Underlying technological enablers include: smartphones & applications, digitisation & electronic records, machine learning / AI, data security & encryption, nanotechnology or 3D printing, blockchain, and more.
Ultimately HealthTech is an umbrella term, which encapsulates digital health and healthcare IT, and other revolutionary technologies that were developed outside of the scope of healthcare but which are now finding application within this space.
This is represented diagrammatically as follows.
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.
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.
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.
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 cost-effectively and would require fewer trained professionals to administer the tests.
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.
Gene therapies insert sections of DNA into a patient’s cells to correct damaged or abnormal genes. Gene therapy can be done using a variety of mechanisms, including replacing a disease-causing gene with a normal version of the gene, inactivating a disease-causing gene that is malfunctioning or introducing a modified gene into the body to treat a specific disease. These therapies are exciting as they could enable researchers to find cures for cancer, HIV and heart disease.
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.
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 COVID-19 in the US.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sleep tech encompasses a variety of technologies with the explicit goal of improving the quality of a person’s sleep. Sleep tech providers seek to improve behavioral, environmental and genetic causes of insomnia along with common sleep disorders like sleep apnea. Some examples of sleep tech include tracking sensors, smart mattresses and sleep monitoring headbands.
Companies in this space are using virtual reality technology to provide innovative therapies and treatments for a variety of healthcare issues. The uses of virtual reality in healthcare include education, therapy, rehabilitation and even mindfulness.