January 1, 2020
Digital Health Crystal Ball | 2020 Edition
Now that we’re well settled into 2020, and the frenzy that is CES and JPM Week are behind us, we have a few predictions about how the next months will go. It’s a unique time in the world. The political climate has pushed us into a state of extreme discourse in which our values must become increasingly precise, while in parallel, the digital health sector has matured significantly. The weight of collective accountability has sparked new avenues for innovation strategy, investment dollars, and ultimately is in service of the patients, the people. At G4A, we anticipate seeing an emphasis on historically underrepresented sectors of the healthcare space, namely, women’s health care issues, addiction, and social factors in big ways in 2020.
“We are focused on understanding the interplay of behavior, socioeconomic, and genetic metabolic factors in order to prevent the onset or slow progression of diseases connected to women’s health and cardiorenal disease specifically.”
Dr. Zsuzsanna Varga, Global Head of Digital Health Partnerships, Bayer G4A
On Women’s Health | There are piles of data that says women’s pain isn’t taken seriously. And piles more pointing to the ways in which America doesn’t do enough to protect its black mothers. But 2020 is the year this changes. There is a lot going for us right now. For one, there are greater numbers of women and POC in leadership roles across the industry, both running companies and funding them. According to research conducted by Rock Health women raise 64% more on their first round of funding compared to their male contemporaries. And like many startup founders, they are tackling health care issues that impact them directly. Companies now exist to support menopause symptoms, like Gennev and to track your orgasm, like Lioness, while Google has developed AI to improve breast cancer screening. As far as fertility and infertility go, the average age of motherhood for educated women is skewing older, which can be at odds with biological function. Today that average is between 31 and 32 years old. Luckily, the marvels of modern medicine are here to assist. Natalist helps women sort the signal from the noise. DotLab invented a non-invasive method of testing for endometriosis. Ablacare is taking aim at PCOS. We predict that 2020 will be a major year for women’s health.
On Cardiorenal Disease | On the subject of disease states, we call your attention to the heart. As central to the body, cardiac health can be the victim of not only attacks and tension, but also to questionable lifestyle choices. Heart disease affects men and women equally but, as the number one killer for women, it deserves special attention. Particularly given its preventative nature. Recommendations include not smoking, maintaining healthy BMI, eating well, and getting movement. That is to say, if you live a generally healthy lifestyle, your heart should also remain healthy. The good news is that meeting or exceeding these recommendations are well within our control. But the bad news is that it’s not always so simple. Human behavior is a tough nut to crack and hitting all these goals can be a challenge. Nineteen percent of the global population smokes tobacco. According to the United Nations, 25% of the global population doesn’t have access to “safe, nutritious, and sufficient food.” The World Health Organization ranks insufficient physical activity as a “key risk factor for... cardiovascular disease” and that 1 in 4 adults globally aren't active enough. Clearly there is a gap in how people act and how they should act, and another gap in access to resources. In light of this, G4A believes 2020 will be a big year for overhauling lifestyle behaviors in the interest of healthier hearts.
On Addiction | The opioid epidemic sweeping the nation has redefined how the health community, as well as the population at large, thinks about addiction. The world has woken up to the notion that substance abuse is not just for the man rattling for change outside Starbucks, but that it can truly happen to anyone. In fact, the Sackler’s made sure of it. So did Practice Fusion. Headlines aside though, the drug-related death rates have jumped 21% since last year and 3-fold since 1999. It’s scary stuff. And yet, out of the ashes, people and companies are developing a path to healing. Much groundwork has already been laid. Tempest Sobriety School is female-centric, exists online, and turns AA on its head. Marigold Health offers chat-bot therapy in a virtual group setting. Pear Therapeutics is tackling Substance Abuse Disorder with DTx. The tech sector is here for a reckoning. In 2020, we predict that addiction treatment will go mainstream and that it will be paired with decreased stigma and increased funding as well as novel treatment protocols.
The x-factor in all of this is human behavior. Reliably unreliable, people display a wide variety of behaviors informed by their culture, geography, upbringing, diet, education, and genes. It’s the ultimate nature versus nurture question. As is proven again and again, humans don’t always act in accordance with what is best for ourselves. And yet, to understand this human behavior x-factor would dramatically increase the industry’s ability to care for patients. Healthcare is the second largest growing industry in the world by a long shot. And it will continue to be for the foreseeable future, so we’ll need tools in place to do it right. At G4A we will continue to support the startup community through funding and mentorship especially as it relates to cardiac care and women’s health, social health, and the human behaviors that drive it all.