Digital Health, MedTech – I’m getting ever more excited by the new businesses that I’m seeing in the healthcare sector. Whilst the introduction of new drugs largely remains with established companies, there’s a proliferation of new technology and software, promoted by some really smart entrepreneurs, that will bring real benefits to all of us.
MedTech vs Digital Health
The most visible are physical devices, which have acquired a class label of MedTech. Then there’s already a vast number of patient-centric apps, covering everything from lifestyle improvement to self-management of medical care. And behind the scenes, there are new apps and software tools for professional use in hospitals and care homes – classed as “Digital Health” – destined to really improve patient outcomes and healthcare sector efficiency. Efficiency is really important, as ever-increasing demands on healthcare both push up costs and create issues of logistical availability.
First hand experience
I’ve been excited to have some small involvement in and learn more at first hand about some great healthcare-related projects. One is looking to expand international markets for a very smart UK business, and another searching for the best global sector investment opportunities for a wealth fund. The most recent ones, from Spain and Brazil, have some very clever apps – digital health tools – that are now established as leaders in their own countries and need to adapt to expand to much bigger markets in the English-speaking world. So, I’ve been seeing a lot of these developments at first hand.
One thing that’s clear is how critical it is for MedTech and Digital Health app companies to plan for global dominance in their fields as early as possible. Healthcare and wellbeing are universal concerns, and these new products and service are needed in every country of the world.
Postponing or neglecting that is very risky. There’s the usual chance of finding that entrepreneurs in other markets have developed near-identical products – quite possibly having spotted the opportunity here first. Patents and copyrights aren’t enough, especially with software – the route to conquering international markets is getting there first and establishing one’s brand.
Getting Digital Health solutions to market – being first is key
Additionally, there are often several different ways of achieving the same improvement in health outcome, and delay risks overseas markets adopting an alternative. And, if those foreign alternatives are more internationally agile, they may enter and start to dominate the domestic market. Even if the competition is not as good, that could easily destroy the local business. It’s therefore essential that entrepreneurs and investors ensure that their business plans aim for the earliest possible international expansion.
It’s sad for me to find young, gifted and enthusiastic entrepreneurs with great health care startups who aren’t thinking that way. The usual reasons are cited – it’s distracting and diversionary, we need to get established first, we don’t have the funding – but those can all be overcome.
Admittedly, initial trials and test marketing can take much longer than with other business propositions, perhaps especially where those require getting buy-in from the UK NHS. But maybe it’s quicker elsewhere.
Products and software might need adapting to other markets – but, until you study them, you won’t know, and there’s therefore the risk that, whilst what’s needed could have been achieved easily at an early stage in development, doing it later becomes difficult and costly.
So, whilst it’s easy to say that it can’t be afforded, the question is whether startups – especially those in the healthcare sectors – can afford not to start planning their international expansion from Day One. And it needn’t be either costly or disruptive.
Whilst in some areas of politics, globalisation may be becoming a dirty word, in the world of MedTech and Digital Health it’s essential thinking.
I’ve written another article about the need for start up companies to start their international expansion early that relates to this subject, but includes all types of business – you can find it here on the Grow through International Expansion site where I’m the host
Would you like to discuss? I’d be glad to hear from you – get in touch using my contact page
Originally posted 24 Nov 2017, updated 18 Oct 2020