HealthTech panel 2

HealthTech is all about data. That was the general consensus reached during a panel at The Europas, a prominent technology conference and startup awards ceremony, held in London today.

The discussion, moderated by Mike Butcher, the conference’s founder, sought to decipher the state of the UK’s digital health industry and identify the challenges and opportunities for technology startups and scaleups.

Hamish Grierson, co-founder of HealthTech startup Thriva, which announced the closure of a £1.5m Seed round earlier in the day, reinforced the fact that the healthcare industry, its challenges and its success, is driven by data.

“If you look at the challenges faced by wearable tech companies, one of the main issues is that people often take their devices off, but also the data that’s been collected needs to go somewhere and most importantly, it must be secure.”

Grierson touched on the notion that technology is inherently making it easier to gain access to healthcare, but this very fact is also contributing to an increasing amount of data, which needs to be analysed. 

Vishal Gupta, a HealthTech VC at Draper Esprit, highlighted how the industry has changed over the past few years.

HealthTech investment used to concentrate within two main pillars, Gupta said. The first was the BioTech sector, which saw companies research and produce drugs. The other was the diagnostics and devices industry. But things are changing and this transformation is happening at a dizzying speed.

“This is a very exciting space, but we must remember that the industry is still very early stage. Its full potential is many times bigger than what we can currently see and imagine,” Gupta said.

The ability to access large pools of data, collecting it and then drawing conclusions from it is what Gupta is excited by and where he believes the real opportunities lie. More importantly, he added, it also challenges the notion that healthcare is solely targeted at sick people, but should also look to take a preventative approach to help consumers improve their general health.

Accesibility and adoption

“For the first five years we had to show that digital health was as good as bricks and mortar healthcare, whereas now I think we are entering a stage where this is being reversed,” Gupta added.

Ali Parsa, founder of Babylon, a London-based HealthTech firm that has so far raised $90m from investors and struck a partnership with the NHS, said the main challenge at the moment is adoption and the time it takes for companies to build the right infrastructure.

“The big challenge is the same as it was many decades ago: how to make it [healthcare] accessible and affordable and put it in the hands of every individual on earth,” added Parsa.

Looking ahead, Grierson said he believes the real winners in the space will be those companies that can understand people better and are able to educate consumers about the power of prevention for medium- and long-term benefits.

The big question, and one which is increasingly being asked in the open, is whether AI – which has a wide range of applications within healthcare – will eventually replace doctors all together. 

“If the information provided is accurate and people are comfortable with it, I don’t think we should rule it out,” Grierson concluded.