It began as the epicenter of innovation in health technology, but now the United States and its model of incubation and open investment is catalyzing the emergence of tech hubs globally, some of the largest are now in the European Union.
The United Kingdom is just starting to capture its share of the limelight on digital health tech and is now the fourth most entrepreneurial country in the world according to the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Index.
The U.K., in particular England, has surfaced as a hotspot for entrepreneurial ventures. It stands out when compared to the European Union, a region ripe with “low hanging fruit” due to its market fragmentation. Factors like language, the role of private/public entities, and payer structure make it extremely difficult for small companies to scale up and expand beyond national borders.
PPPs: One of the U.K.’s Greatest Assets
Now faced with collapse by 2020 due to inadequate funds, the National Health Service has embraced its greatest resource – the public-private partnership. Recognizing that technology boosts preventive measures, empowers patients, and facilitates the delivery of care, the NHS is following in the footsteps of the Affordable Care Act in terms of a supportive regulatory approach.
From the NHS Innovation Accelerator aiming to speed up the development and integration of technologies into healthcare settings to the testing of apps and digital tools by mHealth Habitat, along with the establishment of the Innovative Medicines and MedTech Review to increase available capital and bring drugs to consumers faster, the government is not only spurring innovation forward, but it is implementing established solutions into its system.
The U.S. Health Secretary Sylvia Burwell explains that the Affordable Care Act has “provided funding for us to make more investments in data and make that data available to the private sector to help find solutions to some of our biggest challenges through innovation.” This trust placed in the private sector to solve public inefficiencies is mirrored in Public Health England and the NHS’s recent initiatives.
Despite the regulatory support, digital health startups face several challenges to growth and implementation in the U.K. Disregarding a culture that doesn’t like paying for healthcare and ‘one main customer’, entrepreneurs familiar with raising rounds in the two environments report that there is a dearth lack of capital when compared to the United States. Additionally, the attitude towards investment in the U.K and E.U. is more results-driven than idea-based and the average timeframe between meeting investors to closing rounds has been set between three to six months compared to just three weeks in the U.S.
Though there are some significant hurdles, the barriers to entry are low and the saturation of the markets – consumers and providers – also remains low, giving startups ample opportunity to flourish. Keeping in mind the very unique U.K. atmosphere, we’ve highlighted the twenty top digital health startups to watch below—
This 3D scanning and printing technology has the capacity to produce customized orthotics for children in under 48 hours as compared to the average of 13 weeks. While the cost of producing orthotics is still a bit steep, the end-product allows for the reduction of wait times, repeat appointments due to quality issues, and number of required surgeries. It also reduces opportunity cost for parents and caregivers.
Founders: Samiya & Naveed Parvez
Category: Care Delivery & Medical Devices
Why you should pay attention – Starting out as an Indiegogo project, the company has received several awards and grants to bring their technology to over 20 families across the U.K. in under eighteen months. The potential for this technology can revolutionize the treatment of pediatric disability and enhance the quality of life for affected families worldwide, particularly in under-developed and developing countries.
Marketed as everyone’s own personal health service, bablyon is a subscription-based service which lets patients book virtual GP consultations, which reduces the wait time for in-person appointments, monitors their symptoms, and disperses prescriptions for less than £7.99 per month.
Founder: Ali Parsa
Category: App, Care Delivery, Diagnostics & Patient Communication
Why you should pay attention – In the works is Monitor, a function that tracks data and relevant metrics related to bones, kidney and liver function, and hormones allowing for clinical intervention when necessary. Physicians can send diagnostic tests to a home address if needed or prescribe medicine based on collected data.
3. Big Health
This company aims to bring highly personalized behavioral medicine programs to the masses. Their first product, Sleepio, is an app that uses tracked data to create customized programs to help users sleep better without the use of medications.
Founders: Colin Espie & Peter Hames
Category: App & Behavioral medicine
Funding: $3.3 million
Why you should pay attention – Sleepio has been validated in the world’s first placebo-controlled RCT for a digital sleep intervention. On average, Sleepio helped users fall asleep 54% faster, reduced night time awakenings by 62%, and boosted their daytime energy and concentration levels by 58%. The focus on behavioral therapies using personal data lends itself to a vast number of possibilities, particularly in the mental health and rehabilitation fields.
Blackford Analysis studies comparison processes and develops cutting edge algorithmic solutions using real-time analysis of datasets. Their products work by linking a point of interest in one scan to any other MR, CT, or PET scan which allows viewers to compare multiple images, simultaneously with one click. Clinicians can integrate the technology into current systems and customize it to best serve their practice through various functionalities.
Founders: Ben Panter (CEO)
Category: Medical Devices & Technology
Funding: $1.3 million
Why you should pay attention – This interface increases the quality of care offered as well as patient satisfaction as it makes the conversation between provider and patient more meaningful. Patients who can be a part of their care conversations become empowered and are more likely to adhere to treatment, thereby improving results and lowering overall costs.
This HIPAA-compliant platform allows patients to securely share their medical photos and videos with their doctor. Additionally, it allows MDs an opportunity to easily receive and store this data, which is compliant with HIPAA and medical record standards.
Founders: Meghan Conroy
Category: App, Care Delivery, Diagnostics & Patient Empowerment
Funding: $1.2 million
Why you should pay attention – This technology allows doctors to stay engaged in a patient’s healing process over time without having to schedule office-visits. Images and videos can be compared side-by-side to show progression without requiring multiple in-office visits that is cost-effective for all parties involved.