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5 Major Digital Health Trends to Impact 2020

Nardev Ramanathan, Ph.D., Analyst & Danielle Bradnan, Research Associate
January 29, 2020

Looking back on the digital health and wellness industry in 2019, we saw five major industry trends that will continue to have impact into 2020.

Amazon continued it’s relentless march into healthcare in 2019 with a partnership with the U.K.'s NHS to deploy its HIPAA-compliant Alexa for the elderly, disabled, and visually impaired for access to verified health information.

Alibaba, through its subsidiary Alibaba Health, has inked not one but two major strategic partnerships with Merck Group (in 2018 and 2019, respectively) to bring in its suite of personalized medicine products into China.

Google, having failed in high-profile projects like the smart blood glucose sensing contact lens with Novartis, has been looking for an opportunity to get ahead. It had a big moment with the acquisition of Fitbit and the launch of an integrated clinical search tool, but became embroiled in an allegation of unethical use of health data from its partnership with Ascension Health.

What does this mean for 2020?

Expect to see all the major tech players get into the race. Amazon and Apple have had more success developing products, and are ensuring the claims are met with strong, peer-reviewed evidence. Google, Microsoft, Alibaba and Tencent are all making moves. But there isn't a clear winner yet, and with more aspirants coming into the race, healthcare itself, once a digital laggard, could very well speed up on its digital maturity journey in 2020.

Since the Theranos exposé in 2015 the digital health IPO scene never quite recovered, with investors remaining skeptical of digital health technologies. 2019, saw a few digital health IPOs, most notably from Livongo Health. The other companies include Change HealthcarePhreesiaPelotonProgyny and Health Catalyst. Both Livongo and Health Catalyst received exuberant market responses to their IPOs and, even after market correction, are trading not far from their IPO prices.

What does this mean for 2020?

Digital health itself has now matured from an emerging space to a relatively mature one – and these six IPOs are that early data point. In fact, these digital health companies are well-established, led by seasoned executives like Livongo CEO Glen Tullman, who was the former CEO of Allscripts Healthcare Solutions. We expect to see IPOs outside the U.S. stock exchanges, in Asia and Europe as well.

In our "Digital Transformation of Healthcare" report, we proposed that companies must look to build shared ecosystems. A challenge today is that many medical devices, despite having digitized capabilities, remain fragmented, creating friction in the patient experience. 2019 saw several major partnerships that look to get past this barrier, in line with Lux's prediction:


What does this mean for 2020?

Striking strategic partnerships and building health ecosystems and platforms is not a nice-to-have; it will be a must-have for survival – and not just a partnership for technology’s sake, but one that has been carefully studied and aligned with core capabilities and corporate strategy.

Digital therapeutics enable the transformation of healthcare by bringing medical care to patients in a scalable, low-cost way by augmenting existing therapies or even replacing them. They have typically faced four major challenges:

  1. clinical validation
  2. regulatory approval
  3. payer acceptance
  4. physician adoption.

But in 2019, DTx startups have come to the limelight by finding ways to get around these challenges and prove their value proposition as a transformational technology for healthcare. One way for DTx startups to jump-start their commercialization path is to to partner with large pharmaceuticals, leveraging their resources and payer and physician network to gain the longitudinal data necessary to drive broader insurance payer reimbursement as well as physician adoption.

What does this mean for 2020?

Expect more DTx startups to consider new, innovative, and mixed business models and partnership strategies. A multipronged strategy like the one taken by Biofourmis can pan out well. We expect 2020 to see an explosion of DTx startups, some riding the hype wave with another "me-too" product, but also others that present a differentiated solution.


Chinese healthcare companies have generally been more comfortable operating in their own massive market. However, in 2019 we saw a number of these companies start to take an interest in markets outside their borders.


What does this mean for 2020?

Chinese healthcare companies who have, in the past, mostly confined themselves within their domestic market are starting to set their sights toward other lucrative markets. Those looking for an opportunity to penetrate the massive Chinese market should act swiftly in 2020 to leverage this trend early by striking joint ventures or investments that lead to a win-win scenario.

As we look back at what's happened in 2019 for digital health and wellness, here are some key takeaways to keep in mind that will carry on and continue to impact the health and wellness space in 2020.

Tech giants will continue to muscle their way into healthcare; traditional players must evolve or risk becoming irrelevant. Digital health technologies and platforms are no longer early-stage and emerging. The six digital health IPOs this year are a healthy early indicator of this trend. While all of these have been on U.S. stock exchanges, expect to see more IPOs in Asia and Europe as well.

The dominance of American and European healthcare companies will be challenged by an emerging class of successful Asian healthcare companies that vie for global dominance.





- Blog: Can Innovation Stop a Global Pandemic?

- Executive Summary: The Digital Transformation of Healthcare

- Blog: The Insurance Industry's Critical Role in Digital Transformation

- Blog: The 4 Major Challenges That Digital Therapeutics Face

- Analyst Insight: Digital Health and Wellness 2019 Year in Review (Members Only)

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