Five healthtech trends to watch in 2024

2024 trends

The 10,000-foot view of healthtech is typically optimistic. Integrating wearable devices and other digital technologies alongside traditional healthcare has become more normal with each passing year. The COVID-19 pandemic normalised remote care for many patients. The need for technology to provide more accurate medical assessments is omnipresent.

Yet, for those intimately involved in the business of healthtech, 2023 was a rough year. Unicorn start-ups shut down. Healthcare equity private investors began pulling back amid a bevy of challenges. The traditionally conservative healthcare landscape underwent massive and rapid technological disruption, and the entire sector grappled with market corrections in 2023. That raised questions for industry leaders about how to navigate the future.

How does this situation resolve? Where do the market corrections stop? Here’s what I think we can expect to see from the intersection of technology and healthcare in the upcoming year:

Getting the message across

As disinformation becomes ubiquitous across the internet and social media, where increasing competition for impressions and branding risks come into play, healthcare and pharmaceutical companies are looking for new channels to build trust with patients.

Partnerships with verified sources and trusted platforms could be a path forwards for firms looking to test new advertising mediums and generate engagement with their intended audience. Niche platform placements also open the door to targeted messaging and clearer ROI.

The need for outside-the-box solutions is paramount in the healthtech space today, and that includes solving the puzzle of how to get your company’s message across.

Consolidation and vertical integration

In recent years, novel business models have become the norm in the healthcare industry. Payers are becoming providers. Health systems are expanding their roles. Employers are stepping into the healthcare arena.

Experts expect mergers and acquisitions, rather than private equity, to drive growth in the healthcare sector in 2024. This could lead to the formation of new industry giants, with reach to multiple points along the patient journey.

The effect on the business of healthcare could be enormous. Expect digital health companies to rethink their strategies, while smaller firms attempt to find their niche among the new healthcare behemoths.

Safeguarding AI

Generative AI has stealthily become a part of our daily lives. From autocomplete suggestions to voice assistants, we interact with these models regularly without giving them a second thought. Technology is more seamlessly integrated into our routines now than ever – a sign the world of science fiction is a fact of daily life.

In healthcare, the integration of LLM and LMMs (Large Medical Models) holds promise, but privacy and safety must come first. No regulatory body or model currently monitors AI implementation. Where there are guidelines, they don’t contain enforceable protections for patients and consumers. Establishing internal safeguards must come before any AI use-case is put into practice in the healthcare sector, where privacy is paramount.

Experts speculate the rapid pace of AI innovation makes regulation impossible, which would severely limit its benefits for healthcare. More AI adoption is expected in 2024, but expect non-clinical applications (documentation, education, etc.) to make the first inroads.

Macro meets micro

Addressing financial and structural challenges — reimbursement, alternative payment models, the larger economic duress of healthcare as a whole — won’t be unique to the healthcare sector in 2024. But as the largest sector of the US economy and significantly service-oriented, it will directly feel the impact of the broader angst Americans feel towards the state of the economy.

Big Tech, which is less service-oriented, can ride the AI boom to harness growth. By contrast, healthcare transformation must follow a slow, winding road. With the end of government assistance for COVID-related expenses, Medicaid expansion halting in several states, and the unpredictability of market forces in a federal election year, financial barriers to healthtech adoption will be front and centre for innovators in 2024.

A focus on cost-effectiveness and ROI will take centre stage as the industry cuts down on vendor sprawl. Value-based care will remain a hot topic of discussion as providers try to optimise their financial models. Unless reimbursement structures change dramatically, however, its feasibility remains questionable.

The role of AR/VR

While AI dominated the narrative in 2023, augmented and virtual reality technology has been quietly, but rapidly, making inroads into the healthcare industry. Meta recently rolled out its Oculus III, a more accessible and budget-friendly version of its revolutionary AR/VR headset. Apple introduced Apple Vision Pro, a similar product with a higher threshold to entry.

Apple and Meta have both actively promoted healthcare use cases. With their massive user bases and existing infrastructure, they have the potential to completely revolutionise medical training - potentially clinical and surgical care, too. Imagine being able to watch and learn from the world’s best medical professionals at work without the need to circumnavigate the globe. That’s one of many use-cases waiting to be explored in a rapidly expanding AR/VR market.

It’s still early to predict the impact of these technologies in 2024, and how smoothly privacy/safety integrations will arrive, but the trend shouldn’t be ignored.

Anish Sebastian
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Anish Sebastian
19 January, 2024