Five things to know about the future for AI in the US healthcare tech market

Last week the Brands2Life US team had the pleasure of attending a panel discussion around healthcare tech and AI in San Francisco. The event, hosted by BetterDoctor – an organization which delivers accurate provider directory data across the healthcare value chain – provided an industry overview from the perspective of venture capitalists (VC) in the healthcare space.

Expert panelists: Zal Bilimoria from Refactor Capital (@zalzally), Chris Farmer from SignalFire (@chriswfarmer) and Yizhen Dong of Eleven Two Capital (@yizhend) shared their visions of the future for AI in healthcare. They also advised healthcare startups on how to attract investor interest.

We’ve summarized our key takeaways below:

  1. Artificial Intelligence is at risk from ‘AI-washing’ – 2017 is going to be a big year for AI and machine learning. So much so that it feels like every man and his dog, including in healthcare tech, is jumping on the AI bandwagon, even when they are not technically an AI solution. At this rate, we risk a repeat of the ‘cloud washing’ problems we saw with the rise of cloud computing whereby the power of real AI is diluted by people misusing the term. It’s vital that those sitting above the parapet, such as analysts and investors, define exactly what genuine AI is to avoid any confusion. FYI, an Excel sheet with data analytics is NOT AI.
  1. Uncertainty around health legislation is unsettling the VC waters – Understandably everyone in the industry is concerned about the current debate about how to re-reform healthcare in the US. Following the failure of the Republican leadership introduced legislation on Friday, investors and healthcare tech providers remain cautious, and rightly so. Although this isn’t deterring them from continuing to invest in AI-related healthcare tech.
  1. Innovation and investment opportunities are ripe throughout the healthcare stack – In 2015, venture capital firms invested a record $16.1 billion in U.S. healthcare companies, up from about $12 billion the year before. And over half of that ($8.95 billion) went to biotechnology firms. While things slowed slightly last year, things are off to a more positive start in 2017. We’ve been hearing of data analytics funds raising tens of millions of dollars in just a few months this year, so the appetite is certainly there for the brands who are ready to capitalize on it. And according to @zalzally, @chriswfarmer and @yizhend these opportunities lie throughout the healthcare stack with more genetic data available to play with than ever, chronic care management and on-demand health solutions being developed; not to mention biotech investments.
  1. Healthcare tech must be viewed as a long-term investment – While the previous point suggests there is a lot of potential for healthcare technology, the investors we heard from made it clear that patience is required. Heavy and entirely necessary regulations in the health sector restrict fast growth. Unlike the Snap Inc.’s of this world, a health tech company has never achieved a multi-billion IPO in just six years. Investors and founders have to be prepared to play the long game here.
  1. The most immediate returns are being seen in imagery-led organizations & roles – The role for AI in time heavy imagery-led tasks such as analyzing slides of cell samples is already proving its worth. Researchers at Stanford University have created an artificial intelligence algorithm that can tell if your rash is a cancer concern or a harmless pockmark – and it can do it about as well as a human doctor. It’s a no brainer when you consider how much more accurately a precision computer and deep learning program can assess samples in a split second. It is healthcare professions which rely on this kind of analysis that will start to reap the rewards of AI fastest.

In summary, it is clearly an exciting time to be at the intersection of AI and healthcare. Not only for the investors and teams pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, but most importantly the patients and professionals whose lives will be transformed for the better. And also for us as an integrated communications agency specializing in AI.

If you’re from a company looking to make a bigger impact by applying AI across any sector or have anything to add to the points above, then please get in touch in the comments below.

From Monique and Sarah in our Brands2Life US office

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