How the Pandemic Has Shaped the Next Wave of Healthtech Innovation

The pandemic exposed an even greater need for AI in healthcare and has led to a spike in demand for alternative health and wellness treatments.

Written by Michael Hines
Published on Oct. 25, 2021
How the Pandemic Has Shaped the Next Wave of Healthtech Innovation
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Crunchbase estimates that healthtech companies have raised $36.6 billion globally from 2020 through October of 2021. Some of that cash will undoubtedly lead to technological innovations like smart face masks that automatically alert wearers when trace amounts of a virus are detected in the air — but not all of it.

That’s because the myriad of challenges facing the healthcare system didn’t simply disappear during the pandemic. They were exacerbated, as were opportunities in the industry. Companies that were already working to seize these opportunities will shape the future of the healthtech industry just as much as those that launched in response to the pandemic or pivoted because of it.

Restore Hyper Wellness and Iodine Software are two Austin-based healthtech companies that both saw an even greater need for their existing products and services during the pandemic. For Restore, it meant offering more types of alternative health and wellness treatments as consumers were suddenly more conscious than ever about their body and immune system. In Iodine’s case, the pandemic unearthed even more potential use cases for its AI-powered clinical documentation technology, which the company met through acquisitions. 

Built In recently had the chance to speak with the CEOs of both Restore and Iodine to learn more about how the pandemic affected their companies along with the more subtle industry innovations Covid-19 is driving.

 

William Chan
CEO and co-founder • Iodine Software

Whether you know it or not, billing in the healthcare system is slowly starting to change, moving from a model that focuses on services delivered to patient outcomes. This requires detailed documentation of said outcomes and how the treatment provided drove them, which can be difficult to maintain even when a pandemic isn’t raging. 

For Iodine Software, the pandemic reinforced the need for its AI and machine-learning technology designed to help healthcare providers document clinical outcomes. However, according to Chan, it also revealed an opportunity for the company to bring its technology to new areas of the healthcare system.

 

What changed for your business or industry in 2020, and how much of that was driven by the pandemic and the impacts that had on consumer behavior?

Healthcare systems are financially strained. The shift from fee-for-service to value-based care requires provider organizations to ensure financial integrity while reducing waste, managing scarce clinical resources and delivering high-quality care. The financial and clinical metrics that measure these outcomes are inextricably linked and are driven by the clinical documentation process that requires providers to record a complete and accurate account of each patient’s care journey. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated this problem as hospitals are overwhelmed with critically ill patients whose treatment requires complex and prolonged care, increasing resource utilization and tapping already stressed clinical teams to provide care and document it. What’s more, our data shows the volume of Covid-19 cases will not sufficiently compensate for the significant reduction in the volume of elective procedures that were deferred because of the pandemic. That means accurate clinical documentation is more important than ever.
 

Patients expect and deserve an accurate accounting of their care, no matter the diagnosis.


How did you adapt your product to address these shifting trends?

We deploy clinical machine learning applications to help hospitals and health systems demonstrate positive clinical quality outcomes and mitigate revenue loss. We have successfully applied our artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies in the clinical documentation improvement space, or CDI, with conclusive outcomes. There is a significant opportunity for us to apply the same technology to other workflows and processes that impact the patient care experience and support hospitals’ clinical quality and financial integrity. 

That’s why we augmented our product portfolio by acquiring complementary technologies: Artifact Health, which facilitates the delivery and response of CDI and coding queries to more accurately capture the patient care journey; and ChartWise, a CDI workflow that allows us to expand our CDI capabilities into the outpatient space and into smaller health systems. These applications will empower Iodine to solve key health system mid-cycle revenue leakage challenges and bring our machine learning technology to new areas of the market.

 

Looking ahead, what lasting effects do you think the pandemic will have on your business or industry? And how do you plan to be part of this next wave of healthtech innovation?

Hospitals made significant investments in CDI programs prior to the pandemic, implementing software solutions to support teams of CDI specialists with technology that scales staff abilities and provides intelligent automation. The work clinical care teams perform requires specific knowledge — the sort that is only gained after decades of academic study and real work experience. The technology used to automate that work must mirror the same level of clinical thinking that any one of these clinicians employs daily.

Iodine is passionate about solving the most complex health care challenges, not just for CDI teams, but for all those involved in the patient care journey. Our AI-powered solutions engage on human terms with healthcare professionals and complement their expert judgment with clinically informed insights that put them at the forefront of better care. Patients expect and deserve an accurate accounting of their care, no matter the diagnosis. Clinical documentation is the linchpin that connects the care journey — which drives patient satisfaction — with quality metrics, public health decisions and appropriate reimbursement.

 

Jim Donnelly

When the phrases “technology company” and “health and wellness” are in the same sentence, it’s natural to think of a mindfulness app or telehealth platform. That said, there are quite a few companies whose offerings aren’t centered solely on software, like Restore Hyper Wellness, which provides alternative health and wellness services like cryotherapy, IV drips and infrared saunas.

According to Donnelly, people were already beginning to focus more on their health and wellness prior to the pandemic. However, the pandemic did increase the demand for these services, which Restore has raced to meet while also trying to anticipate the needs of consumers in the future.

 

What changed for your business or industry in 2020, and how much of that was driven by the pandemic and the impacts that had on consumer behavior?

We were already seeing shifting trends in consumer behavior prior to 2020. One in five adults in the United States experiences pain, and traditional methods of managing pain don’t always work, which can have downstream negative effects on people’s lives, like health issues that restrict their quality of life. At the same time, consumers are looking for ways to increase their healthspan and to look and feel well so they can do more of what they love for longer. 

For example, 40 percent of millennials use anti-aging products. Both of these trends have shifted consumer behavior toward being more proactive about health and wellness to help mitigate or better manage symptoms of pain and disease. Consumers are willing to pay for products and services that help them with these health goals. The pandemic accelerated this trend, as staying healthy is more top of mind and a bigger priority for consumers than it’s ever been.
 

Long term, we hope to show that our services can help slow that aging process down and extend healthspans.


How did you adapt your product to address these shifting trends?

Restore introduced several new services to help clients feel their best while maintaining affordability. First, Restore introduced a proprietary, electric-powered whole body cryotherapy chamber. Whole body cryo is a type of cold therapy that immerses the body in temperatures as low as -166 degrees Fahrenheit for up to three minutes. Restore’s cryo chamber is colder than others on the market, improves dependability of low temperatures for more consistent benefits, is outfitted with a sound system and fits up to four people.

Restore also introduced new IV drips and intramuscular, or IM, shots. For example, when vitamin D became difficult to source for IV drips, we released a vitamin D IM shot that is fat soluble and helps the body maintain increased levels of vitamin D. We also released our “Tri-Immune shot” that includes zinc, vitamin C and glutathione. These micronutrients can help the body to increase its immune response, fight inflammation and optimize healthy cell function.

 

Looking ahead, what lasting effects do you think the pandemic will have on your business or industry? And how do you plan to be part of this next wave of healthtech innovation?

We believe that the mindset shift toward proactive health and wellness and the interest in anti-aging will continue well into the future. Over the last 20-plus years, the medical research community has achieved significant breakthroughs in understanding the science of why we age. 

Long term, we hope to show that our services can help slow that aging process down and extend healthspans. The next wave for Restore is to provide clients with a central point of wellness to benchmark their health, gain actionable insights and support to improve their health, and provide services that enable clients to make progress toward their health goals. We are developing a digital platform that will power this experience and bring us one step closer to achieving our mission of making Hyper Wellness accessible and affordable for people committed to feeling their best.

All responses have been edited for length and clarity.

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