Decentralization, Digitization of Healthcare and Aging in Place
iGan Partners and its portfolio companies have been active on the frontlines and behind the scenes in the battle against Covid-19. As the impact of this epidemic is being felt globally – there will be profound and lasting changes in the way healthcare is delivered for young and old. We have witnessed an incredible acceleration of key trends that iGan has been investing in since 2015.
Prior to Covid-19, there has been a slow decentralization of healthcare out of hospitals into clinics and out of clinics into communities. Some patients were being monitored remotely or diagnosed and treated remotely but in general, healthcare has been slow to digitize and adopt many of these new technologies. Covid-19 has provided a massive accelerant. One obvious example is the opening up of fee codes for virtual care and the sudden embraced of a variety of digital platforms for care delivery.
Fortunately, the digitization of healthcare is accelerating due to government policies, consumer preference, venture capital, innovation, and entrepreneurship in digital health. As a result, many new technologies are coming to market and care can be provided closer to patients resulting in better access, improved outcomes, and lower costs.
During this pandemic, ~70% of Canadian patient visits were held virtually for the safety and convenience of patients and doctors. Telemedicine and the digitization of healthcare have significantly reduced transmission risk and the pressure on hospitals and clinics. This shift has also created lucrative investment opportunities in: remote monitoring; patient data exchanges; clinical decision support; point-of-care diagnostics; and other remote services.
Many deficiencies in our healthcare (and health tech) infrastructure have been exposed during Covid-19 and these are creating new investment opportunities. For example, technologies focused on: interoperability, billing (to enable payments for services from multiple providers), secure exchanges for patient data, remote diagnostics, and population health systems. Novel technologies like rapid diagnostics, contact tracing, therapeutics and vaccines will be necessary to restart the economy and return to a new normal.
Healthcare spending is increasing to fund the development and deployment of these and other new services that largely involve diagnosing, treating, and keeping patients in-home or as close to home as possible including schools, pharmacies, workplaces, etc. iGan has been investing in technologies that enable the local delivery of these services. Pharmacies, for example, will start testing and vaccinating and their growing network of clinics will play expanded roles in managing patients quickly and cost-effectively. Pharmacists can do a lot of what GPs do – they just haven’t been provided with the technology, infrastructure, or authority, but Covid-19 is also changing this. Care will be channeled, and patients triaged as a response to their health issues and these new entrants will rely on data, AI, bots, personal health records, and automation to improve outcomes and leverage the clinical workforce, in and out of hospitals and clinics. iGan is also working with some of the largest pharmacy chains and new entrants to enable this.
Similarly, we are all aware of the issues of aging populations and the strain this puts on caregivers and healthcare facilities. The cost of aging populations risk crippling the budgets of many G20 economies – fortunately, many of the same health technologies and innovations that are now being deployed post-Covid-19 will help meet the increased demand for care of aging populations.
In Canada, our existing healthcare infrastructure is ill-suited for the coming wave of “boomers”. The multitude of morbidities and disabilities that are a feature of aging pose significant challenges to families and health systems. We are investing in ‘aging in place’ – i.e. providing tools and technologies to enable aging Canadians to live independently for longer and our investment thesis is to help the enable boomers to live safely, comfortably, and independently in their own home or in ‘low-acuity’ care settings to reduce the economic burden of care and the strain on health systems. Likewise, iGan is working with some of the largest long-term care providers to find and invest in such solutions.