How can we innovate the traditional healthcare system?

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Today’s radical shift in the healthcare industry makes it crucial to look for new ways to take advantage of cutting-edge technology – and figure out new ways to attract new talent. We talked about the current trends with Ilona Bernotaitė, the Chief People Officer of Kilo Health and a venture partner at our startup accelerator.

What are the biggest challenges young startups face in the health and wellness industry today?

Digital health is still in the early stages, and the no. 1 challenge in this industry is adoption. It’s not only about convincing consumers but also delivering proof the doctors can trust you and recommend those digital solutions as a part of a patient’s journey. 

In the Digital Health Consumer survey made by Accenture in 2020, 81% of consumers said they prefer in-person, physical experience with a doctor or other medical professional. Just 19% prefer virtual or digital experiences with a doctor or other medical professional. It means that doctors still play a massive role in the healthcare system, which cannot be neglected in this undergoing change. 

With the younger generation being more willing to use digital tools, adoption will become less of an issue. But if we sit and wait, this could take many years. Startups need to take a proactive step in helping patients and physicians adapt to a changing health system.

Do you think that digital therapeutics will replace traditional medical practices?

I’m not saying that physicians or nurses can be replaced; on the contrary!

However, sometimes it is sufficient to focus on preventative healthcare or use only digital therapeutics (DTx) and skip the physical visit to the hospital. The best part is that it all functions as an ecosystem, with digital therapeutics assisting physicians and improving patients’ lives.

And a few other improvements, such as regulatory changes and including digital therapeutics tools to employer benefits made digital health even more booming and attractive for investors. Digital health space received a record $24 billion of investments in 2020. 

It is difficult to predict if digital health will continue to expand at the same rate as it did during the pandemic’s early years. However, it is clear that a considerable proportion of society has understood the value of digital health, and I don’t think we will ever go back to the pre-covid healthcare system

What are the other trends you see that show these changes in the digital health industry?

Kilo Health recently hosted the biggest Global Health Tech Forward 2021 conference. In it, health tech startups, big consulting firms such as EY, Accenture, and Pharma experts from Novartis, Roche, AstraZeneca, GSK together discussed the future of health tech. 

The speakers made it clear that digital health will bring a massive change to the world

First, we see a shift in the digital health space from wellness management to health management. In 2015, just 28% of applications were for health condition management. By 2020, this figure had risen to 47%. Almost half of that 47% are mental health, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease-related apps, according to the IQOVIA report

Consumers could embrace digital health solutions and use their money for the digital therapeutics products to prevent disease progression rather than deal with the issue once they are diagnosed and need the treatment. 

Why is this trend exciting? Because we can impact so many people and move from medicine, which is treatment-oriented, to disease prevention.

Are there any other trends to keep an eye on? 

We evolved from being able to order a kitchen towel on Amazon to being able to order online personalized pills and home blood test kits. It marks the rise of direct-to-consumer customized healthcare

And even more, not just prevention and treatment is being touched by digital health, but also digital diagnostics. Sensors that detect health conditions can be integrated into wearable devices, smartphones, or other portable external devices. 

I believe that these new digital health tools and services can co-exist with the traditional healthcare system, supporting doctors and enabling patients to continue care and self-monitoring outside the doctor’s office.

How does the co-found program you run with Kilo Health help bridge the gap between traditional medicine and digital tech?

We came up with a co-found initiative to attract entrepreneurs who want to build health tech startups fast using the advantages of the Kilo Health marketing and technology platform

We have tons of new business ideas developed and tested by our R&D team. When the initial business idea passes the R&D test phase, we would like to attract outstanding talent to help develop these ideas into successful products. 

The co-founder becomes our business partner and is responsible for deciding on business strategy, developing and launching the product, and building their team. We offer a well-paid role, support, shared knowledge, and exciting challenges. 

This way, a talented person has an opportunity to make increased revenue if the venture is successful, while the personal risks are much lower compared to building a startup and fundraising on your own.

Many people wanted to take on a new challenge in their careers and have already become co-founders. When we first announced this job opportunity on LinkedIn, we received 1,000+ applications in 3 weeks from all around the world. We are now wrapping up with a few finalists, and we hope to have a few new co-founders in Vilnius, Berlin, Stockholm, and Amsterdam. 

Some co-founders come to us with their business ideas which we are happy to explore together. Others apply without a business idea, which is fine because we have many ideas and are delighted to share them. 

And this approach is the biggest co-found program advantage. There are so many talented people out there who do not have a great business idea or enough time or funds to test it – and that’s where we can help.