Khosla Ventures leads Even’s $5M seed to give India the kind of healthcare their insurance doesn’t

The global pandemic highlighted inefficiencies and inconsistencies in healthcare systems around the world. Even co-founders Mayank Banerjee, Matilde Giglio and Alessandro Ialongo say nowhere is this more evident than in India, especially after the COVID death toll reached 4 million this week.

The Bangalore-based company received a fresh cash infusion of $5 million in seed funding in a round led by Khosla Ventures, with participation from Founders Fund, Lachy Groom and a group of individuals including Palo Alto Networks CEO Nikesh Arora, CRED CEO Kunal Shah, Zerodha founder Nithin Kamath and DST Global partner Tom Stafford.

Even, a healthcare membership company, aims to cover what most insurance companies in the country don’t, including making going to a primary care doctor as easy and accessible as it is in other countries.

Banerjee grew up in India and said the country is similar to the United States in that it has government-run and private hospitals. Where the two differ is that private health insurance is a relatively new concept for India, he told TechCrunch. He estimates that less than 5% of people have it, and even though people are paying for the insurance, it mainly covers accidents and emergencies.

This means that routine primary care consultations, testings and scans outside of that are not covered. And, the policies are so confusing that many people don’t realize they are not covered until it is too late. That has led to people asking doctors to admit them into the hospital so their bills will be covered, Ialongo added.

Banerjee and Giglio were running another startup together when they began to see how complicated health insurance policies were. About 50 million Indians fall below the poverty line each year, and many become unable to pay their healthcare bills, Banerjee said.

They began researching the insurance industry and talking with hospital executives about claims. They found that one of the biggest issues was incentive misalignment — hospitals overcharged and overtreated patients. Instead, Even is taking a similar approach to Kaiser Permanente in that the company will act as a service provider, and therefore, can drive down the cost of care.

Even became operational in February and launched in June. It is gearing up to launch in the fourth quarter of this year with more than 5,000 people on the waitlist so far. Its health membership product will cost around $200 per year for a person aged 18 to 35 and covers everything: unlimited consultations with primary care doctors, diagnostics and scans. The membership will also follow as the person ages, Ialongo said.

The founders intend to use the new funding to build out their operational team, product and integration with hospitals. They are already working with 100 hospitals and secured a partnership with Narayana Hospital to deliver more than 2,000 COVID vaccinations so far, and more in a second round.

“It is going to take a while to scale,” Banerjee said. “For us, in theory, as we get better pricing, we will end up being cheaper than others. We have goals to cover the people the government cannot and find ways to reduce the statistics.”

 

Fi’s smart collar adds sleep tracking for dogs

Conventional wisdom holds that one ought let sleeping does lie. But no one says you’re barred from tracking them while they do. New York-based smart collar maker Fi announced today that it’s adding sleep to the list of the device’s tracking.

The added feature uses the collar’s on-board motion sensing to monitor your best friend’s sleep during the day and night (and almost certainly leave you jealous about how much shut-eye they’re getting).

The information is presented on a timeline that should look familiar to anyone who has used the human equivalent. It also offers a live check-in to see what the dog is up to during the day while you’re at work (assuming you ever go back to the office).

Image Credits: Fi

The goal here is to offer up some sharable metrics about your pet that might point to underlying health problems, be it too much sleep, not enough or frequent trips to the water bowl in the middle of the night. Sudden changes also present potential red flags for the dog’s health.

“We are excited to move into holistic health tracking that empowers dog parents to take the best possible care of their pets,” founder and CEO Jonathan Bensamoun said in a release. “If your dog is tired, it can’t tell you, so Fi will. Fi can answer critical questions like, ‘Is my pet sleeping the right way?’ or ‘Did its activity levels decrease lately?’ long before more serious issues have time to develop.”

Fi raised $30 million back in February and is working to grow its reach in the U.S., including a recent distribution deal with mega-online pet supply seller, Chewy.

RxAll grabs $3.15M to scale its drug checking and counterfeiting tech across Africa

Research says that counterfeit medication is the cause of 1 million deaths per year. One-tenth of this number comes from Africa. Counterfeiting is hard to detect, investigate, quantify or stop. It is a global problem, with annual earnings from substandard drugs standing at over $100 billion.

Some technologies have helped deal with this menace; for instance, radio frequency identification, which works by assigning serial numbers to containers of each product. More modern approaches are being adopted these days, which is the case of RxAll, a startup using deep technology to provide quality medication to patients. Today, the U.S. and Nigerian-based company is announcing a financing round of $3.15 million to scale across existing markets and improve its technology.

RxAll was founded in 2016 by Adebayo Alonge, Amy Kao and Wei Lui. As students at Yale University, the trio came together to collectively solve a problem they faced firsthand, either personally or relating to a loved one.

In 2006, Alonge was a victim of fake pharmaceuticals and almost died after taking medicine that contained lethal levels of diazepam. He went into a coma for three weeks.

“I survived a 21-day coma in Nigeria 15 years ago. My co-founder, Amy, was hospitalized in Thailand after taking counterfeit medicine. And Wei lost a family member due to contaminated drugs,” Alonge told TechCrunch over a call.

Based on an R&D project at the college’s chemistry department, Alonge, Kao, and Lui began to analyze how to use machine learning and molecular spectroscopy for drug quality and material and quality assurance. The big idea was to address the problem of poor access to high-quality medicine across Africa first, then the rest of the world by building a marketplace for authenticating the sale of safe and reputable pharmaceuticals.

“After going through that, information out there further confirmed that what we experienced wasn’t a one-off situation. It’s an ongoing problem; 100,000 Africans die from this problem every year. One million people die across the world from this problem,” CEO Alonge continued. 

RxAll

Image Credits: RxAll

Its proprietary technology, RxScanner, is a handheld authenticator designed for patients to verify their drugs. According to the company, the RxScanner can identify the quality of prescription drugs in 20 seconds and display results in real-time via mobile apps.

RxAll curates high-quality sellers to its marketplace and provides them with the RxScanner. The machine learning model reads the sample spectra and send test results indicating the identity and the quality versus the reference. Sellers can be found by using the filter, and once the batch testing is done, the seller can push out the product into the marketplace and make it available for on-demand ordering, pick-up and deliveries as well.

The company makes money through commissions via transactions made on the marketplace. It also employs a subscription model with the RxScanner for individual and business customers.

Despite the company’s innovation, funding has been few and far between, as with many deep tech platforms with a significant focus on Africa. This is mainly due to the long cycle from research to commercialization of such ventures, so most VCs would instead get involved in the company’s later stages. So far, RxAll has stayed alive by winning grants and prize monies at competitions, with some equity financing from the likes of Africa-focused accelerator Founders Factory Africa.

Alonge sees RxAll as a pioneer in the world of deep tech mixed with health tech. He reckons there’s no direct competition with how the RxScanner operates, at least for the time being.

In terms of pharmaceutical e-commerce, yes that’s a different ballgame. In terms of drug testing, the only other solutions out there are laboratory equipment, and they can be expensive. But in the space we play in, the application area, the price point, the way we’re going about it using deep learning and mobile phones, there’s no comparison,” the CEO said.

However, technological edge alone does not sell a product or run a business. With RxAll, the key to scaling its tech, according to Alonge is making its products affordable for the market despite the costs incurred. That’s a challenge the company is taking strides to tackle in addition to making its technology easier for investors to understand.

RxAll

A part of the RxAll team

RxAll describes itself as a company playing in a global market. But as highlighted previously, a bulk of its customers and revenues come from Africa, especially Nigeria. It is currently serving ten cities and is actively validating the authenticity of drugs for 1 million patients while servicing over 2,000 hospitals and pharmacies in the West African nation. The company has plans to add an extra 14 cities before this year runs out, with a pan-African play set in motion for next year.

This financing round is a cumulation of a recently closed $2 million seed round (oversubscribed with $2.25 million) and a $900,000 pre-seed raised at the tail end of last year. Launch Africa led the round with participation from SOSV’s HAX and Keisuke Honda via his KSK fund.  

Speaking on the round, managing partner at Launch Africa Ventures Zachariah George said, “Launch Africa Ventures is excited to be co-leading this round of financing into a strong, experienced team at RxAll. We believe that RxAll is bridging a major gap in access to quality healthcare in Africa by pioneering a drug delivery platform to enable pharmacies and patients to buy authenticated medicines online. The ability to achieve favourable unit economics and multiple revenue streams by leveraging anti-counterfeiting mobile spectrometer technology, owning the entire drug delivery supply chain and their own payment wallet, provides a massive growth and scaling opportunity across Africa and beyond.”

Duncan Turner, general partner at SOSV and managing director of HAX added, “We’ve been incredibly impressed by RxAll’s ability to scale and meet customer demand. In just the last year, the team has brought together world-class hard tech and operational excellence to solve pressing issues for over a million Nigerians, and we couldn’t be more excited by their vision for the broader pharmaceutical market.”

So what’s next for RxAll? Alonge said the company’s next focus is on partnerships. According to him, they will be integral in RxAll’s push to scale its marketplace and scanner across Nigeria, Africa and the rest of the world.

“Asides from the hospitals, pharmacies and patients, we also sell to governments and country FDAs on the scanner side of things. So we’re looking to secure key partnerships globally, not just in Nigeria, but across Africa, Southeast Asia, North America and South America. Those are the key markets we’re looking to scale into.”

Lenskart valued at $2.5 billion following $220 million investment from Temasek and Falcon Edge Capital

Temasek and Falcon Edge Capital have led a $220 million investment in Indian omni-channel eyewear retailer Lenskart, valuing the Bangalore-based startup at $2.5 billion.

The new investment, which includes primary and secondary transactions, is part of a new round Lenskart unveiled a month ago when it raised $95 million from global investment fund KKR. Bay Capital and Chiratae also participated in the new round.

Peyush Bansal, founder and chief executive of Lenskart, said the profitable startup — which sells eyeglasses and contact lenses online and through about 750 physical retail outlets across the country — has seen a surge in sales of eyewear products in the pandemic year.

The startup, which counts SoftBank among its investors, sold about 8 million pairs of eyewear last year.

Now the firm, which claims to lead the market in India, plans to scale its operations in Southeast Asia and Middle East. The combined market opportunity for eyewear in these regions will be about $15 billion by 2025, the startup said, citing its own projections.

“We’re already the largest eyewear player in India and in the top 3 in Singapore. Lenskart envisions to have 50% of India wearing its specs over the next 5 years and become the #1 eyewear platform in Southeast Asia and Middle East over the next 18 to 24 months through organic and inorganic expansion,” he said.

According to industry estimates, more than half a billion people in India are affected by poor vision and need eyeglasses, but only 170 million of them have opted to get their vision corrected.

The firm also plans to deploy some capital to broaden its technology stack to create a more personalized experience for its customers. The startup, which recently launched ‘Lenskart Vision Fund,’ said it is also looking to invest in other younger firms that are operating in eyewear, eyecare and omnichannel retail spaces.

“We are thrilled to join Peyush and his team in this journey and look forward to working closely with Lenskart’s team in helping them scale their business internationally, especially in the MENA region” said Navroz Udwadia, co-founder and partner at Falcon Edge Capital, in a statement.

The new investment comes at a time when Indian startups are raising capital at a record pace and a handful of mature firms are beginning to explore the public markets. Zomato raised $1.3 billion last week in the country’s first consumer tech IPO in a decade.

Paytm, the pioneer digital payments startup, as well as its rival Mobikwik also filed for IPOs last week.

In an increasingly hot biotech market, protecting IP is key

After a record year for biotech investment in 2020 — during which the industry saw $28.5 billion invested across 1,073 deals — the market for new innovations remains strong. What’s more, these innovations are increasingly coming to market by way of early-stage startups and/or their scientific founders from academia.

In 2018, for instance, U.S. campuses conducted $79 billion worth of sponsored research, much of it thanks to the federal government. That number spiked amid the pandemic and could increase even more if President Biden’s infrastructure plan, which includes $180 billion to enhance R&D efforts, passes.

Since 1996, 14,000 startups have licensed technology out of those universities, and 67% of licenses were taken by startups or small companies. Meanwhile, the median step-up from seed to Series A is now 2x — higher than all other stages, suggesting that biotech startups are continuing to attract investment at earlier stages.

When it comes to protecting IP, early and consistent communication with investors, tech transfer offices and advisers can make all the difference.

For biotech startups and their founders, these headwinds signal immense promise. But initial funding is only one part of a long journey that (ideally) ends with bringing a product to market. Along the way, founders will need to procure additional investments, develop strategic partnerships and stave off competition. All of which starts by protecting the fundamental asset of any biotech company: its intellectual property.

Here are three key considerations for startups and founders as they get started.

Start with an option agreement

Most early-stage biotechnology starts in a university lab. Then, a disclosure is made with the university’s tech transfer office and a patent is filed with the hopes that the product can be taken out into the market (by, for instance, a new startup). More often than not, the vehicle to do this is a licensing agreement.

A licensing agreement is important because it shows investors the company has exclusive access to the technology in question. This in turn allows them to attract the investments required to truly grow the company: hire a team, build strategic partnerships and conduct additional studies.

But that doesn’t mean jumping right to a full-blown licensing agreement is the best way to start. An option agreement is often the better move.

An insurtech startup exposed thousands of sensitive insurance applications

A security lapse at insurance technology startup BackNine exposed hundreds of thousands of insurance applications after one of its cloud servers was left unprotected on the internet.

BackNine might be a company you’re not familiar with, but it might have processed your personal information if you applied for insurance in the past few years. The California-based company builds back-office software to help bigger insurance carriers sell and maintain life and disability insurance policies. It also offers a white-labeled quote web form for smaller or independent financial planners who sell insurance plans through their own websites.

But one of the company’s storage servers, hosted on Amazon’s cloud, was misconfigured to allow anyone access to the 711,000 files inside, including completed insurance applications that contain highly sensitive personal and medical information on the applicant and their family. It also contained images of individuals’ signatures as well as other internal BackNine files.

Of the documents reviewed, TechCrunch found contact information, like full names, addresses and phone numbers, but also Social Security numbers, medical diagnoses, medications taken and detailed completed questionnaires about an applicant’s health, past and present. Other files included lab and test results, such as blood work and electrocardiograms. Some applications also contained driver’s license numbers.

The exposed documents date back to 2015, and as recently as this month.

Because Amazon storage servers, known as buckets, are private by default, someone with control of the buckets must have changed its permissions to public. None of the data was encrypted.

Security researcher Bob Diachenko found the exposed storage bucket and emailed details of the lapse to the company in early June, but after receiving an initial response, he didn’t hear back and the bucket remained open.

We reached out to BackNine vice president Reid Tattersall, with whom Diachenko was in contact and ignored. TechCrunch, too, was ignored. But within minutes of providing Tattersall — and him only — with the name of the exposed bucket, the data was locked down. TechCrunch has yet to receive a response from Tattersall, or his father Mark, the company’s chief executive, who was copied on a later email.

TechCrunch asked Tattersall if the company has alerted local authorities per state data breach notification laws, or if the company has any plans to notify the affected individuals whose data was exposed. We did not receive an answer. Companies can face stiff financial and civil penalties for failing to disclose a cybersecurity incident.

BackNine works with some of America’s largest insurance carriers. Many of the insurance applications found in the exposed bucket were for AIG, TransAmerica, John Hancock, Lincoln Financial Group and Prudential. When reached prior to publication, spokespeople for the insurance giants did not comment.

Read more:

YuLife nabs $70M at a $346M valuation for its gamified, wellness-oriented approach to life insurance

Life insurance — financial protection you buy against your death — may not read like the liveliest of industries on paper. But a life insurance startup that believes it can turn that stigma around, by infusing the concept with gamification and a push towards wellness and health — and change the life insurance industry in the process — is today announcing significant funding, a sign of the traction it’s getting for its big ideas.

YuLife, a London startup that has built a new kind of life insurance concept — it incentivizes and rewards users to focus on their physical and mental health through a gamified interface — has raised $70 million in what is, to date, one of the largest Series B’s raised by an insurtech startup in Europe.

Led by Target Global, the round also included Eurazeo, Latitude and previous backers Creandum, Notion Capital, Anthemis, MMC Ventures, and OurCrowd. Sammy Rubin, YuLife’s CEO and founder, confirmed that the round values YuLife at $346 million (£250 million).

The company will be using the funding to continue expanding its business, build more products on its platform, and importantly continue to invest in the technology that it uses to run its service and determine how its policies should run.

“Our insurance is about helping people live healthier and longer lives,” Rubin said in an interview. “If we can help to reduce claims while incentivizing people to do that, it’s a win-win.” But it’s about more than that, he added. “We are building a new type of risk model where we are able to create new actuarial tables, which have not been updated in 200 years. Actually, I think smoker rates and how they’ve changed was the last update. So, most will just look at your age and whether you are a smoker and that’s it.”

YuLife is currently active only in the UK and is only sold directly to organizations, who in turn provide it to their employees. That business currently — which also includes income protection and critical illness cover — provides $15 billion of coverage and has seen 10x growth in the last year — a bumper one for life insurance policies, possibly for the worst reasons (hello, pandemic; goodbye, predicting what the future might look like). Customers include Capital One, Co-op, Curve, Havas Media, Severn Trent, and Sodexo.

That $15 billion is just a drop in the bucket in an industry that is currently estimated to be worth some $2.2 trillion.

The company got its start on the back of a persistent problem that Rubin experienced at his previous insurance startup PruProtect (which is now called Vitality Life): “Usually insurance benefits just sit on shelf and never get used,” he said. YuLife set out to change that by making the policy “all about engagement.”

The app — built by veterans of the gaming industry — is designed around the concept of different environments, currently covering forest, ocean, desert and mountains, which YuLife collectively terms its “Yuniverse.” (This incidentally also became a template for the company’s HQ design in London.)

Within each of these environments, users are encouraged to walk, cycle, meditate and do other activities to get around their environments in a healthy way, while at the same time being able to compare their progress against other co-workers. There is a degree of personalization in everyone’s experience, in that one person leaning into one activity over another seems to produce different subsequent scenarios.

Along with this, users are offered discounts on third-party products to further engage with the game within YuLife, which could include a subscription to meditation app Calm, FitBit and Garmin devices, and more.

As users make their ways through their worlds, they get rewards, in the form of something called YuCoins. The YuCoins can in turn be used to redeem vouchers from the likes of Amazon and Asos to buy things… consumerism being another way to improve happiness for some of us.

All of this sums up as more than just a policy aimed at giving people peace of mind for their families should they depart this world.

“Long term, it’s not just about health, it’s about lifestyle,” Rubin said. It’s also about YuLife’s business: the various products that it offers are built around an affiliate model, so there is a business interest for the company around offering and seeing items purchased and redeemed. However, this is not essential to using the app as a policy holder. The win-win theme runs strong, but so too does the fact that YuLife is taking a different approach altogether, in an industry where a lot of the “disruption” has up to now been more about how to buy life insurance, rather than reassessing what life insurance actually is. (For others in the space, see DeadHappy, BIMA, and the Jay-Z backed Ethos.)

“YuLife is redefining life insurance, using the most innovative technologies to transform a largely traditional industry,” said Ben Kaminski, partner, Target Global, in a statement. “With health and wellbeing increasingly thrust into the limelight in the wake of Covid-19, YuLife is fundamentally changing insurance by incentivizing people to lead healthier lifestyles. YuLife is ideally positioned to build on its tenfold growth during the pandemic and lead the way in helping its clients respond to the challenges posed by an ever-changing working environment. We are very proud to partner with YuLife on its journey of becoming a global leader in life insurance.”

NewView Capital leads $22.3M Series B in Australian telehealth platform Eucalyptus

Telehealth platform Eucalyptus raised a $22.3 million Series B round of funding to build a digital health portfolio for primary care in Australia.

NewView Capital led the round with participation from existing investors Blackbird Ventures and W23, and new investor AirTree Ventures. As part of the investment, Ravi Viswanathan, NewView founder and managing partner, will be joining the Eucalyptus board.

The new round gives the Sydney-based company a total of $32.8 million raised since it was founded in 2019 by Tim Doyle, Benny Kleist, Alexey Mitko and Charlie Gearside.

Australia’s healthcare system is a two-payer model, where most of the care is paid for by the government, and there is a smaller insurance coverage that is owned by individuals. Eucalyptus fits into these models as a private-pay option selling directly to consumers. In some cases, the company is able to charge lower copays for care than the average $25 per doctor visit, Doyle told TechCrunch.

He touts the company as the “largest vertically integrated telehealth platform in Australia,” serving more than 200,000 patients across four demographic-focused brands: contraception and fertility, skincare, men’s health and sexual wellness. Each brand has its own core platform of healthcare providers, patient data repository, remote monitoring tools and partnerships with pathology labs and pharmacies.

All of that results in a higher touch and higher quality relationship between doctor and patient, Doyle said.

“We are seeing an opportunity to shorten the amount of time between identification of a condition and diagnosis,” he added. “We also want to go more in-depth into diabetes, heart conditions and mental health. People are dropping out of diabetes and mental care because there are not enough touch points that are easy to use. If we can build a hub, it will make it easier to treat those conditions.”

In addition to product development, the new funding enables Eucalyptus to build toward being a major player in the telehealth industry. The company will introduce new brands in the next year around chronic care like behavioral health, weight management and diabetes.

Eucalyptus grew its revenue between 200% to 300% year over year since 2019, Doyle said. This is not unlike other startups in the digital health sector, where 2020 saw another record year for venture capital investment. He expects similar growth in 2021, including adding about 20 employees to be over 100 by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Doyle said he is excited to work with NewView, especially with Viswanathan and associate Christina Fa, who said Eucalyptus is proving that Australia can lead in digital healthcare.

“The team is impressive in terms of clarity of vision and execution, especially in the way they brought in people to manage the brands,” she told TechCrunch. “It is unique being based in Australia where they don’t have the Teledocs and other digital health companies. Instead, Eucalyptus had to build all of that in-house and do the hard work upfront. In addition, they curated a network of health providers and four brands, each with their own personalities that can be fully vertically integrated and own the customer journey.”

 

Amazon is now selling its own Covid-19 test kits for $39.99 in the U.S.

Amazon announced this morning it would begin to sell its own brand of Covid-19 at-home tests to Amazon shoppers in the U.S. The test retails for $39.99 on the Amazon.com website and is available to any U.S. customer without a prescription. The Covid-19 PCR collection kit is shipped to the customer’s home via Amazon Prime, offering everything needed to perform a nasal swab. Customers will then return the collection tube with the swab inside via the included return box. Amazon says it will be able to provide results within 24 hours of receiving the sample at its lab.

The collection kit will be processed by Amazon’s in-house laboratory, which the company created during the pandemic as part of its in-house Covid-19 testing program for its frontline workers. To date, Amazon’s labs in the U.S. and U.K. have processed millions of tests from over 750,000 of its employees, the company says. With the new at-home kit, Amazon is expanding its U.S. lab’s capabilities to its retail shoppers.

Amazon says it’s using the more accurate PT-PCR method, which means you will have to wait for the lab to process your results. It also notes the kits have received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Image Credits: Amazon

According to the Amazon.com listing for the new Amazon COVID-19 Test Collection Kit DTC, the kit will includes the swab, a collection tube with saline, a plastic bag with an absorbent pad, and the return box with shipping label. The return shipping is handled by UPS at no additional charge to the customer, and is sent to Amazon’s CAP accredited and CLIA-certified lab in Hebron, Kentucky. 

The kit additionally includes instructions on how to get your results via Amazon’s secure website, AmazonDx.com, and access to documents needed for testing verification. These tests will meet any requirements for testing when traveling within the US (except Hawaii), and when traveling from the U.S. to many international locations, Amazon says. And the kits are FSA and HSA eligible.

“Even as Covid-19 vaccinations continue, widespread access to reliable and affordable Covid-19 testing remains a critical tool in the fight against the spread of the virus, said Cem Sibay, the Amazon VP heading the company’s Covid-19 testing work. “The Amazon collection kit offers customers the convenience they’ve come to expect from Amazon.com by providing access to COVID-19 testing whenever and wherever they need it. The test collection kit provides highly accurate and timely results, helping customers feel more confident as they safely return to travel, work, college, and daily life,” Sibay added.

Healthcare data sharing: How to improve patient care in the future

Far too often, we see medical mixups and even deaths caused by interoperability obstacles in our healthcare system. In these situations, patients in critical conditions cannot speak to their past medical history in an emergency. Upon their recovery but through no fault of their healthcare providers, they are left footing a massive medical bill or facing other severe financial repercussions. Lack of access to data not only causes these terrible outcomes — it’s also part of the reason why our healthcare costs are nearly 18% of the GDP and growing.

Among the many reasons why healthcare data isn’t more digitally accessible is a very simple one: fear that it will be misused. Patients are scared their data will be used against them. This could happen in a number of ways, the most obvious being the threat that insurance companies will use health data to deny people coverage or that employers will use the data to exclude people when making hiring decisions. That’s why the rules and regulations surrounding health data privacy are so stringent.

So, how can investors advance (and capitalize on) tech development around this issue and help eradicate this fear?

Investors, take note

We know funding for companies in healthcare and digital health has not been a problem — but profitability has. Many of these companies are still struggling financially under a fee-for-service business as required by most insurance companies, Medicaid and Medicare. There are grave inefficiencies in the fee-for-service system: It creates the wrong alignment of interests; doesn’t favor the consumer; is complicated by CPT codes (the numerical codes used to identify medical services and procedures), high copayments and deductibles; and is riddled by waste and abuse.

If the investor community bets on companies that continue to embrace a model that many agree is broken, how can we expect outsized returns?

If the investor community bets on companies that continue to embrace a model that many agree is broken, how can we expect outsized returns? To truly lower costs and reduce inefficiencies, we have to abandon the existing structure and put the customer first.

The key here is to look at companies that are truly trying to solve not just one piece of this puzzle, but those that are attempting to create an end-to-end solution that connects the employer, member, hospital, specialists, pharmaceutical companies, primary care doctors and claims adjusters, powered by digital health data — all while making it more affordable for the consumer.

Keep an eye out for those that are moving away from the fee-for-service structure and focused on employer-driven systems. Employers are properly aligned with patients, as bad health outcomes and financial stress both negatively impact productivity. Employers are also focused on KPIs in their business; they’re used to measuring and tracking results, making them great candidates for data-focused healthcare companies.

Most importantly, in a labor market where companies are clamoring to attract employees, employers will have to work with healthcare technology companies that put a premium on data security because their current and potential employees will demand it.

Innovation over fear

The whole future of healthcare is going to focus on the ability to securely share data. To empower providers and patients to take control of their healthcare journey, we need to build a system of trust that allows the efficient flow of personal healthcare information from stakeholder to stakeholder.

Today, with the way HIPAA works and the requirement to keep data private, that trust has to be in the hands of a provider. Imagine if your primary care physician was the quarterback of your entire healthcare journey. Simply by handling your preventative care, they have a more complete picture.

Even better, preventative care is a major focus when it comes to reducing healthcare costs. If you put the data in the hands of a trusted entity and ensure that each person has access to their full medical history, people are much more likely to grant access at times of need.

The good news? There’s hope

The future is very bright because of technology. The challenge is being able to figure out meaningful ways to utilize and integrate it. Right now, we have a system of incumbency that is disincentivized to embrace new technologies.

Telehealth is a perfect example of how the system can meaningfully change. It took a global pandemic to really be able to break through to a point where telehealth was fully embraced (and covered by insurance). Now, health insurers such as Anthem are actively trying to improve care coordination and interoperability.

Three critical technologies not used in healthcare today could be instrumental in bringing about this change. Ideally, all three will align to usher in a new era of healthcare:

Healthcare telemetry 2.0: Collection of health data on cellular devices

Through our use of social apps and e-commerce platforms on our mobile devices, people have already accepted that our cell phones are constantly collecting data on us and willingly consent to this. Sometimes this function is quite helpful — just look at court cases where detailed location data have provided alibis to suspects.

Anybody with a cell phone is carrying a medical device that counts our steps, tracks our screen actions and is attuned to us as users. So why are we not leveraging this function for optimized care — or at the very least trying to get medical insights out of our device use data?

In the future, the number of times one checks their mobile calendar in a day could be an indicator of early-onset Alzheimer’s in people of a particular age group, as one example. Technologists must continue to push the boundaries of how the computing power in our pockets and purses is used to help us, especially with so much of the groundwork already laid.

Privacy 2.0: Application of blockchain to protect medical information

In just the past six months, we have seen bad actors capitalizing on digital risk to cripple entire industries through data breaches. The Colonial Pipeline hack effectively shuttered gas distribution to a massive portion of the U.S. in a matter of hours. With healthcare data, stewards of the system need to be even more careful. It will be tricky to regulate the privacy and protection of healthcare data, but blockchain technology has proven to be an effective measure in maintaining trust between consumers and data stewards.

Portability 2.0: Ability to securely share information with approved parties

For many people with life-threatening conditions, the simple act of wearing a medical bracelet can make a difference between life and death — but at this point, medical bracelets should be obsolete. Imagine the patient benefits that could come from a next-generation medical “bracelet” that carries a patient’s entire genome, tumor profiles, long-term heart rate trends and more, and can be uploaded instantly in an emergency situation.

Right now, the absence of health record portability creates redundancies that are both expensive and harmful to patients. Doctors spend time and resources rescanning patients, while patients suffer from repeated (and sometimes risky) diagnostics, like blood draws and radiation. Nobody has cracked the code on portability, but effective solutions must navigate tricky regulatory waters while solving for standardization across data sets.

We are already seeing these technologies used in other industries. Apple and Google have turned phones into remote monitoring devices that can easily collect all types of health telemetry data. Cryptocurrency represents billions of dollars in transactions with no breach of trust in various coin exchanges. Uber and Lyft have changed the way we hire, use and pay for transportation. Applying the core technologies used in each of these examples would provide a means for disrupting the current challenges in healthcare. It’s only a matter of time.

History has proven that with innovation, investment and technology, the world has become a dramatically better place. As long as rules and regulations stay out of the way, you can expect that technology will allow us to make enormous leaps forward in the next decade.

Making data secure and meaningful, along with personalized medicine, holds the promise to reduce long-term healthcare costs in the U.S. while improving healthcare outcomes.