The global digital health market continues its boom: with spectacular growth, it could reach $ 660bn by 2025. Investors have poured an unprecedented amount of money into healthcare in 2020, reaching a record-setting year for digital health. Corporate, venture and even government funding had grown as startups, companies and institutions entered this new era of digital adoption.
And, even if this adoption sometimes clashes with the lack of the cultural shift in healthcare, the change is irreversible: the prospects for the future are looking grand for digital health and all the fishes that are swimming in these waters. A plethora of health startups have risen and continued to rise.
In order to keep track of the changes and the market itself, The Medical Futurist team has decided to put the most important companies onto one giant infographic: these are the TOP100 digital health companies in 2021.
Just like last year, we must emphasize that we do not accept any sponsorship or financial support. We do not have any interest or connection in any of the companies listed in the infographic either. Additionally, grouping is not done in any particular order. Rather, companies are grouped according to the technological trend they belong to the most.
Selection criteria and methodology
Our analyses are based on discussions we have with actors across the digital health landscape. From startups through government authorities to prominent innovators, we determined the major features that a company venturing into digital health must possess, to hold potential in the field.
The key values we suggest are as follows:
- Mindset for innovation
- Truly disruptive technology
- Viable business model
- Clear dedication to digital health
Changes compared to 2020
Obviously, there have been some changes since we made this list last year. Some were left out, others joined the elites, and in one case, two participants (namely Ginger and Headspace) have merged and got stronger. Let’s see!
Misfit – They are not the company they used to be. Misfit had a series of wearables made for women.
Nima – It seems that it takes more than a bite to analyse the gluten- or peanut content of your food. We wrote about Nima plenty of times and even tested their gluten- and peanut sensors, but the company hasn’t released anything since 2018, and there’s apparently also a shortage in testing capsules since the company was sold in 2020.
Veritas Genetics – Veritas founder George Church is one of the world’s leading geneticists, but recently the company in the U.S. has moved closer to the at-home testing market with its COVID-testing products, while its international branch (along with the founder) moved to Barcelona and puts more focus on genomics.
Maven – Featured in the remote care section, the Maven Project currently helps more than 100 clinics in 13 states. Their service gained ground during the pandemic, but we see their initial bust of creativity fading.
Veebot – A few years ago we wrote about Veebot when we collected the most exciting tasks robots could do in hospitals. Veebot created a robot that could draw blood that proved to be faster and even more effective than a human in the case of difficulties. However, we hadn’t heard from the company ever since, and can only hope they’ll be back.
EchoNous – The company has been producing intelligent tools for healthcare since 2016, and received FDA approval of its Kosmos platform, a handheld, A.I.-led ultrasound for the clinical assessment of the heart, lungs and abdomen.
PatchAI – A cognitive platform focusing on patient engagement. The platform is embedding an intelligent virtual assistant with conversational frameworks for patient engagement and real-time data collection. It bridges patients and doctors during clinical trials.
SmartTab – A drug delivery company that’s based upon a platform technology and oral ingestible capsules. As Founder/CEO Robert Niichel told us in an interview “when we deliver the drugs through SmartTab, we can add in monitoring systems very easily, we can communicate wirelessly and then all of those results get fed into a large database where you can then apply artificial intelligence algorithms.”
AtomLimbs – The San Francisco-based company is building Human Body 2.0, a breakthrough in A.I. and human-machine interface. The world’s first mind-controlled artificial arm uses the electrical signals of the user’s thoughts through the nervous system and receives these with the Atom Circle, a sensor worn as a cuff that detects the body’s nerve signals and sends them to the Atom Touch arm.
Vocalis Health – Artificial intelligence to analyze voice and identify illnesses. They focus on vocal biomarkers for various voice-indicating ailments including chronic respiratory and cardiac conditions, as well as depression.
Lumen – Developing a more flexible metabolism helps you switch between metabolising carbs and fats effectively so as to achieve your dietary goals. It can improve your insulin sensitivity, stabilise your blood glucose level and burn more fat for energy. Lumen aims to support this for everyone (I’ve tested the device, check out the results here).
Ginger+Headspace = Headspace Health. The two companies, on-demand mental healthcare platform Giger, and leading meditation app Headspace merge into one giant holding that is valued at $3 billion with over 800 employees.
3 examples to show digital health excellence
Just like last year, we picked three companies from the TOP100 that stand out for many reasons. One of the nicest surprises came to me this year when I ditched my Fitbit and moved over (based on my readers’ recommendations) to Withings Scanwatch.
I also want to emphasise how much I believe in the coming future of digital pills: etectRX aims to advance patient medication adherence and improve ingestion tracking technology. And last but not least we need to talk about VR: this technology can do a lot and is already used extensively in pain management. AppliedVR has two of such opioid-sparing treatments, and will definitely do more in the future.
It took me a while to let myself be convinced of buying a Withings Scanwatch, but the experiment went so well I have even bought one for my wife! French company Withings produces a range of clinically-tested smart healthcare devices and trackers, such as fitness trackers and watches, including developing exciting tech devices like the world’s first wi-fi scale. Moreover, Withings has built the largest ecosystem of connected health devices with 45 technical patents and a portfolio that monitors more than 20 vital health parameters.
The Medical Futurist team reviewed several Withings devices including the Scanwatch and the BPM Core, a blood pressure monitor with ECG and a digital stethoscope to detect cardiovascular conditions like atrial fibrillation and valvular heart disease.
Digital health company etectRx aims to advance patient medication adherence and improve ingestion tracking technology. The company’s flagship product, the ID-Cap System is an ingestible event marker: a gelatin capsule with an ingestible sensor that transmits signals to a wearable reader, which sends the data to a smartphone-based app and secure cloud-based server to enable reliable tracking of ingestion events.
In an interview, the company’s CEO Harry Travis explained to us how their digital pill works in real life. “EtectRx’s ID-Cap System allows patients to track how they take their medication and provide real-time confirmation of medication ingestion, right from the comfort of their homes. This allows researchers to provide remote, real-time patient monitoring during clinical trials.” He also talked about how COVID-19 led to an increased interest in the company’s products.
The CEO confirmed his belief in the company. “We are confident that smart pills are here to stay, and etectRx will play an integral role in shaping the new future of digital pills.”
VR today is at the forefront of digital pain management. Virtual reality-based therapeutic treatments that address the complexity of chronic pain are on the rise. As the first company to make virtual reality widely available in clinical care, AppliedVR leads this pack. Their software was among the first that helped pain management during childbirth, and in 2020 the company became one of the first virtual reality (VR) digital therapeutics to get FDA’s breakthrough designation to treat conditions related to chronic pain.
VR as a therapeutic modality has a real role to play across the medical spectrum. In an interview for The Medical Futurist AppliedVR CEO Josh Stack explained the company’s ambitions towards establishing a VR pharmacy in every home: “We will look to quickly expand our label to other chronic pain areas such as fibromyalgia, diabetic neuropathy, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. More broadly, we are establishing the clinical and commercial pathway for broad-based adoption of VRx in the homes of patients.”
Conclusion – The State of Digital Health in2021
The rise of investments into the sectors obviously have a direct effect on the output – but it’s a double-edged sword. It gives space for long-term innovation; but it also adds a hype factor to the field that can be devastating.
With such a massive amount of money available for digital health companies, businesses have multiple options on how to spend it. They can hire outstanding managers and put the investment into research, broadening the scope and gaining markets. Or, with the best will, they focus on markets, buy competitors and try to get big before some other company will.
No matter what they do, it will affect our lives directly.
While the digital health business world changes quickly, we hope that this curated list that we update annually can serve as a platform of relevant and positive examples for emerging companies; and set the stage for others that want to enter the digital health market.
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