Digital Health

Digital Health, Bubble or No Bubble?

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Pandemic-fueled digital health adoption and regulatory changes have brought a wave of new entrants and climbing valuations, but a cloudy macroeconomic outlook has caused many to wonder when the music will stop playing. Digital health venture firm Rock Health recently published its thoughts on whether digital health is in an investment bubble, providing a framework for innovators to assess their individual bubble risk to help navigate a downturn.

Is digital health in an investment bubble? Rock Health assesses “bubbliness” with a six point rubric based on analysis of past bubbles. The rubric currently indicates that digital health is not in an investment bubble, but has more valuation risk than in the past.

To assess the bubble risk of an individual segment, Rock Health maps the segment’s market infrastructure (tech stack, regulatory framework, business models) to its market traction (adoption, outcomes, integration). The resulting framework (pictured here) lets companies plan different bubble strategies depending on their quadrant.

  • “Early days” startups have emerging market infrastructures and limited market adoption, giving them long growth runways but only if they can put in place mission-critical infrastructure pieces (scalable tech, sustainable business models). Example: VR therapeutics
  • “Disequilibrium” companies have high market traction that outpaces the maturity of the market infrastructure, creating the need to partner with companies that fortify this infrastructure with complementary assets (regulatory expertise, foothold in adjacent markets). Example: Consumer genetic testing
  • “Niche” companies have limited traction despite a mature market infrastructure, and Rock Health suggests that they should expand the types of customers they target in order to secure more stable (bubble-proof) revenue. Example: Personal health records
  • “Established” companies have a high degree of market traction and a mature market infrastructure, so continued growth hinges on expanding into novel use cases and investing in technology that reduces the chance of commoditization (cloud/AI, reimbursement mechanisms). Example: Telemedicine

The Takeaway

Rock Health’s current stance is that “digital health is not in an investment bubble, but it is frothy.”  That said, the report’s true call-to-action applies regardless of whether or not we’re in a bubble: now is the time for companies to evaluate their bubble risk and put a plan into place to prepare for whatever the market brings in the future.

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