The burgeoning “healthcare at home” movement echoes what consumers are clamoring for across almost every industry—more convenience and flexibility. While using telemedicine may have once been a matter of personal preference, the COVID-19 pandemic made it nearly a necessity. The unprecedented crisis triggered large-scale responses by governments and businesses alike, ushering in a new reliance on virtual care delivery as well as innovations across healthtech as a whole.

With that in mind, let’s look at the definition of healthtech, some emerging spaces within the industry and how the COVID-19 crisis may impact healthcare moving forward.

What is healthtech?

Healthtech is the fastest growing vertical within the healthcare sector. It includes any technology-enabled healthcare product and service that can be delivered or consumed outside of a hospital or physician’s office—one notable exception being hospital and practice management software.

Healthtech companies can also provide mobility and other information technologies to improve healthcare delivery while decreasing costs. One example is Outcome Health, a company that offers exam room technologies to engage patients as they wait to see their provider. Another is Oscar, an online insurance network that provides telemedicine consultations. Healthtech companies often aim to optimize patient-centric healthcare through solutions like cloud computing, internet services and social mobility.

How healthtech is different from medtech

While healthtech is centered around optimizing personal and preventative care, the medical technology—medtech—vertical focuses on therapeutic technologies and medical devices that treat existing medical issues and diagnostic technologies that detect medical conditions (i.e. in-hospital care).

SPR Therapeutics, developer of a peripheral nerve stimulation therapy platform designed to be an alternative to addictive opioid medications, is a prime example of a medtech company. So is Auris, which creates robotic micro-surgical devices designed to help with ophthalmic (eye) procedures.

Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on healthcare in the US

The COVID-19 outbreak not only brought the global economy to a standstill—it exposed the inadequacies of the developed world’s health systems in addressing fast-spreading pandemics. As governments, health systems and businesses scrambled to contend with the crisis, they renewed interest in technologies and initiatives that can provide solutions.

Startups in disease tracking, disease testing, telemedicine, biopharmaceutical research and medical supplies are at the center of building a technology-based pandemic preparedness and response ecosystem. These companies are most likely to have the capabilities to predict, identify, track, contain and treat outbreaks and future pandemics. Our report on startups helping to build pandemic preparedness and response infrastructure breaks down the key companies addressing the COVID-19 crisis.

At the end of 2020, enterprise health and wellness saw the largest increase in raised capital of the last five years. The sector raised a total of $8.3 billion in VC funding—up nearly 70% year-over-year despite a relatively flat deal count. Showing no signs of slowing down, the size of the enterprise healthtech industry is projected to reach $1.3 trillion by 2025.

We believe the venture ecosystem will be a vital incubator for tech that can help mitigate the impacts of future pandemics, a mission that governments and NGOs are likely to prioritize.

Emerging spaces within healthcare and healthtech

PitchBook tracks more than 125+ emerging spaces across every industry. These are the nascent, but growing areas in the healthcare industry. 

AI-powered drug discovery
Companies in this space are experimenting with artificial intelligence to research and discover new pharmaceuticals and drug therapies. AI systems are able to sift through millions of different chemical compounds and isolate the most promising candidates at a fraction of the time it would traditionally take human researchers.

Assistive tech
Assistive technology refers to any item, piece of equipment, software or product that is used to increase, maintain or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities. Though assistive tech has been around for some time, a new wave of companies are using emerging technologies such as VR/AR, AI and robotics to jump start innovation and offer more compelling solutions for differently-abled individuals.

Neurotechnology refers to technology that enables us to better understand consciousness, thought and higher order activities in the brain. Companies in this space are developing brain machine interfaces, implantable devices, neuroprosthetics, neurostimulation and neuromonitoring devices.

Mental health tech
Mental health tech encompasses companies developing software and hardware solution to empower individuals to take better care of their mental health, and enable practitioners to better monitor the mental health of their patients.

Shortly after the pandemic began, mental health startups saw an increase in demand. Average hours spent on mental health and fitness apps spiked about 30% in the US from December 29, 2109 to March 1, 2020. Headspace, a company that developed an app to help users meditate, experienced double the average amount of inbound requests from members looking for content to help them cope with pandemic-related stress. The company also saw a 100% increase in corporate clients seeking support for their employees' mental wellbeing. The crisis could help drive longer-term interest among corporate clients to ensure mental health products are available to employees.

Sleep tech
Sleep tech encompasses a variety of technologies with the explicit goal of improving the quality of a person's sleep. Examples of sleep tech include tracking sensors, smart mattresses and sleep monitoring headbands.

Psychedelics includes companies harnessing mind-altering substances for the purpose of treating mental illnesses such as addiction, depression and posttraumatic stress disorder. Though substances such as psilocybin and LSD have long been outlawed by the US government, changing cultural attitudes and recent promising scientific studies have reopened the door for their potential authorization. Companies in this space are primarily developing psychoactive treatments for mental health conditions, but may also be operating clinics to provide said therapies or developing software to help clinics manage patient treatment.

Fertility tech
Fertility tech companies are developing technology-oriented medical solutions for couples struggling to conceive. These technologies including sperm and egg freezing services, hormone testing systems and monitoring platforms. Kindbody, a fertility clinic and PitchBook client, talked to us about how the company adapted to a digital landscape in response to the pandemic.

Nanomedicine is the medical application of nanotechnology that ranges from the medical applications of nanomaterials and biological devices to nanoelectronic biosensors as well as possible future applications of molecular nanotechnology such as biological machines. VR health Companies in this space are using virtual reality to provide innovative therapies and treatments to various healthcare issues. Uses of virtual reality in healthcare include education, therapy, rehabilitation and even mindfulness.

Anti-aging refers to companies researching and developing restorative treatments to combat the effects of aging and increase lifespan. Research areas include genomic instability, telomere attrition, epigenetic alteration, loss of proteostasis, deregulated nutrient sensing, mitochondrial dysfunction, cellular senescence, stem cell exhaustion, and altered intercellular communication.

Medical robotics
Medical robotics refers to robots used in healthcare settings, with the benefit of providing services more precisely or consistently than human doctors could. Applications include surgeries, rehabilitation, telepresence, transportation and general patient care. In 2020, Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, WA put this technology to the test; they used a telemedical robot to take vitals from and interact with the first diagnosed case of coronavirus in the US.

Gene therapies
Gene therapies insert sections of DNA into a patient’s cells to correct damaged or abnormal genes. Gene therapies are exciting as they could enable researchers to find cures for cancer, HIV and heart disease.

Medical exoskeletons and prosthetics
Medical exoskeletons and prosthetics companies are developing prostheses that are mechanically powered as well as exoskeletons that are used for medical purposes such as rehabilitation. These devices offer a far greater range of motion and activity than their older counterparts, enabling physically disabled individuals to experience a greater quality of life.

CRISPR diagnostics
CRISPR diagnostics refers to use of the gene editing tool, CRISPR, for diagnostic purposes. The underlying science relies on CRISPR’s ability to isolate snippets of genetic material that it was programmed to find. In theory, this technology could produce diagnostic results more quickly and cheaply and would require fewer trained professionals to administer the tests.

PitchBook's expanding coverage of healthtech

PitchBook tracks more than 32,000 private companies and 88,000 transactions across the healthcare industry and healthtech vertical. We support a multitude of clients that work in the health industry and 88% of healthcare and pharmaceutical organizations that we surveyed said they saw ROI within the first year of using PitchBook. 

“PitchBook has accelerated our fundraising and due diligence efforts, even in niche industries like digital health and healthcare technology! PitchBook is the gold standard data platform for founders and investors alike.”

- Mike Becich, Analyst, Octave Bioscience, Inc. 

Want to learn more? Dive deeper into our research.


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