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Start-ups have been hit especially hard by the economic crisis resulting from shutdowns due to COVID-19. Globally, investors are increasingly wary of putting their capital into young companies, which applies to even those recently celebrated as rising stars, leading to a careful selection of supported projects. In Germany, for example, more than 80 percent of start-ups across all sectors believe their future is endangered as a result of the economic consequences of the pandemic, according to a survey conducted in March by Germany’s start-up industry association.
Yet for digital healthcare start-ups, the social distancing required by governments to contain the virus’ spread offer opportunities for growth. In April, we conducted a study among 27 German digital healthcare start-up entrepreneurs and investors, which produced the following key findings:
We chose Germany as a case study for digital healthcare start-ups during the pandemic for two reasons. Firstly, Germany is one of the world’s fastest-growing digital healthcare markets. Based on research for our 2019 “Driving the Future of Health” report, we believe annual digital healthcare spending in Germany will rise to around $40bn by 2030, representing eight percent of national healthcare expenditure. Secondly, German digital healthcare start-ups have benefited from new regulations for the sector at the end of last year which allows doctors to prescribe digital health solutions and outlines a process on how to qualify for reimbursement from public health insurances.
Digital healthcare solutions connect and ampower people to manage and improve their health, using digital tools and technologies. These solution largely fall into three categories which are not mutally exclusive.
Aims to improve care delivery by making healthcare processes more efficient or by offering new channels. Examples: Drug adherence management systems, telemedicine.
Breaks down healthcare system silos better collaboration, data sharing and a seamless experience. Examples: Personal medical assistants, electronic health records.
At a time when COVID-19 has left start-ups in other sectors fearing for their future, we were struck by the optimism of most of our respondents about their medium-term prospects on a two-year-plus horizon. Three business opportunities in particular were highlighted by our respondents:
Our survey suggests that many digital healthcare start-ups are already implementing or planning to implement COVID-19-related changes to address the challenges resulting from the pandemic, as well as exploit potential business opportunities.
Drawing on our study, additional interviews and global cross-industry experience, we have identified a series of actions to enable digital healthcare entrepreneurs and investors to build on their initial, timely response to COVID-19 in order to emerge stronger from the crisis.
This study was conducted by Strategy& in collaboration with the Spitzenverband Digitale Gesundheitsversorgung e.V. The results are based on a standardized survey among digital health entrepreneurs, complemented by selected interviews with digital health experts from the start-up, public health insurance, investor and advisor community. All interviews were conducted based on a standard questionnaire in which the experts were asked about their perspective on the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on digital healthcare start-ups.