Private equity deal volume hit a low in the first half of 2020 as the pandemic slowed the US and global economies. But toward the end of the year, deals began picking back up, particularly in the digital health space.
COVID-19 forced healthcare providers to shift from in-person to virtual care, and technology was the vehicle to make that switch possible. Investors noticed, and more deals focused on companies specializing in telehealth, remote patient monitoring and other technology platforms that facilitate communication among specialists.
Expect this trend to continue in 2021, and keep these three factors in mind when evaluating the digital health landscape.
Easing of Laws and Regulations Surrounding Telehealth and Digital Health
Both telehealth and digital health are highly regulated, as every state has laws and regulations that govern how care is provided virtually and how those services are billed. In response to the pandemic, we’ve seen flexibility with these laws and regulations, and the Biden administration has signaled that it might make some flexibilities permanent.
Investment opportunities will likely increase as a result of the Biden administration’s willingness to lower some of the longstanding barriers to coverage and payment for virtual services, including telehealth, remote patient monitoring and other related services. That’s a positive sign for firms looking at healthcare through the lens of a technology solution.
Reallocation of Resources Due to Vaccine Rollout
Since the onset of the pandemic, labs have conducted a huge volume of testing and have had to ramp up personnel and other resources. Plus, the vast majority of COVID-19 tests must be ordered by a physician or nurse, further straining available resources.
While testing will likely continue in some capacity for a long time, the number of tests will presumably decline steadily as more people are vaccinated. That means capacity will open up, both for healthcare providers who were ordering the tests and for lab companies that were performing them. As a result, firms should begin asking themselves:
- Where are there opportunities to shift focus and resources previously devoted to testing?
- What other conditions lend themselves to at-home testing?
- Where can companies shift efforts that were previously focused on reviewing orders?
Addressing Mental Health and the Other Epidemic
COVID-19 obviously emerged as the foremost health emergency of the past year. But it’s important to remember that the United States is still in the midst of an opioid addiction epidemic.
On top of that, COVID-19 has been hard on many people’s mental health. In response, many employers have made mental health a higher priority, and that trend is likely to continue, even as employees return to the workplace. In 2021, investors are likely to continue to emphasize digital health tools and service offerings that are focused on mindfulness and behavior health.
To learn more from Lisa and other thought leaders about the healthcare investing landscape heading into 2021, you can view a recording of The Deal’s webinar here.