I think we all wonder where healthcare will be in the aftermath of Covid-19; what it will look like, how will it operate, what will we keep, and what will we discard – and who will be the new market leaders in this field. Will there be startups that have gained a foothold, or has there been a dramatic expansion of the giants in healthcare and have they furthered their reach into the marketplace? Although just under a year into the pandemic, the business of healthcare has started to regain a sense of normalcy amidst the crisis, and the question is – has Covid created opportunity for innovation and startups, or the consolidation of innovation by the healthcare giants?
As we look back to the earliest days of Covid, it was immediately apparent that the healthcare industry would have to adapt dramatically in order to be able to cope with the greatest pandemic in 100 years. With shocking speed and efficiency, in a matter of weeks healthcare systems rolled out new technologies, business practices, and opened up lines of communication between themselves and healthcare companies in ways we had never before witnessed in modern history. The business world leaned in to support healthcare, and everyone from established healthcare giants to startups, offered their services to health systems (largely for free for a period of time) to get new programs from digital communication to telehealth services to the frontlines of healthcare systems. It was an incredible silver lining in the global pandemic that threatened all we knew.
But now, as the dust begins to settle on the Wild West of the early days of Covid, clearer trends are beginning to emerge about who the winners in healthcare might be. From early assessment it appears that many of the healthcare giants only grew larger as health systems chose large SAAS platforms to support their technology enabled management systems for patients and their healthcare workforce. Companies such as Microsoft, with their Microsoft teams platform, saw an explosion of growth across healthcare, not only for internal meetings among healthcare staff and communication; but also for telehealth services for patients and providers. In a market with hundreds of smaller telehealth companies, healthcare systems chose market leaders with scalable and integrated SAAS platforms for the purpose of streamlining previously siloed technologies and companies. Covid has consolidated healthcare systems onto large single technology platforms, a clear win for the healthcare technology giants in the market.
However, there is one clear healthcare market vertical in which there has been tremendous opportunity for startups to gain traction: mental health. Companies, such as Uplift, Reflect, and even one of the newest out of the NurseHack4Health event (hosted by SONSIEL, Microsoft & J&J), WellNurse, are clear market differentiators, gaining momentum in a vertical that was long considered on the fringes of adoptability in healthcare. With Covid challenging everyone’s mental health and wellness, mental health startups are a central solution to a growing global problem, and these newcomers are gaining substantial ground in an emerging field that will forever be viewed differently in a post-Covid world.
Covid-19 is far from over, and what healthcare will look like in the aftermath of this pandemic is still largely uncertain. However, there are “market tells and trends” that are being clearly established and with months ahead, as we wait upon a vaccine, healthcare will still need to innovate as our systems are stretched, and global dynamics shape what healthcare will look like in the future. Innovation and opportunity will still present itself, but who will be rewarded those contracts – the healthcare giants or the startups? We will need to wait and see….