A healthy future: healthtech trends to watch in 2024
Over the last five years, the healthtech landscape has changed almost beyond recognition. Innovations are driving improvements in patient outcomes, alleviating the administrative burden on clinicians and opening new possibilities in the challenge of meeting complex and shifting population health demands.
It’s no secret that last year was challenging for businesses across industries. Still, pioneers around the world continue to drive innovations in the space that stand to impact the lives of millions. With 2024 now well underway, we wanted to share some of the trends and themes we see shaping the year to come – and to highlight the areas we’re particularly focussed on. You can find our contact details at the bottom of the page. If what you read resonates, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Femtech increasingly becoming Family health: From conception to paediatrics
In 2024, there’s a huge opportunity for technological innovation in fertility and paediatrics. On the Octopus Ventures health team we’re actively seeking to meet companies driving major improvements in outcomes. While we’ve watched the fertility field mature, we’ve seen companies move from talking about the impact they hope to have with their fresh approaches to fertility, to actually counting the number of additional births that have been made possible. It’s inspirational stuff – and we want to see more.
In 2021 we backed Overture because we believed in their mission to radically improve fertility treatment. We backed Little Journey because we recognised that their support makes a real difference to children as they go through healthcare interaction. This year, we’re keen to keep supporting the businesses leveraging technology to improve paediatric healthcare, as well as those working to make the experience and quality of care in fertility treatment better.
Equity, inclusion and health
Health has long been both a barometer for, and driver of, inequality. The conditions a healthcare system focusses on say a lot about the society that system supports. A shift in focus can unlock a higher quality of life for the large segments of the population who’ve, historically, been underserved – and, by extension, remarkable benefits for the society they live in.
At Octopus Ventures, we’ve long celebrated the importance of busting so-called ‘taboos’ in healthcare. A couple of years ago we published our Future of Fertility report to highlight the role start-ups have to play in the fertility space, while our investments in the likes of Elvie and Vira Health signal our ongoing commitment to the pioneers working on women’s health issues.
In 2024, emergent healthtech stands to further advance the cause of equity in healthcare. Diagnostic solutions that enable and enhance at-home and outpatient diagnoses, for example, will help to cut down inordinate waiting times. In parts of the UK, the average waiting time for a gynaecology appointment stands at 16 weeks. Solutions that help women take control of their health (as well as their health data) could offer a significant improvement.
Despite our best efforts, fertility and menopause remain underserved. This year we’re hoping to see the largest health payers make real commitments in both of these verticals. We’re heartened by early, positive signals – addressing these challenges is an essential step towards improving life for millions.
AI: Moving from headlines to specific, practical applications
Last year saw significant funding going into many generative AI (genAI) health companies, although with hype arguably outstripping substance. This year, we’ll see the early winners start to emerge. The full potential of AI is only just starting to be unlocked, as genAI and large language models (LLMs) transform both front- and back-office healthcare workflows.
Companies in the space are poised to make a major impact on patient-facing care pathways, while their transformative work in automating manual back-office workflows will relieve clinicians’ administrative burden.
2024 is also the year we hope to see AI in medical imaging move from an interesting research area for keen academics to realised application. This could be in areas where accuracy is low, or there’s a need to screen millions of patients for hard-to-detect conditions and early diagnosis or stratification carries an outsize economic impact. We could well see the areas ripe for these applications, such as foetal cardiac screening or invasive neurological investigations, undergo an irreversible change.
We’re also likely to start seeing interesting distribution approaches in AI. This is both challenging and highly inefficient, but creates huge scope for innovation. This could look like consolidation, as single algorithm businesses develop into AI infrastructure organisations where multiple algorithms and AI capabilities are rolled out together in a single suite. The larger OEMs and hardware providers are likely to play a key role in the maturation of this ecosystem.
Remote monitoring and at-home care
While the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of telehealth, recent technological breakthroughs are ensuring that it’s here to stay. Remote monitoring and at-home care are fast becoming an essential tool for releasing clinical capacity, improving both patient pathways and outcomes. Many of the world’s largest health systems now view remote monitoring as inevitable – achieving customer expectations on the scale at which they operate has become impossible otherwise.
This is being driven, in no small part, by the AI discussed above. This year we expect to see improved, clinical-grade AI and biomarkers across major disease areas (neuro, cardio and respiratory), in combination with the tooling and infrastructure providers need to manage patients remotely, massively enhance the capacity of healthcare providers to offer the highest standard of remote care. This development promises to relieve the pressure on health services around the world.
Healthtech is an incredible force, making an enormous, global impact. As we explored in our 2023 report, The Resilience of Early-stage European Healthtech, the landscape is in flux, and receptive to technological innovation.
We’re actively looking for the pioneers putting tech to work in service of the world’s health. If you’re working in any of the areas we mentioned, or if you have another future-shaping healthtech solution you think we should know about, we want to hear from you. The topics above reflect areas that we are interested in broadly as a group. Here are our specific, personal research areas:
• Family Health – [email protected]
• Practical applications of generative AI and advanced computing – [email protected]
• Clinical workflow automation and software infrastructure– [email protected]
• Emerging imaging biomarkers and diagnostics – [email protected]
• Robotics and hardware automation – [email protected]