This an area that is just booming in health care, whether it's medical simulation or not. There's a lot of virtual reality studies that have also talked about the impact that virtual reality has on dementia patients, and on Alzheimer's patients. In fact, during the pandemic, some organizations have effectively used VR to help them have interaction because you know what? They couldn't interact with other people. They put on the goggles. They would send them into a VR exercise, and that VR exercise actually could have brought them back to childhood, depending on how it was done, and allow them to experience something that made them happy. There's a lot of occurring in that space, and the reality of it is that it’s such a big space and not all health care systems may want to work with with one entity.
Wearable Medical Devices
This will only continue to grow because people have seen it during this pandemic that they haven't had to go see a doctor, that they've been able to use what their Apple Watch to track data and send that to their doctor. However, some have not had good experiences and this has been shown in diabetes patients. Unfortunately, we've actually taken that step back because some patients couldn't see their endocrinologist and now they're having to have amputations. And so if I were in the startup world, I would immediately be thinking about what is the future when, again, certain communities don't have endocrinologists? Is there something within telemedicine that would still allow us to have a more effective model so that if, again, whether we face another pandemic or we just face bad weather or we face something else in our society, that does not happen again? Because here's the sad thing: this pandemic happened.
Integration of primary health and behavioral health
We're in a situation in 2021 where you still read articles that say telemedicine is the innovative thing to do. No, it's not. You missed the boat. Telemedicine was the innovative thing to do in 2010. If you're not already succeeding in it and being effective at telemedicine, that's not innovative. The next element is you've got to build on it. So the innovation comes in where you add new product offerings or new service offerings that can truly speak to improving the health of those who we serve and that can come in with, again, integration of primary care and behavioral health. The VA historically was the most innovative when it came to the integration of primary care and behavioral health. We still haven't moved to that model effectively within our health care system, and there's not a lot of organizations doing that really well yet. Even post COVID, there's going to certainly be elements of that that continue.
There’s been a lot of innovation in this space, but I would be thinking, how do I take that to the next level? Because you know what? Public health has certainly experienced a really challenging time. But we've also now learned that this is the moment to do better.
Looking to the future
My advice always to startups is if you have the passion, you have a story behind that passion. You have a story behind the product or the offering. Don't let any obstacles stop you. Even though you might not get the business, you did get in the door. If you left a positive impression, there's a good chance that in the future that's going to happen at some point and you're going to learn from every opportunity and every interaction that you have, and accelerators have people that are going to help coach you, and mentor you to see that through.
Be flexible. While your product may be in grounded in epilepsy, for example, you're going to be in conversations with individuals that may have a need in another neurological area. The one thing that I always get frustrated with when dealing with some startup leaders is they were so focused in one area that they weren't willing to even think about another. You want to be prepared to pivot to meet that need.
Redefine what it means to be a startup. We need to be thinking about our youth. We need to be thinking about our college students. We need to also be thinking that at some point, startups may come from individuals that have been in the workplace and are now coming back into the workplace and a later point in their life. We need to make sure that ecosystem, particularly in the accelerator model, is very much focused on all ages because that's the future. We all know that the youth to the adult, to the older adult, all have a role within the startup space. We have to make sure that our programs and the support that we provide to them is inclusive of that notion.