Erika Lozano, Operations & Research Manager at MassChallenge HealthTech
Over the last 5 years, MassChallenge HealthTech has been a pillar in the evolution and emergence of health trends that shape the way digital health is defined. This helps health systems to shift priorities - moving away from prescriptive care to more equitable and personalized care, ultimately reflected in our partners' continuous interest in health equity and behavioral health solutions. These solutions remain popular as we continue to move towards a patient centric future, while others such as climate influence health concerns, community-based tools, and data integration/interoperability have started to gain traction. Understanding these health trends has strengthened MassChallenge’s ability to support entrepreneurs with novel solutions by connecting them to corporate partners that have a clear definition of the problem that they want to solve.
In the last two years, behavioral health and health equity solutions have been popular among MassChallenge partners yielding engagements with startups like Marigold Health(2020 HealthTech Finalist).Marigold Health’s anonymous social network eliminates barriers to mental health care, by enabling patients to access care while mitigating stigma and gives providers real time data on patient needs. Behavioral health solutions that address access to care have consistently piqued the interest of partners. Additionally,the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the importance of addressing the needs of underserved populations, caregivers, and frontline workers. Startups such as Butterflly Health (2021 HealthTech Finalist), a behavioral health app that takes patients intersectional identity into consideration as part of their care delivery plan, and Kinto (2021 HealthTech Finalist), a tech-enabled coaching service that promotes the wellbeing of caregivers, showcase how innovation is changing the way we define behavioral health and care. An evolution of technologies is also on the horizon with more corporate partners looking for technologies that empower users to access and monitor personalized care remotely (i.e., mobile applications) – allowing the patient to become an expert of their own health.
Health Equity has seen a similar trajectory. Our partners are looking to define the term with more specificity and ultimately seeking innovations that offer value beyond the scope of social impact. In 2020, MassChallenge identified health equity solutions that addressed any of the following: needs of underserved populations, racial disparities, and/or access to care. This along with the growing demand for foundationally equitable solutions from our partners allowed MassChallenge to source strategically for more targeted focus areas like access to testing, vaccines, and diagnostics solutions striving to achieve equity in quality of care. These strategic efforts yielded successful outcomes with more than 80% of 2021’s finalist solution addressing at least one of the health equity focus areas.
Interest in Emerging Solutions
MassChallenge HealthTech continues to see startup solutions in mental and behavioral health and health equity increase, new and emerging solutions are of interest to the innovation teams we work with. Three key areas of new interest are climate change and health, community-based tools, and data integration and interoperability.
While our innovation partners are actively working in the climate change and health spaces, sourcing startup for solutions is relatively new. As climate change continues to affect the health of communities through extreme temperatures, flooding, and wildfires, we anticipate the need for solutions to address these challenges directly to increase. Solutions in this arenatie into the health equity solutions stakeholders are looking for because underserved communities in rural or urban areas are more likely to have their health affected by climate change.
Lizbeth Belfield, Senior Partnership Account Manager at MassChallenge HealthTech
Another area where our innovation partners are seeking startup solutions is community-based tools. What we mean by community-based-tools are specific platforms or technologies that serve communities like the blind and underserved to increase community resilience, predict infection rates, or offer solutions that mitigate violence. There has been a strong increase in the requests for access to care, care coordination, and solutions for underserved communities that help large organizations understand their constituents in new ways is a rising priority.
The pandemic not only highlighted disparities but strained and depleted essential based resources that elevate the health and wellbeing of local communities. Payors and providers recognize the stress and are looking for solutions at the community level to help the groups they work with.
Just like Health Equity, data integration and interoperability are becoming more targeted and defined in healthtech. Also known as ‘care coordination’ and ‘point solution integration’, interoperability is essential when working with new solutions, platforms, wearables, and technology. We’ve found that most organizations working to solve these challenges stress the importance of working with startups to not only create viable solutions to healthcare needs, but also for these solutions to integrate into their current systems.
With integration comes the need for open data sets and health data exchange in safe, digestible formats--an encompassing digital transformation for the healthcare industry. So much burden is placed on clinicians or patients to integrate workflows and existing solutions, and there is a huge need for data harmonization across platforms. MassChallenge HealthTech has several startups in the new 2022 cohort, announced today [LINK], tackling these issues including OMNY Health, a startup connecting patients, providers, and life sciences companies through data and insights to transform healthcare and Patientory, a startup empowering patients and healthcare providers with insights to improve population health through data sharing using blockchain tech.
As our innovation partners look for solutions in new industries and emerging startups in areas like climate change and health, their comfort, capacity, and willingness to work with earlier stage startups also must increase. The more emergent a solution, the earlier stage the startup might be. If a healthcare organization doesn’t have the capacity or resources to partner with an early-stage team, they might have to reset expectations and sacrifice cutting edge solutions.
This understanding of popular and emerging trends is creating intentional partnerships with corporate innovators and entrepreneurs who are both leading the conversation and those who have historically been left out. At MassChallenge, we will forge the kinetic intersections between startups and health systems, and work towards a collaborative future where our practice demonstrates we understand that healthy environments generate healthy people.
MassChallenge is the global network for innovators. Headquartered in the United States with seven locations worldwide, MassChallenge equips bold entrepreneurs to disrupt the status quo and to create meaningful change. Since launching in 2009, more than 2,900 MassChallenge alumni have raised $8.6B in funding, generated $3.6B in revenue, and created more than 186,000 total jobs. Learn more about MassChallenge at masschallenge.org.