It is no secret that COVID-19 has extensively disrupted the investing landscape, and when it comes to the world of healthcare, the impact has been magnified. During Bioinsider’s recent virtual Friday Roundtable “How COVID-19 is Driving Venture Investments in Healthcare Innovation”, experts across the healthcare landscape, which included investors, consultants, and operators alike, gathered to share their perspectives. This discussion was moderated by Eli Velasquez (Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Investors of Color Network (ICN)) and Dr. Brittany Barreto (Co-Founder, Executive Director, and Podcast Host, Femtech Focus).
The critical questions posed:
1. How has your investment thesis changed pre vs. post-pandemic?
a. Digital health, remote patient monitoring, low touch tools, and at-home testing have completely dominated the post-pandemic world. The importance of patient engagement and hybrid business models that can support flexible customer interactions will continue to be top of mind from an investment perspective.
b. Some investment theses have not changed at all. Providing value-based care that is accessible to underserved populations was a priority pre-pandemic and proves to be a forefront issue as we settle into a post-pandemic world.
c. Telemedicine is here to stay. The barriers and bureaucracy that existed before the pandemic crumbled overnight. Our healthcare system and stakeholders now have no excuse for not investing in new telehealth technologies, and in fact, have no choice in order to remain relevant, competent, and competitive.
2. What are the pivots that traditional provider-based companies need to make to stay competitive and help patients amidst the surge of retail-oriented healthcare companies taking over the industry?
a. A relationship that was once combative needs to become supportive as providers and retail-oriented healthcare companies must work to determine how they can benefit from partnerships with one another.
b. The providers that will survive this global pandemic will have adopted new types of services (telehealth, wellness offerings) and embraced the changing landscape to provide more convenient offerings for patients.
3. How are business models transforming to leverage insurance coverage, and will the pandemic have lasting effects on reimbursement structures across healthcare?
a. Insurance companies are approving reimbursements for services they historically would have never considered. This concept of “population health” has become a global issue and insurance companies have a responsibility to address the economic factors that can keep a community healthy.
b. Consumers will always care about insurance cost coverage, and as reimbursement models transform, businesses will be posed with the challenge of enabling reimbursement without affecting customer experiences (i.e., hidden fees, full transparency).
4. What are the most considerable challenges that have enabled the existing disparities in healthcare (racial and socioeconomic), and what are some possible solutions?
a. The variability in service from one doctor to the next and accessibility issues in rural municipalities is especially prevalent in the US as the rest of the world has embraced digital health and remote patient monitoring.
b. Navigating healthcare should be made easier to follow for the everyday consumer. Businesses that not only provide solutions but also incorporate education as a component of their model will become increasingly important.
c. Companies should create fully diverse data sets by including all heterogeneous populations in clinical trials and medical device testing to ensure underrepresented groups are encompassed in healthcare advancements.
d. Big data needs a more in-depth look at how it incorporates gender and race into its algorithms. The data sets rarely take these factors into consideration leading to skewed or incorrect outputs that elevate the level of risk for major populations.
5. How has the role of mental health changed throughout this pandemic?
a. Proper attention was not paid to mental health pre-pandemic, but in a post-pandemic world, all patients should have equitable access to mental health education resources and solutions.
6. What does the future of healthcare investing look like as we look ahead?
a. The importance of including all groups within healthcare conversations and sharing the innovations made in the US during this time with the rest of the world.
b. Smarter patients who will seek transparency at all stages of healthcare services from costs to more interactions with providers through digital health platforms.
Action items we should strive to take:
1. Advocate for healthcare advancements that include all groups to address the racial, gender, and socioeconomic disparities.
2. Look for changes in provider business models that support digital health and more interactive patient engagement.
3. Ask retail-oriented healthcare companies what cost coverage will look like from the consumer standpoint.
Editor’s note: This article was prepared by Mia Farnham, Market Research Analyst, FemTech Focus.