Big data, artificial intelligence, genomics and telemedicine have the potential to transform medicine and healthcare around the globe. Digital technologies enable novel ways of patient care and personalised treatments driving better healthcare at lower cost. Anja Bickelmaier, Co-Head of Healthcare at Triton Partners, sees opportunities for private equity to create value for patients, companies and investors in this highly dynamic yet regulated and fragmented environment.
Looking across the globe, a heterogeneous picture emerges when it comes to the use of digital technologies in medicine and healthcare. Take Indonesia as an example: this country already used health apps and telemedicine to give patients mobile access to healthcare services and treatments at a time when discussions in Europe on the regulatory framework for such applications only started. The differences between regions and countries are huge and there is a risk for some to fall behind.
In the developed world, the need for productivity gains, personalisation and prevention are key drivers of digital transformation in healthcare. Groundbreaking developments in research and digitisation enable the evaluation and use of huge amounts of data in a short time. This will not only change the overall knowledge of health, but also the diagnosis, therapy, and prevention of diseases and the way medicine is practiced and delivered to patients – much needed advancements to tackle severe future demographic challenges.
The use of digital technologies in healthcare allows better diagnostics and improved prevention in areas of high unmet need like cancer, mental health and chronic non-communicable diseases. Lifestyle-associated conditions such as diabetes, congestive heart failure (CHF), and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) account for a large portion of healthcare costs in the developed world. Digital approaches crossing traditional institutional healthcare settings could ensure significantly better care at lower cost for affected patients.
Importantly, digital solutions will help to optimise business processes and administration for healthcare providers like clinics and medical practices. According to research by PWC, the use of smart technologies could potentially increase efficiency by up to 20 per cent, giving medical practices and staff much needed additional time to spend with patients - physically or remotely via telemedicine.
More time with patients is important as patients increasingly seek health-related information from various sources, e.g. websites, and want to discuss their personal health in detail with professional caregivers. Finally, digitally supported healthcare provision enables a more rewarding experience for healthcare professionals as they are released from cumbersome administrative tasks and can focus on patient care.
The role of private equity
Progress on digital transformation of healthcare has been slow in the past due to heavy regulatory burden and lack of sustainable business models. In the future, digital transformation will pick up speed. Existing fragmented healthcare structures are challenged by the sheer amount of change required to realise the potential of a healthcare system focused on technology-driven gains in productivity and medical outcomes. Transformative, digital-focused change will drive further consolidation across many areas in healthcare, requiring an assertive approach by leaders of healthcare organisations. This creates investment opportunities for private equity in health and care provision, healthcare IT, medical technology, and pharmaceuticals - just to name a few areas.
Private equity is uniquely positioned to create substantial value in the context of rapidly transforming, digital healthcare systems. It can provide energy and direction to healthcare organisations that lack strategy and focus. Further, it may provide cash-strapped players the necessary investment to master the required technology shifts. However, providing capital is not enough. Deep subject matter expertise and digital know-how is required to enable the targeted development. Take Mehiläinen as an example. Under Triton’s investment between 2010 and 2018, this leading Finnish healthcare provider went digital across its entire range of services and processes. Today, it is regarded as a prime European example of a fully digital-enabled healthcare provider and serves as role model for many healthcare organisations in various geographies.
Digital is an imperative for the future of healthcare. Private equity is well placed to drive this transformation forward and create value for all stakeholders.