Health tech startups are reshaping the system

Health tech startups are transforming the healthcare system and providing inspiration for digitalization strategies.

Digital Health creates solutions for healthcare.
Image: © Accuray / Unsplash

Growing acceptance of health tech startups

The German healthcare system is going (increasingly) digital, as highlighted by political efforts and innovative businesses that are steadily tapping into this extensive market and improving healthcare provision in the form of new technologies. Germany is therefore catching up internationally and following the example of places such as Scandinavia and the U.S. where medtech startups and companies have so far found it easier to gain traction.

Many German hospitals and doctor’s offices are now starting to embrace digitalization – among other things to relieve the pressure of staff shortages. And most importantly, the general public is also slowly but surely becoming more open to digital solutions designed with medical facilities and patients in mind. That’s a positive sign, not only for established companies but also for health tech startups that are rolling out their ideas with the aim of revolutionizing the healthcare system.

Health tech startups are jumping on these trends

The digital health market is multifaceted, ranging from programs for administrative tasks in hospitals right through to fitness trackers. While health tech startups often focus on leveraging digitalization to speed up processes, closing healthcare gaps is also a major driving force and of particular concern in Germany. Three trends are standing out on the health tech market: optimizing administrative processes, incorporating new data standards, and offering more remote appointments.

Process optimization: more time for treatment

Doctors spend a significant amount of their working time on administrative tasks. A study conducted by the U.S.-based Commonwealth Fund in 2020 found that 59 percent of those surveyed were spending more than an hour a day on admin.

The figures are even worse in Germany, with doctors spending an average of 38 percent of their working time on administrative tasks, according to a study conducted in the same year by Hartmannbund, a German medical association.

Numerous health tech startups have made it their mission to digitalize, automate, and thus speed up administrative processes. Not only do doctors benefit from this, but so do patients because more time is freed up for treatment and consultation.

The platform provider m.Doc, which aims to build a bridge between digital innovations and the healthcare system, is one of many exciting new health tech startups and companies focusing on process optimization. Another example is Tiplu, which provides software solutions for hospitals and uses machine learning to create a network of medical knowledge for healthcare professionals to draw on.

New data standards are giving rise to medical advances

Like many other industries, the healthcare sector can also leverage the potential that our modern world has to offer: by collecting and processing vast pools of data, problems can be identified and solved more easily. For example, digital health startups track patient journeys from start to finish, covering the initial symptoms, consultation, and treatment. In this context, building a broad database presents a number of advantages:

  • Digital applications supported by artificial intelligence can reliably assess symptoms in future cases and suggest the best treatment or the relevant medical specialist.
  • Doctors gain new insights into pathologies and how they may vary from patient to patient.
  • Different specialist departments cooperate even better and share their professional assessments on a digital platform that is accessible at all times, facilitating a holistic approach to healthcare provision.

International data standards have gradually been established in recent years, so the foundations have already been laid for data-based applications. In the future, standardized data collection will continue to be imperative in order to promote the use of these applications for the benefit of doctors and patients. Health tech startups and companies will in turn benefit from this because they will be able to develop their solutions more effectively on the basis of comprehensive data.

Digital consultation and treatment are easing the burden

Digital appointments are also taking the pressure off general practitioners and specialists. This type of consultation really caught on in many doctor’s offices during the coronavirus pandemic and could also be fully embraced by hospitals in 2023. Health tech companies and doctors hope to be able to support patients more efficiently using telemedicine by either letting artificial intelligence take care of certain aspects or by spreading the workload across more people via an asynchronous ticket system. In this scenario, patients describe their concerns in a digital portal and can add helpful photos for trained personnel to look at, maybe even from the other side of the world. As a result, available resources can be utilized better, speeding up and improving patient treatment.

The competition is especially fierce in this sector. Doctolib, for example, is a specialized software program that lets patients, doctors, and therapists manage their appointments with ease, while CUREosity is rethinking rehabilitation and therapy by making exercises fun and personal in the form of innovative virtual reality features. And last but not least, Kaia Health is a specialist provider of a digital therapy that incorporates clinically tested exercises to help patients suffering from back pain or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

Health tech startups: paving the way for a healthier future

There’s currently no stopping the digitalization of healthcare systems. Germany is also taking its first steps toward sustainable and resilient healthcare provision by combining analog and digital solutions. Setbacks are to be expected along the way, such as the inadequate implementation of the electronic patient record (ePA). The costly certification process for digital health apps (DiGAs) is also a significant barrier for some health tech startups, as it requires them to conduct an extensive evidence study.

At the same time though, we’re seeing a new era full of optimism unfold in the health tech sector, as reported by Andrea Buzzi, PR expert and host of the “E-Health Pioneers” podcast: “Digital health is a very forward-looking sector. Startups and established companies are currently developing a vast array of exciting solutions, which will probably only gain a foothold on the market in a few years’ time. I’m expecting these to bring significant improvements, especially when it comes to improving efficiency from a cost and care perspective. What we’re also seeing is that many new health tech startups are focusing on health promotion and early detection rather than merely assessing and treating illnesses once symptoms have presented themselves. That would really signal a systemic change in healthcare provision.” It’s definitely time for a digital healthcare system that eases the burden of medical professionals, makes it easier to prevent illnesses, and takes treatment to a new level using data and artificial intelligence.