By Zoë LaRock | Business Insider | Dec 24, 2019
At the end of 2018, we drummed up five predictions for digital health in 2019. And looking back on the year, several of our forecasts held up. Here’s a glimpse at three predictions we got right (our past predictions are numbered below):
1. Amazon, Apple, or Google will make a big splash with a digital health acquisition. All three of these tech giants made headlines with buy-ups of health tech firms:
- Apple got the ball rolling with its acquisition of asthma-tracking startup Tueo Health in May. Tueo Health makes an app-based program that allows parents to track their children’s asthma symptoms while they’re asleep via in-bed sensors. This marked Apple’s third-ever digital health acquisition, coming two years after it nabbed sleep-tracking firm Beddit.
- Amazon bought digital diagnostics provider Health Navigator in October. This was its first health company buy after it sent shockwaves across the industry with its 2018 purchase of pharmacy startup PillPack. We anticipate that Amazon will build Health Navigator’s triage tool into its newly debuted Amazon Care.
- And Google announced in November its plans to purchase Fitbit. If Google makes it past the US Department of Justice probes regarding antitrust and use of private data, we think Fitbit would offer Google inroads into the employee benefits space and could help it land research partnerships.
And it’s unlikely these three will call it quits on acquiring digital health firms in the year ahead. Because all three made such big strides with their health-focused businesses in 2019, we could see Amazon, Apple, and Google each making at least one more health tech purchase each in 2020.
2. At least one of these four companies will go public: Health Catalyst, One Medical, Change Healthcare, or Oscar Health. And we were right about two: Health Catalyst and Change Healthcare both went public in the summer of 2019— and One Medical is reportedly planning to join them at the beginning of 2020. A grand total of six digital health companies hit the public market in the latter half of 2019 — the first batch since a digital health IPO drought began in 2016. But we think a potential economic slump coupled with newly public digital health cos’ suboptimal performances will pump the breaks on IPO activity in the digital health sector in the year ahead. That said, we have our eyes on American Well — a more entrenched health tech startup — as a potential 2020 IPO candidate.
3. Telemedicine . . . won’t take off. Despite an uptick in telehealth reimbursement policies and high consumer interest in giving virtual care a try, telemedicine uptake among US consumers hangs low: Just 10% of US consumers reported having used telehealth in 2019, even though 62% of individuals said they’d be interested. While plenty of traditional healthcare providers and insurers are forging ties with telehealth companies, converting those partnerships into significant consumer uptake has yet to be successful. It seems that more and more consumers are willing to get on board with telehealth, but we don’t foresee the tech “taking off” in 2020 either.