Outcome’s Digital Health Practice Takeaways from MassBio’s Life Science Entrepreneurs Impact Summit

By: Thom Busby and Oded Ben-Joseph

The Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, MassBio, held their inaugural Digital Health Impact summit, ushering in the recognition that digital technology and life sciences are irrevocably conjoined. Traditional life science trade groups have made the strategic decision to include their tech-based counterparts, perhaps out of fear of becoming obsolete. We at Outcome Capital have witnessed this shift in both capital market and M&A value drivers.

Speakers at the event spanned the life science/healthcare/technology continuum, but the message was clear and consistent throughout: digital health is not a trend, and any luddites averse to digital technologies impacting life sciences value creation will struggle for relevance (i.e. success) in an increasingly digitized industry.

Though many thought-provoking topics were shared, the following themes and quotes stood out:

  1.   Physician adoption of digital technology will not only enable better clinical decisions via access to more reliable data but will also provide a broader context of the patient’s history, and in turn allow for more meaningful patient/physician interactions and stronger relationships.
  2.   Digital health used to be only an athletic or lifestyle option, now it’s a clinical imperative.
  3.   Consumer health and clinical health companies (digital or not) draw from very different investor pools. Startups need to recognize this and act accordingly.
  4.   Healthcare cybersecurity presents a significant opportunity, necessity and vulnerability, and there are not enough startups going after this space.
  5.   Key Opportunities in digital health:
    • Early diagnostics
    • Drug discovery and predictive digital biomarkers
    • Companion diagnostics
    • Proving true clinical value to physicians and patients, and in that order
  1.   Digitized life science assets will be more precise and reliable and will lead to better outcomes, but we shouldn’t assume they will be cheaper.
  2.   EHR is no longer the center of the healthcare universe. Rather, its apps/software that can leverage EHR information for better clinical outcomes that will win the day.
  3.   “My doctor didn’t know what to do with my Apple Watch health data.” Data plays need to result in true operational and/or clinical impacts to the healthcare system. More data does not necessarily correspond to more value. In fact, the opposite is often true; inundating physicians with irrelevant data is certain to miss the mark.
  4.   Sensors are now not only small enough to be worn without hindrance, but also sensitive enough to produce clinical grade data. This technological development opens the door for innovative companies to identify and monitor previously unobservable patient metrics. Also, it allows companies to make progress where others have failed due to inadequate data or size limitations.

While life science-targeted digital technologies may still arguably hold more promise than impact at this juncture, the velocity and influence of innovation is striking. Moreover, the opportunities for digital technology to complement, enhance and in some cases displace existing solutions presents a unique opportunity for life science entrepreneurs to upend traditional life science market dynamics for their (and their shareholders’) benefit.

At Outcome’s digital health practice, we strive to identify technologies capable of clearly improving clinical outcomes, or quickly and capital-efficiently integrating into hospital workflows to reduce costs. Our recommendation for entrepreneurs is to keep these insights in mind and focus on developing companies that achieve these goals. Digital technologies’ impact has already been felt in the life sciences industry, from drug development to post-treatment monitoring. The challenge related to value creation shifts from overcoming technological limitations, to carefully constructing corporate strategies that result in well-informed and clinically-relevant products and services.

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