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by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

Denmark – A Trailblazer in Digital Health Innovation

The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred the need to embrace new digital tools and technologies within the healthcare sector. There has been a significant increase in the use of technology to provide care, resulting in improved health outcomes. In Europe, Denmark has made significant progress and is at the forefront of the digital health transformation with a 99% digitalization rate. Over the last few years, Denmark has strived to digitalize further its healthcare infrastructure, testing and leveraging technologies such as AI and robotics to implement them at full scale across the country. In this transformation, the Danish digital health system can be a source of valuable lessons, uncovering various opportunities it presents for health tech companies.

Demark’s digital health: Harnessing power from a robust public infrastructure

Denmark’s healthcare system is among the most expensive worldwide, with 10% of GDP allotted for healthcare expenditures and 90% publicly funded through taxes. The health infrastructure is highly digitalized, with almost 99% of healthcare communication done electronically.

The national e-health portal, Sundhed.dk, launched in 2003, plays a key role in Denmark’s digitalization, offering a comprehensive platform catering to both healthcare professionals and citizens alike. Sundhed.dk provides safe and secure access to an individual’s personal health records (from hospitals), medication information, vaccinations, laboratory results, appointments, and referrals. The portal is user-friendly and is regarded as one of the superior models for public healthcare information exchange worldwide.

Over the last 20 years, the Danish government has supported and invested in various digital health initiatives, rolled out several IT services, and strengthened its digital healthcare infrastructure. In 2007, the country introduced E-record, through which individuals can access their medical information from EHR systems using the Sundhed.dk portal. The government also launched Shared Medication Record, which has records of patients’ prescriptions, details of the doctor who prescribed the medicines, and information pertaining to where the medications were picked from. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the “My Doctor” app was introduced to facilitate video consultations between GPs and patients. These digital initiatives contribute to improved care coordination and increase the patient’s trust in the system.

Denmark – A Trailblazer in Digital Health Innovation by EOS Intelligence

Denmark – A Trailblazer in Digital Health Innovation by EOS Intelligence

Unraveling the blueprint: Denmark’s digital health success story

Well-formulated digital health strategies address the needs of patients and healthcare workers

Many countries develop digital health strategies, which are frequently focused solely on technical aspects, steering away from addressing the actual needs of patients and healthcare professionals. Moreover, these policies often function as plain vision documents with no clear description of action plans or the roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders.

In contrast, Denmark’s digital health strategy is well-formulated and primarily focused on addressing the needs of patients and healthcare workers. It provides a clear vision of how digital technology can help meet their needs. In addition, the strategies highlight the importance of cross-sectoral collaboration, detailing focus areas and specific initiatives that must be jointly executed. For instance, it clearly mentions how the health and education sectors should work together to promote digital health literacy.

Denmark’s well-crafted digital health policies are a cornerstone of its successful digital health transformation. Since 1999, the country has been updating these strategies every four years, ensuring ongoing review and modernization of its digital health infrastructure.

Governance models aid in the speedy integration and implementation of digital healthcare tools

Denmark follows a regional governance model instead of the top-down approach, controlled by the state (national) government. The states and municipalities are responsible for developing and implementing their own health IT solutions in alignment with the national strategy.

Further, the government has established several steering groups to aid in implementing and disseminating digital health initiatives for rapid digital uptake. For instance, Connected Digital Health in Denmark, a cross-governmental organization, manages, coordinates, and ensures the implementation of various action plans mentioned in the national digital health strategies.

In addition, the government also regularly engages in public-private partnerships to boost its digital capabilities. The country’s strong governance is considered one of the critical success factors for the digital health transition.

Common IT standards help in effective healthcare data exchange

Many countries have deployed digital health technologies; however, integration remains sparse, resulting in a fragmented digital landscape. Integrating patient information siloed across multiple healthcare segments is crucial for establishing a high-quality digital health infrastructure. The adoption of common IT standards helps facilitate this data exchange and integration.

Denmark has been using these standards since 1990 for electronic health data communication as well as improving workflows between public hospitals, general practitioners, private healthcare entities, specialists, laboratories, and home care services. The early development of these standards significantly increased electronic communication within the healthcare sector, contributing to the high level of digitalization of the Danish healthcare sector.

Strict testing protocols ensure digital health tools are user-friendly

The user-friendliness of digital technologies is considered one of the major factors for early e-health adoption. Denmark undertakes several initiatives to ensure that digital health tools and technologies are user-friendly and easy to use. For instance, the country collects feedback from healthcare stakeholders about their experience with various digital health solutions, checks if they are user-friendly, and uses the input received to develop new solutions.

The country has also implemented strict testing protocols for telehealth solutions by evaluating their performance on mobile devices and testing the products with a range of end users, including the elderly and people with disabilities.

Government’s focus on educating and training healthcare stakeholders helps them to use digital tools effectively

Denmark educates and trains healthcare workers to use digital tools appropriately. According to a 2020 Deloitte report, nearly 76.8 % of Danish clinicians mentioned that they are well-trained and supported in using digital health tools and solutions.

Local governments and hospitals in Denmark collaborate with tech professionals to provide support, education, and training on using digital solutions such as EMRs, telemedicine platforms, and shared IT standards for healthcare data exchange. Digital health literacy of front-line healthcare workers is one of the core objectives of the country’s digital health strategy.

Unlocking opportunities: Denmark’s digital health sector for health tech companies

According to Statistics Denmark, the percentage of the Danish population aged 75 or above is expected to double from 7.8% in 2017 to 14.4% in 2047. In addition, the country faces a severe labor shortage, with projections suggesting that by 2035, Denmark might have a shortage of 14,500 healthcare workers. These factors are expected to put increased pressure on the Danish healthcare system.

In order to tackle these challenges, Denmark’s government continues to invest in advanced innovative technologies and digitalization strategies. In 2018, the country launched a digital health strategy titled “A Coherent and Trustworthy Health Network for All: 2018-2024”, aiming to modernize the healthcare infrastructure further. Under this initiative, the country aims to expand telemedicine solutions, increase virtual care visits, and automate the administrative and clinical workflows within the Danish healthcare system. This initiative is creating opportunities for startups and companies offering health tech solutions in the areas of telemedicine, video consultations, remote patient monitoring, hospital automation, and diagnostics.

Danish government seeks to expand telemedicine solutions for various segments of the patient population

Denmark has been using telemedicine services since 2012, beginning with home monitoring solutions for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) patients. The country seeks to further expand the rollout of telemedicine solutions for patients with COPD, chronic diseases, heart failure, comorbid conditions, and pregnant women facing complications. In December 2023, the government of Denmark invested about US$72 million to expand telemedicine solutions for these patients, offer digital rehabilitation courses, and increase the number of virtual consultations through GPs.

Various governmental organizations in Denmark have been looking to partner with companies providing innovative remote monitoring and virtual care solutions to facilitate home treatment.

For instance, in 2021, in collaboration with the local government, Trifork, a Denmark-based digital health company, developed a telemedicine solution called Telma for severe COPD patients. The solution provides COPD patients with medication, measuring tools, and devices to track pulse and oxygen levels at home. The Telma app transmits this data in real time and facilitates communication between healthcare professionals and patients through video consultations, thus lessening the need for frequent hospital visits.

Similarly, in 2022, two Denmark-based health tech companies, Copenhagen Center for Health Technology (CACHET) and Cortrium, forged a research collaboration to develop a novel technology to monitor a patient’s heart rhythm remotely. This allows heart failure patients to receive prompt medical care without visiting a hospital.

The Danish government is also looking to provide telerehabilitation services amidst the rising mental health issues across the country. In 2021, the government established the Centre for Digital Psychiatry to develop, test, and implement several nationwide digital services. In March 2023, the Center initiated a research project with Monsenso, a Danish mobile health company, to provide personalized digital treatment for patients with depression.

A rise in telemedicine programs catering to various segments of the patient population is expected in the forthcoming years. This surge in demand fuels the growth of companies offering telehealth solutions nationwide.

AI presents several opportunities for innovation and collaboration within the healthcare segment

Denmark actively seeks to integrate AI into its healthcare system, especially in diagnostics, presenting numerous opportunities for AI-based health companies to thrive. The country has established research and innovation centers across the country focusing on AI for uses such as identifying at-risk stroke patients, helping radiologists interpret scans, and assisting in other diagnostics.

In 2021, Denmark established the Radiology AI Test Center (RAIT) to accelerate the development and implementation of medical AI applications in the country. Through RAIT, private companies can test and validate their AI-based technologies in Denmark. For example, in 2021, through the RAIT program, several Danish hospitals in Copenhagen partnered with US-based imaging AI startup Enlitic to evaluate an AI-based algorithm to read chest X-rays. Similarly, in 2023, RAIT partnered with Cerebriu, a Denmark-based health tech company, to use AI to improve MRI imaging of the brain.

Investments in advanced digital technologies modernize healthcare infrastructure

As Denmark endeavors to digitalize its hospitals, ample opportunities arise for companies specializing in robotics and mobile health to improve hospital and clinical workflows, among other areas.

Some steps have been taken to digitalize hospitals. For instance, the Centre for Clinical Robotics (CCR), a research and innovation center for healthcare robotic technology in Denmark, aims to leverage robotic technology for various hospital processes, such as food service, cleaning, medication dispensing, clinical sample collection, etc.

Another interesting instance is the pilot project between Systematic, a Denmark-based software company, and physicians at the Aalborg University Hospital. Systematic has developed a communication platform called Columna Flow Clinical Tasking, which facilitates direct communication among the physicians at the Aalborg Hospital. The solution offers a real-time overview of the patients, including their medical conditions and the workload of hospital clinicians on duty. This empowers physicians to prioritize patients and efficiently allocate tasks during peak hospital hours.

EOS Perspective

The Danish health system is poised for an even more profound digital transformation in the coming years, aiming to improve patient accessibility and convenience. Denmark’s healthcare market is already highly digitalized, which provides a robust foundation for further digital transformation and innovation.

Home care and telemedicine, health data interoperability, AI-based diagnosis, healthcare automation, personalized medicine, and preventative health are likely the key focus areas for the next phase of digital health transformation.

Further, the country is looking to elevate patient care through its super hospital program, which involves consolidating smaller hospitals into larger, higher-capacity units. The aim is to provide superior medical care at lower costs. Technology will play a key role in improving healthcare delivery and patient outcomes in these hospitals, with applications across logistics, clinical decision support tools, diagnostic tools management, and patient engagement, among other areas.

These initiatives can be expected to make the Danish health system even more robust. The system is expected to move from a doctor-centric to a patient-centric care model, where patients would be actively involved in taking care of their own health. The country’s meticulously crafted digital health strategies, well-established digital infrastructure, and technology-proficient population lay a solid foundation to usher in the next wave of innovation.

As Denmark persists in its commitment to build a healthcare system fit for the future, there are abundant opportunities for health tech companies to thrive and drive innovation within the Danish healthcare industry.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

FemTech: A Game-Changer in Women’s Healthcare

Women’s healthcare is one of the most neglected and understudied fields in the healthcare sector. Despite substantial advances in medical sciences in recent years, there still exists a huge gap in the treatment of diseases that are specific to women. FemTech focuses on addressing some of these gaps and offers the potential to help tackle the longstanding issues of women’s health.

FemTech developed as an answer to inadequate healthcare for women

According to a 2018 article published in Our World in Data, a UK-based online scientific publication, human life expectancy has increased tremendously from 30 to 73 years during the last two centuries (1800–2018). But this leap has not been reflected in women’s life quality. A 2024 report published by the World Economic Forum and the McKinsey Health Institute indicated that women live 25% longer in poor health than men, although they typically outlive males.

FemTech, a group of technology-enabled solutions such as diagnostic tools, wearables, products, software, and services, aims to tackle women’s health issues, such as maternal, reproductive, menstrual, and sexual health, as well as menopause. An example is the UK-based Flo Health app that tracks ovulation and the menstrual cycle, offers customized health insights and tips, and a closed community for sharing concerns and queries. US-based Natural Cycles is another example. This application provides personalized insights based on each user’s menstrual cycle patterns. This novel approach to improving women’s health and well-being has been gaining more importance in recent years.

Several challenges slow down progress and widespread acceptance

While FemTech offers promising solutions to help diagnose and manage many health issues affecting women that were previously overlooked, several challenges are awaiting interested players.

One major bottleneck players face is the scarcity of investments. Many investors still consider FemTech a niche sector and shy away from investing compared to other healthcare fields. This situation is slightly improving, as the industry has seen an increase in investment in recent years. Data from Dealroom, an Amsterdam-based provider of data and insights on start-ups and tech ecosystems, indicated that the venture capital (VC) funding into FemTech startups reached US$2.1 billion in 2021, an all-time high.

Despite this increase in investment in FemTech, the total funding for this sector still trails other sectors, especially if it is female-led. The CEO of a leading US-based fertility tracker Mira, said in an interview with Forbes that though 70% of FemTech startups are female-founded, male-owned businesses tend to raise more capital.

Investors and lenders often have unconscious biases against female entrepreneurs, affecting their willingness to invest in female-led businesses, according to a 2020 study published in the Journal of Financial Economics, a peer-reviewed financial journal. Also, women might only have restricted access to male-dominated fundraising sources, including crowdfunding websites, angel investors, and VC firms. Similarly, the traditional male dominance in some areas, such as technology and finance, can also lead to power imbalances in fundraising and limit the options available to women.

Insufficient R&D support is another major challenge faced by players in the FemTech sector. This can be seen from the fact that a significant proportion of the funding allocated to healthcare R&D is not focused on issues that directly impact women’s health and well-being, with a meager 4% dedicated to this area according to a 2018 article published in Forbes. This insufficient funding can cause innovation stagnation, set back product development, and reduce market opportunities.

The inadequate representation of women in clinical trials is another difficulty faced by FemTech companies. This lack of representation has created a knowledge gap in understanding important facets of women’s health, such as female anatomy, physiology, health issues, etc. A 2022 study published in Contemporary Clinical Trials, a peer-reviewed journal, showed that though women constitute 50.8% of the US population, just 41.2% of those involved in clinical trials were female. This creates a certain lack of awareness of how women’s bodies work, making it challenging for FemTech businesses to develop effective solutions.

Cybersecurity issues are also creating challenges in the development of FemTech. A joint study by Newcastle University, Royal Holloway, University of London, and ETH Zurich found serious privacy, security, and safety concerns that could put users at risk. The research indicated the danger of leaking sensitive information, such as fertility, medical data, etc., to third parties.

Cultural and social taboos are another bottleneck faced by FemTech companies. Female-specific issues such as postpartum depression and premenstrual syndrome are rarely openly discussed. This makes bringing societal focus to FemTech products a difficult task.

FemTech A Game-Changer in Women's Healthcare by EOS Intelligence

FemTech A Game-Changer in Women’s Healthcare by EOS Intelligence

FemTech industry is seeing significant development in some segments

Though confronting numerous challenges, FemTech remains a promising industry for interested players with its projected market growth. The FemTech market, estimated at US$40.2 billion in 2020, is expected to reach US$75.1 billion in 2025, according to a 2021 report by the US-based market research agency Arizton Advisory & Intelligence.

General health and wellness is the fastest-growing segment

FemTech offers several solutions for improving women’s health across various segments, with general health and wellness companies attracting the most VC investment, followed by reproductive health and contraception.

The general health and wellness segment combines digital health clinics, mental health services, and direct-to-consumer products. Since companies in this segment focus on broad-ranging solutions that address multiple issues, demand for them is expected to rise.

An example is Maven, a New York-based company offering a holistic solution encompassing pre- and post-pregnancy care. This virtual clinic provides 24/7 access to healthcare professionals, including mental health therapists, relationship consultants, and sleep coaches. In 2022, Maven attracted US$300 million in funding from prominent investors and individual strategic partners.

Another example is Stockholm-based Grace Health, acquired by Penda Health, a Kenyan medical care chain in 2023. It uses an automated health assistant called Grace to monitor and understand women’s sexual and reproductive well-being and receive timely reminders and notifications. The company is also expanding its local footprint in key African markets, including Nigeria, Kenya, and Ghana, to solidify its position as a market leader in these regions.

Reproductive health segment is also seeing strong demand

The reproductive health segment and menstruation care are also expected to continue holding the interest of investors and customers alike. According to the NIH, in the USA, 20% of women are now having their first child after turning 35, owing to a greater emphasis on education and career. With increasing age, some women may experience difficulty before, during, or after pregnancy. Women will also need to effectively and accurately track their fertility to make informed reproductive choices. This is likely to greatly contribute to in increased demand for FemTech reproductive health solutions.

An example is the Clue App, a Germany-based fertility tracker that leverages user data to compute and predict individuals’ periods and PMS. In 2023, the company raised US$7.6 million in funding and partnered with global universities such as the University of Exeter to bridge the diagnosis gap for women’s health conditions. This collaboration is expected to create new trends in managing female health issues.

Oncology products are now aimed at individuals and medical professionals

Development is also underway in the oncology segment. An example is Nevada-based Cyrcadia Health developing a breast monitor that tracks changes in breast tissue temperature over time to aid in the detection and risk management of breast cancer. The monitor consists of two patches that track temperature changes and send the data anonymously to the Cyrcadia Health core lab. This data is analyzed using machine learning (ML) algorithms and predictive analytics software to identify and categorize abnormal circadian patterns in healthy breast tissue. The results are then delivered to healthcare providers. This solution, when it becomes available in the market, is expected to enable women to take more proactive control of their breast health.

Cancer continues to be a leading cause of women’s death both in middle-income and high-income countries, according to a 2017 article published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a peer-reviewed journal. Therefore, the focus on FemTech oriented at breast cancer and cancer in general is expected to gain momentum in the future.

Stigmatized conditions and marginalized subpopulations are increasingly addressed

Many FemTech companies are now exploring areas beyond menstrual and reproductive care and addressing stigmatized and unmet conditions such as preterm birth, endometriosis, pelvic care, and sexual health.

An example is London-based Elvie, a company that addresses pelvic floor dysfunction, a common and often overlooked health issue affecting many women. According to the NIH, 27% of women aged 40-59 and 37% of women aged 60-79 experience some form of pelvic floor dysfunction. Elvie has developed a Kegel trainer that uses biofeedback technology to improve pelvic and sexual health through five-minute workouts. The development of these solutions is expected to persuade more women to seek treatment and improve the diagnosis of these health conditions.

Similarly, apps are also being introduced for different sections of the population such as LGBTQ+, black women, and women from low and middle-income societies. US-based InovCares, an app designed to address the crisis of maternal mortality affecting Black women, is an example. This virtual OB-GYN platform connects users with culturally sensitive healthcare professionals who cater to various health needs, including fertility, childbirth, and breastfeeding.

Solutions are being developed in various geographies

While FemTech solutions development is concentrated in the USA and Europe, it is also visible in developing geographies such as Africa and Southeast Asia. An example is Indonesia’s BukuBumil which provides information on various aspects of pregnancy, including fertility, maternal health, baby immunizations, family planning, and post-pregnancy care in the Indonesian language. The platform also allows users to track a baby’s development and milestones.

Another one is Ethiopia-based YeneHealth, a multilingual and culturally responsive platform with AI-powered trackers for menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and medication management.

AI and ML are expected to shape the future of FemTech

Technological advancements are creating waves in the FemTech industry. Many companies are developing smart wearables and AI-powered solutions. Zurich-based Ava Women has developed a wearable, the Ava bracelet (available without prescription), to track hormonal changes. It allows users to monitor their ovulation and detect potential health issues. Ava’s technology uses big data and AI to provide accurate and personalized insights.

Similarly, Ovum, an Australia-based health management app, currently in its pilot phase, offers an AI health assistant designed for women to generate a dataset to improve treatments and diagnostics of various conditions. The app integrates and stores medical records, allowing users to track their health and receive personalized recommendations. This comprehensive data repository is crucial for complex or chronic conditions such as endometriosis, where a diagnosis can take years.

Experts believe the widespread use of AI and ML in FemTech apps will help players provide more accurate and data-driven solutions to users. AI can also analyze large datasets and use predictive analytics to anticipate health risks, such as gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia.

EOS Perspective

The FemTech landscape, though still developing, is expected to expand more and grow quickly, especially with the increasing discussion around female health, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels commented at the 2023 AWS re:Invent conference, the largest conference in the cloud computing community. He has highlighted the significant potential of FemTech to transform the female healthcare system, specifically considering that women make up 50% of the population and account for 80% of consumer healthcare decisions.

FemTech has also the potential to significantly impact the healthcare sector and the global economy as a whole in the coming years. A 2024 report by the McKinsey Health Institute indicated that improving women’s health could boost the world economy by at least US$1 trillion annually.

The market is expected to see FemTech players widen their business scope, offer multiple services, and address a broader set of health issues. An example of this trend is UK-based Peppy, which initially helped organizations better support their women staff members after they had a baby, but now also deals with menopausal issues. This shift demonstrates a broader approach to women’s health under a single solution and reflects a development towards more comprehensive and inclusive offerings within FemTech.

Since FemTech is still developing, extensive R&D can be expected in the coming years. Experts believe health issues affecting older women also offer interested parties a research investment opportunity. Even now, in discussions and debates regarding FemTech, the diseases suffered by older women get overlooked. This makes it a promising area for future developments.

As the FemTech market expands, it is likely to attract collaborations from players operating outside the healthcare sector. One of the first examples of this was seen in August 2021, when the French cosmetic giant L’Oréal partnered with Clue to research the connection between the menstrual cycle and skin health to improve its skincare products. Such collaborations, whether just publicity stunts for cosmetic companies or not, can help put FemTech solutions on the map of legitimate tools close to women’s health. Considering that FemTech is still considered a niche sector, this can draw attention to the relevance of this market and its players and, consequently, stimulate investment.

Over the long term, women-led companies are expected to create more effective FemTech solutions that identify and cater to women’s unique healthcare requirements. The key factor behind it is that women are better placed to understand the health issues affecting women. A 2022 study published in Harvard Business School’s digital research publication Working Knowledge has also indicated that female-led research teams are more likely to study conditions that impact both genders than male-led ones. With more women stepping into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) roles and female-led FemTech start-ups emerging, there is a promise of a more comprehensive scope of FemTech solutions.

A 2023 article published in Harvard Business Review noted an important trend that may positively affect the FemTech market: female investors are more likely to invest in and support female entrepreneurs. This suggests the potential for more capital flowing into women-led businesses, including in FemTech. As more women take on senior leadership roles in both FemTech startups and VC firms, this could substantially propel the industry growth.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

Digital Therapeutics: The Future of Healthcare?

Although the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be done with its rampage, many people still opt to access all kinds of services, including healthcare, from the comfort of their homes. As this trend is expected to continue, the global digital therapeutics market, with its projected growth at a 20% CAGR from 2022 to 2035, is one important sector healthcare firms should focus on right now.

Digital therapeutics (DTx) are digital health interventions or software applications that are clinically validated and designed to treat or manage medical conditions. They can be used alone or in conjunction with traditional medical treatments.

The Digital Therapeutics Alliance categorizes DTx products into three types: disease treatment, disease management, and health improvement.

Examples of DTx include a solution to manage chronic musculoskeletal pain developed by Kaia Health, a biotechnology company in New York. This motion analysis tool assesses and guides patients’ progress during physical therapy and tailors treatment to individual requirements.

Similarly, Clickotine from Click Therapeutics, a company also based in New York, uses AI to help people with nicotine addiction. This solution offers a personalized plan fully integrated with eight weeks of nicotine replacement therapy, including options such as gum, patches, or lozenges. It tracks critical aspects such as daily cigarette counts, craving triggers, craving times, etc. A trial study conducted by the company in 2016 claimed that 45% of Clickotine users were able to quit smoking.

Adoption of DTx is taking off amid increased investments

The commercial development of DTx started around 2015 and, since then, has grown into a global market of considerable size. The total value of global DTx start-ups was estimated at a whopping US$31 billion in 2022, according to a 2022 report published by Dealroom, an Amsterdam-based firm offering data and insights about start-ups and tech ecosystems, in partnership with MTIP (a Swiss-based private equity firm), Inkef (an Amsterdam-based early-stage venture investment firm), and Speedinvest (an Austrian early-stage investor).

The number of people using DTx solutions is expected to increase over the next few years, according to a 2022 report by Juniper Research, a UK-based research firm. The study found that there were 7 million DTx users in the USA in 2020, a number expected to rise to around 40 million in 2026.

This increase can be attributed to the fact that DTx solutions are highly accessible and distributable due to an increase in the use of smartphones. A 2021 report published by Pew Research Center, a US-based think tank, found that 87% of Americans owned a smartphone in 2021, compared to 35% in 2011. With this, more people will be able to access medical care without having to spend more on hospital visits.

DTx applications have also been attracting numerous investors owing to the applications’ cost-effectiveness, ease of distribution, and better accessibility. According to the same 2022 report published by Dealroom, global venture capital funding in DTx witnessed a fourfold increase in 2022 compared to 2017.

All these studies reveal that, despite certain challenges, the DTx applications hold the promise of developing into a practical and affordable means of treating illnesses and conditions that impact large numbers of people.

Regulatory pitfalls present a major roadblock to DTx adoption

One main challenge DTx companies face is the regulatory environment. All DTx products must comply with the regulations of regional agencies such as the FDA, HIPAA, HITECH, etc.

Many US firms initially faced regulatory obstacles and payer resistance around product reimbursement. Before 2017, the US FDA classified DTx solutions as a SaMD (Software as a Medical Device) and, therefore, made them subject to risk assessment (low, medium, or high). Due to this, DTx solutions needed premarket approval and rigorous clinical trial results to get approval.

This has improved with the introduction of the Digital Health Innovation Action Plan by the FDA in 2017. According to the new plan, the FDA will first consider the company producing the solution. If the producer has demonstrated quality and excellence, it can market lower-risk devices with a streamlined premarket review. Post-market surveillance and data collection are also done to evaluate product efficiency.

Similarly, in the EU, DTx is controlled by national competent authorities and governed by the European Regulation on Medical Devices 2017/745 (MDR). However, no specific framework indicates the evidence required for assessing the performance or quality of DTx solutions or their production standards. This means that the member states may interpret the dossier requirements differently, leading to a fractured regulatory environment.

The COVID-19 pandemic has provided companies with some regulatory flexibility, leading to an increase in venture capital funding. In 2020, the federal government in the USA issued a new rule allowing healthcare practitioners to treat patients across state lines, including the use of digital medicine. This can increase access to healthcare, especially in rural areas, and physicians will be able to offer timely care to their patients traveling in a different state.

The FDA has also loosened regulations during COVID-19, particularly for mental health products, with the Digital Health Innovation Action Plan. This was to ensure that patients received timely care even from their homes while reducing the burden on hospitals. It waived certain regulatory obligations, such as the need to file a 510(k) premarket notification during the COVID-19 pandemic. The 510(k) is a submission indicating that a new medical device is similar to something already approved by the FDA (a predicate device) to ensure safety and efficiency. However, finding suitable comparables can be highly challenging in the case of DTx, which is dynamically evolving. This can result in misunderstandings or overlooking of critical aspects of these solutions, leading to uncertainty and delays in the approval process. The waiver of this regulation offers DTx companies some relief in the future.

Digital Therapeutics - The Future of Healthcare by EOS Intelligence

Digital Therapeutics – The Future of Healthcare by EOS Intelligence

Patient health literacy is a hurdle in the adoption of DTx solutions

A survey by the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) in 2003 has shown that only 12% of Americans possess proficient health literacy skills, making them able to find and understand information related to their health. This lack of awareness among patients can also impede the ease of applying DTx products.

Patient experience is also crucial for the acceleration of DTx adoption. Older patients unfamiliar with using technological gadgets can find it difficult to adopt DTx solutions. However, a 2022 AMA survey has shown that 90% of people over the age of 50 in the USA recognize some benefit from digital health tools.

Similarly, a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2021 indicated an increase in the use of smartphones and the internet among older people in the USA, driven by the pandemic. Older adults are using technological applications for activities such as entertainment, banking, shopping, etc., even after the pandemic, a 2021 survey by AARP Research, a US-based NPO, shows. This indicates that there is scope for an increase in adoption.

Many companies are now trying to increase patient involvement by using gamification, aiming at patient groups for whom DTx use is likely to be more challenging (e.g., older population, children). DTx developers include game-like elements or mechanics into a DTx solution, such as tasks, rewards, badges, points, and leaderboards. An example is US-based Akili Interactive’s EndeavorRx, a prescription DTx aimed at enhancing attention function in children with ADHD aged 8 to 12. It uses an interactive mobile video game to assist children in improving their attention skills and adjusting to their performance levels. The game’s sensory stimuli and motor challenges also help kids multitask and tune out distractions.

Payer reluctance affects many DTx products

Although the number of DTX products on the market increases, payers’ reluctance to cover their costs to the patient can also slow down adoption. The coverage of DTx solutions is limited, even when they are FDA-approved. Only 25% of payers are currently willing to cover prescription DTx solutions, according to a 2022 survey by MMIT, a Pennsylvania-based market data provider, which involved 16 payers.

Akili Interactive’s EndeavorRx is one such solution facing insurance coverage issues. Elevance Health (previously Anthem) denied coverage for EndeavorRx, deeming it medically unnecessary, while Aetna, another insurance provider, considers it experimental and investigational.

A study released by Health Affairs, a health policy research journal, in November 2023 has shown that only two of the twenty FDA-approved prescription DTx solutions on the market have undergone rigorous evidence-based evaluation. This means that no authoritative results indicating the benefits of these solutions for various population demographics are available, making many payers skeptical of their medical claims.

DTx offers solutions for managing multiple conditions

Over the past few years, several prominent players have emerged in the DTx landscape. Around 59% of the DTx market is concentrated in the North American region and 28% in Europe.

Top players, such as Akili Interactive and Big Health, both US-based firms, focus on offering products for managing mental health illnesses, mostly management of anxiety, depression, and stress, according to a report published in 2023 (based on data until September 2022) by Roots Analysis, an India-based pharma/biotech market research firm. With about 970 million people suffering from mental health conditions globally (according to the WHO), the potential user pool is enormous, offering growth opportunities for DTx solutions developed to address mental illnesses and, over time, driving the growth of the DTx market as a whole.

Many top companies also focus on solutions offering pain management and treatment for chronic conditions such as diabetes, obstructive pulmonary disease, and musculoskeletal disorders. An example is US-based Omada’s pain management solution, Omada MSK. This application guides patients through various customized exercises and records their movements, which are then assessed by a licensed physical therapist (PT), who can make recommendations for improvement. It also has a tool that utilizes computer vision technology to help PTs virtually assess a patient’s movement and range of motion, allowing them to make necessary changes in the therapy.

Similarly, several DTx solutions on the market now focus specifically on diabetes, which affects around 537 million adults globally. Some top companies focus on the previously unmet needs of conventional methods, such as weight management or preventing prediabetes, to help with overall diabetes treatment. US-based Omada’s solution, Omada Prediabetes, comes with a weight scale pre-connected to the app, and the weight is added to the app as soon as the patient steps on the scale. A dedicated health coach assesses the patient’s weight, creates a customized plan, and monitors the patient’s progress. In other similar DTx solutions for diabetes, an app can also give insulin dose recommendations based on the patient’s blood glucose levels.

DTx can serve in a range of other conditions, including major depressive disorder, autism spectrum disorder, and multiple sclerosis, to name a few.

The DTx landscape is rife with development

The DTx business landscape has recently seen many developments, from acquisitions to product launches. One of them was Big Health’s acquisition of Limbix, a California-based DTx firm, in July 2023 to bolster its portfolio, including SparkRx, a treatment for adolescents dealing with depression and anxiety. Similarly, in June 2023, Kaia Health launched Angela, a HIPAA-compliant, AI-powered voice-based digital care assistant, to serve as a companion and guide, enhancing the physical therapy experience for patients.

In another development, BehaVR, a DTx company headquartered in Kentucky, and Fern Health, a digital chronic pain management program, merged their companies in November 2023 to create a novel pain management DTx solution that addresses both pain and fear caused by chronic diseases. With this merger, they launched RealizedCare, an app designed to offer a comprehensive solution that collaborates with health plans, employers, and value-based providers to treat a range of behavioral and mental health conditions. This solution provides clinicians with immersive programs specifically designed for in-clinic use. It is initially focusing on chronic pain.

Bankruptcy of Pear and lessons for the industry

However, the most shocking development in the DTx market was the bankruptcy of Pear Therapeutics in 2023. The remains of this once-prominent company were purchased by four other companies for a total of US$6.05 million at an auction. Pear was a big name in the industry since its inception in 2013. It introduced numerous products such as reSET, reSET-O, and Somryst for treating substance use disorder, opioid use disorder, and chronic insomnia, respectively. It was also the first company to receive FDA approval for a mobile app aimed at treating substance use disorders.

Though the company announced layoffs of nearly 20% of its workforce in November 2022, its management expressed optimism about the company’s growth and reduced operating expenses in the third quarter. But in April 2023, the company filed for bankruptcy.

The demise of Pear has opened the eyes of industry experts to the challenges faced by DTx players. Certain issues were unique to Pear itself, such as the comparatively higher prices of its products and the focus on treating challenging conditions such as substance use disorders. However, the bankruptcy of Pear also brings attention to the obstacles that can be faced by any other DTx company. One crucial roadblock is that physicians and payers still approach these products with caution. Additionally, achieving profitability for DTx might be challenging for all types of players, particularly for small start-ups lacking substantial market influence. The bankruptcy of Pear and the challenges it faced can be used by budding DTx companies as a road map as they navigate this complex sector.

EOS Perspective

DTx is all set to revolutionize the medical industry, with a 2020 McKinsey report suggesting it could potentially alleviate the global disease burden by up to 10% by 2040. Given the impact of emerging treatments on stakeholders, pharmaceutical and healthcare companies should consider expanding their portfolio to include DTx solutions.

With telehealth companies seeing good growth in the pandemic and post-pandemic years, an increase in investment can be expected as they are uniquely placed to support prescription DTx. With the growth of the digital health industry, prominent telehealth providers may also choose to acquire DTx businesses or create their own in-house DTx solutions.


Read our related Perspective:
 COVID-19 Outbreak Boosts the Use of Telehealth Services

An increase in industry M&A activities can be expected in the next few years, with growing incidences of chronic illnesses, improved technology penetration across all age groups, and a maturing market. Big names such as Bayer, Novartis, and Sanofi are also entering into partnerships with DTx companies, indicating a bright future for the sector.

Mental health and behavioral therapy are great fields to branch out for companies starting in the DTx landscape, especially in this post-pandemic era. Demand for such services is likely to be sustained, considering the National Institute of Mental Health Disorders estimates that one in four adults in the USA suffers from a diagnosable mental illness, with many suffering from multiple conditions.

Similarly, diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart, and respiratory ailments are on the rise. Healthcare companies can effectively address these medical areas through the use of DTx applications, providing personalized care for patients. This approach has the potential to manage not only chronic conditions such as diabetes but also terminal illnesses such as cancer.

Many DTx players will likely focus on areas with unmet needs, including pediatrics and metabolic disorders. With seven DTx-based diabetic management solutions already receiving 510(k) clearance as of December 2022, it can be expected that more products addressing the treatment gaps might flood the market.

The DTx industry is gradually maturing and has been receiving significant investments in recent years (US$8 billion in 2022). While experts view it as a profitable market, hesitation remains, particularly following the bankruptcy of Pear Therapeutics.

Nevertheless, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures, technology adoption among older adults has increased significantly. Hence, strategic investments in DTx by pharmaceutical and healthcare companies, taking into account market conditions, can expect to establish a stronger presence in this industry in the future.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

Europe AI Regulation Deal – Beginning of a New Technological Era?

The proliferation of artificial intelligence (AI) applications in recent years has highlighted the importance of regulatory frameworks to ensure AI’s responsible use. Recognizing this, the EU has become the first global power to pass AI-related legislation. The EU AI Act, considered a watershed moment in today’s digital era, is expected to create ripples worldwide and prompt leaders to take initiatives to control the use of AI.

The AI industry, valued at US$454.1 billion in 2022, is predicted to reach US$2.6 trillion by 2032, according to a 2023 report by Canada/India-based market research company Precedence Research. Although this impressive increase in the use of AI offers immense potential, it has raised numerous concerns about its misuse. Many industry experts have voiced concern about how significantly AI impacts important industries such as education and health, and may eventually alter human lives.

Regulatory bodies and governments worldwide are also now aware of the risks of bias, discrimination, and privacy breaches that come with the unrestricted use of AI. A 2020 study published in Sustainable Development, an interdisciplinary journal, found that unchecked AI poses a threat to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) established by the UN.

The EU took its first step in addressing concerns related to AI in April 2021 when it released the first draft of EU AI regulation. However, this draft was revised after the 2022 release of ChatGPT to include the newer technological advances with a future-proof approach that will enable the law to evolve as technology does.

The EU AI rule uses a risk-based strategy to divide AI systems into categories, namely unacceptable, high, limited, and minimal risk. Systems categorized in the unacceptable risk group will be banned, and those with high risk will undergo a rigorous assessment to understand their effect on fundamental rights and be given a CE mark before their market release.

The limited risk category that fulfills specific transparency requirements should follow EU copyright laws, prepare technical documentation, and release a synopsis of the training materials so the users can make an informed decision. Companies can release minimal-risk systems, such as spam filters and AI-powered video games, without restrictions.

The AI Act has also introduced certain transparency requirements for general-purpose AI (GPAI) models such as Gemini and ChatGPT. For powerful and highly effective models, there are additional risk management requirements, such as maintaining cybersecurity standards, conducting evaluations, assessing and mitigating risks, and reporting serious events.

The EU AI Act has several implications for business across the continent

Many industry experts consider the EU AI Act a significant regulatory tool for overseeing the advancement and utilization of AI technologies throughout the continent. The enforcement of this act is expected to influence significantly the operations, approaches, and competitive environment across several sectors in the EU, as well as intercontinental business with products traded in the European market.

Achieving compliance is one of the main challenges businesses will face with the introduction of the new EU AI law. The law comes with a hefty penalty for non-compliance, with most violations costing businesses €15 million, or 3% of their annual global turnover. Non-compliance concerning banned AI systems can result in fines of up to €35 million, or 7% of the company’s annual turnover. Furthermore, providing false, deceptive, or incomplete information may result in fines of up to €7.5 million, or 1.5% of the total turnover.

Any organization aiming for compliance needs to perform a gap analysis to identify disparities and enhance company processes, policies, and metrics. They must also provide the regulators with accurate, efficient, and timely answers. All these place a substantial organizational and economic burden on the companies.

Another challenge businesses can face is implementing all the changes needed to fill the compliance gap while being consistent with their internal structure. This will require the company to identify the metrics it needs to track to achieve compliance and design new organizational procedures to fulfill this. This should also be done in such a way that it does not hinder other strategic goals, such as innovation, budgetary constraints, etc., placing additional strain on the leadership.

Companies offering multiple AI solutions can face several complicated roadblocks with the implementation of the EU AI Act. Such organizations will be subject to a different set of regulations depending on the risk category of their AI products. This can lead to internal policy confusion.

Slower product development cycles and delays in product releases are other bottlenecks that companies will need to address with the act’s implementation. New AI-powered products, especially high-risk ones, now need to undergo more rigorous evaluation to ensure compliance, which can slow the entire process.

Players can also face challenges in M&A activities with the new regulations. Businesses will now need to spend more time and resources assessing the compliance of their merging partner before proceeding.

There are several opportunities for determined businesses

While the implementation of the EU AI Act does spell several challenges for businesses, it also offers opportunities for interested players. With the new act in place, customers will be able to place more trust in AI solutions. This will enhance the adoption of new AI-based systems.

Determined players can also improve innovation and gain investment with the help of Article 53 of the Act. This section states the possibility of establishing “regulatory sandboxes” that can be set up by one or more member states. These sandboxes offer controlled environments for developing, testing, and validating new AI technologies for a short time under the guidance of a competent authority. This will also ensure that the AI solutions fulfill regulatory compliance.

The EU AI Act offers special support measures to start-ups and SMEs. The compliance requirements for high-risk AI have been modified to make them less burdensome and technically feasible. Start-ups and SMEs also get a proportional cap on compliance infringement fines. This will make it easier for budding businesses in the AI sector to make leaps in innovation and product development.

Interested EU-based players can also receive support for product development through programs such as Testing and Experimentation Facilities, Data and Robotics Hubs, Digital Innovation Hubs, etc. The AI Office, set up by the EU AI Act to oversee the rules and regulations related to GPAI models, has established forums where stakeholders can exchange best practices and contribute to rules of conduct and practice. This can improve participation across industries and enhance inclusiveness.

EOS Perspective

The EU AI Act can be considered a landmark development in the regulation of AI technologies in Europe. It has extensive implications for businesses, society, and the economy on the continent and worldwide. Many industry leaders consider this act a starting point in AI regulation. Other countries are expected to follow in the EU’s footsteps soon and make similar laws curbing the effects of unregulated AI.

The EU AI Act is expected to make AI-based solutions safe and bias-free, with better transparency into their developmental processes. It is also expected to enhance accountability and create a more responsible approach to AI development and deployment.

Businesses, especially SMEs and start-ups, can expect several benefits from this act. Experts predict that with the renewed focus on safety and ethical issues, there will be large-scale development of far more trustworthy and robust AI-based solutions in the future.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

eNaira: Is It Here to Stay or Are Nigerians Going to Say ‘Nay’?

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Although Nigeria boasts about its digital currency launch, there are contradictory opinions about eNaira’s subsequent adoption. The eNaira has the potential to impact Nigeria’s economy positively, however, it is not possible without its widespread acceptance.

CBDC – A global picture

Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) is virtual currency or money issued and controlled by a country’s central bank. According to the Atlantic Council, a leading US-based think tank, 130 countries were considering a CBDC as of September 2023, while only 35 countries were exploring a CBDC as of May 2020. This steep rise in the number of countries considering CBDC in a span of just over three years shows an increasing interest in CBDC across the globe. Even more so, some 64 countries are already in an advanced phase of exploration of the currency (development, pilot, or launch phase).

Among the G20 countries, 19 are in the advanced stage of developing CBDC, and 9 out of these 19 G20 countries are in the pilot phase. There are some 11 countries that have launched a CBDC. China’s CBDC is in the pilot stage and is presently reaching 260 million people taking part in this pilot while being tested in more than 200 scenarios, including e-commerce, public transit, and stimulus payments. In Europe, the European Central Bank is currently on course to start its pilot for CBDC, the digital euro.

More than 20 other countries are stepping towards piloting their digital currency in 2023. Countries such as Australia, Thailand, and Russia plan on continuing pilot testing. Brazil and India intend to launch their CBDC in 2024.

eNaira – A choice or compulsion?

eNaira is Nigeria’s digital currency, issued and regulated by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for retail use. It is a liability of the CBN, similar to coins and cash.

Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum are similar to eNaira in terms of the underlying Bitcoin technology. Apart from this, both cryptocurrencies and eNaira are stored in digital wallets and can be used for payments and digital transfers across the globe to anyone with an eNaira account at no cost.

However, what makes eNaira different from Bitcoin or Ethereum is that the CBN has access rights controls over the Nigerian digital currency. Secondly, the eNaira is not a financial asset but rather a digital form of the physical naira, to which it is pegged at parity.

With the release of eNaira in October 2021, Nigeria became the first country in the African continent and second in the world after the Bahamas to launch a CBDC. Major motivations behind launching CBDC in Nigeria included encouraging financial inclusion, improving cross-border transactions, complementing the current payment systems, and enabling diaspora remittances. However, the adoption of eNaira has been low, with only 0.5% of the Nigerian population using CBDC within a year of its launch.

In a rather desperate move to compel its people to adopt eNaira, the government caused cash shortages in the country. This resulted in protests, riots, and unrest among Nigerians. As a result of the currency shortages in early 2022, Nigeria witnessed a 12-fold increase in the number of e-Naira wallets to 13 million since October 2021.

As of July 2023, the value of transactions had also seen a 63% rise to N22 billion (US$48 million) since its launch in October 2021. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), 98.5% of the eNaira wallets were inactive one year after the launch of the CBDC, meaning 98.5% of eNaira wallets have not been used even once during any given week. These low levels of activity mirror the low public adoption of eNaira.

eNaira Is It Here to Stay or Are Nigerians Going to Say ‘Nay’ by EOS Intelligence

eNaira Is It Here to Stay or Are Nigerians Going to Say ‘Nay’ by EOS Intelligence

Motivations to launch eNaira: Strong enough to sustain adoption?

CBN conceived multiple advantages of adopting eNaira, such as fostering financial inclusion, facilitating remittances, and minimizing informality in the economy. These serve as motivations for launching eNaira and are expected to take shape with the eNaira becoming more widespread along with strong support of the regulatory system.

Fostering financial inclusion

Currently, eNaira can be used by people with bank accounts, but the idea is to expand the coverage to anyone with a mobile phone, even if they do not have a bank account. Around 38% of the adult population in Nigeria do not have bank accounts. If this section of the adult population could be provided with access to eNaira through mobile phones, Nigeria could potentially achieve 90% financial inclusion.

Facilitating remittances

Nigeria is one of the Sub-Saharan African countries that receives considerable remittances. In 2019, Nigeria received US$24 billion in remittances, which are usually made through international money transfer operators. These operators charge around 1-5% of the value of the transaction as their fee. One of the motivations for launching eNaira is to reduce the costs associated with remittance transfers.

Minimizing informality in the economy

With more than half of the economy being informal, it becomes imperative for the Nigerian government to introduce a digital currency across the country to reduce the informality in the economy and increase the country’s tax revenues. Therefore, eNaira was launched in Nigeria to strengthen the tax base along with obtaining higher transparency in informal payments.

Can Nigeria overcome implementation challenges to spur eNaira adoption?

It comes as no surprise that Nigeria is facing a range of adoption barriers on its journey to eNaira’s widespread implementation. Apart from perceptual barriers such as considering eNaira wallets as deposits at the central bank, which might decrease the demand for deposits in commercial banks, there are cybersecurity risks and operational barriers linked to eNaira. These adoption barriers to Nigeria’s CBDC include a combination of factors such as lack of required tech infrastructure, lack of training of bank personnel managing the process, trust issues, and electricity and internet issues.

Lack of tech infrastructure

The CBN is looking to revamp the technological platform used for eNaira and was in talks for that with a company called R3 in early 2023. CBN is contemplating having complete control over the platform, while eNaira was initially developed in collaboration with a fintech multinational called Bitt. The change of technology platform vendor in less than two years might suggest a lack of vision of CBN regarding the technological infrastructure necessary for the seamless adoption of eNaira.

Lack of training

The CBN is expected to oversee the ledger and manage the system, while other financial institutions, such as banks, are to provide users with access to CBDC wallets. The bank staff is required to onboard users to the eNaira platform. However, it is observed that the bank staff is not sufficiently trained to be able to seamlessly bring users on board. This, in turn, negatively impacts the adoption of CBDC.

Trust issues

Nigeria has been considered a country with high money laundering and terrorist organizations funding risk (ML/TF). In February 2023, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global money laundering and terrorism funding inspection organization, put Nigeria on its grey list owing to Nigeria not having adequate measures to curb such activities. Similarly, Basel Institute of Governance, a non-profit organization focused on improving governance and preventing corruption and other financial crimes, in its 2022 global ranking on ML/TF risks, placed Nigeria 17th out of 128 countries, a high spot indicating a significant risk of ML/TF.

In the current design of CBDC in Nigeria, the CBN is equipped to monitor all users’ transactions using eNaira, potentially allowing it to detect and curb ML/TF activities and improve Nigeria’s standing in the risk rankings. However, this has turned out to be a double-edged sword in implementing eNaira. The high level of supervision of all transactions has brought apprehension amongst potential users in Nigeria, most of whom believe that eNaira was developed by the government to monitor the monetary transactions, breaching their right to privacy and potentially giving the government a tool to control them. This lack of trust significantly hampers the adoption of the CBDC in Nigeria.

Electricity and internet issues

With around 92 million people not having access to power in a population of 200 million, Nigeria has one of the lowest electricity access rates globally, as per the Energy Progress Report 2022 published by Tracking SDG 7. At the same time, the internet penetration in Nigeria stands at 55.4% in 2023. Seamless internet connectivity and power access are some of the critical prerequisites for the smooth implementation of the eNaira in Nigeria.

What would give eNaira adoption a much-needed push?

As the challenges to widespread adoption of the eNaira are multipronged, finding solutions to overcome the implementation challenges is not easy or quick.

One of the main infrastructural challenges, inadequate power and internet access, should be among the first to be addressed. One way to approach it is to create offline access to the eNaira platform. To achieve this, the CBN launched the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) code for eNaira, meaning that Nigerians without internet-enabled phones can perform transactions with eNaira.

To facilitate rapid and seamless adoption of the eNaira, the CBN must make the CBDC available to everyone with a mobile phone. More and more people should be encouraged to use eNaira by incentivizing them through rebates while paying income tax. Another incentive example dates back to October 2022 when CBN offered discounts if people used eNaira to pay for cabs.

EOS Perspective

The eNaira has the potential to have a significant impact on the Nigerian economy. As transactions using eNaira are fully traceable, more widespread adoption of eNaira is expected to expand the country’s tax base by bringing higher transparency in payments, especially in informal markets. It will undoubtedly result in higher tax revenue, a development welcomed by the government.

With US$24 billion in remittance receipts in 2019, Nigeria is considered one of the key remittance destinations in Sub-Saharan Africa. As remittances are currently burdened with a 1-5% charge of the transaction value, removing these costs through the adoption of eNaira would bring more remittance income to the population and, indirectly, more capital to the Nigerian economy.

With the expanded tax base, cheaper and higher inflows of remittances, facilitated retail payments, welfare transfers, etc., the impact of the eNaira on the Nigerian economy is likely to be quite considerable. Indeed, at the time of launch, the CBN estimated that the eNaira should increase Nigeria’s GDP by US$29 billion over the first 10 years, contributing to the country’s economic growth and development. With the implementation challenges encountered so far, it is clear that these estimations were overly optimistic. Still, how well the CBN can do its homework and undertake well-directed steps to navigate the challenges remains to be seen.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

Future of Animal Medicine Will Be 3D-printed

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Additive manufacturing, better known as 3D printing, attracted the attention of various healthcare sectors, as it has wide applications and provides beneficial results due to its extensive flexibility and customization. 3D printing is becoming more popular in veterinary medicine owing to its revolutionary ability to build a 3D model of many objects using computer-aided design (CAD) software and successfully utilizing it in animal health ranging from implants to prostheses to tissue replacements. The 3D printing market in animal medicine is therefore projected to witness considerable growth, predicted at 15.24% CAGR during the forecast period of 2023-2031. Like almost all technologies, 3D printing in veterinary medicine has its advantages and a few challenges that need consideration.

3D printing technology is rapidly growing, including in veterinary medicine, as it continues to improve and become more accessible. Veterinarians are largely utilizing 3D printing technology because of the transformative approach it offers, while the decreasing cost of printers makes it feasible to develop the most desired model easily within a relatively short period of time.

3D printing finds application in a range of animal care areas

3D printing is a promising technology used to improve animal health and life span by treating disabilities developed due to events such as accidents or other medical conditions. Given its versatility, 3D printing in veterinary medicine is used for a broad range of applications.

Animal prosthetics and orthotics

In veterinary prosthetics and orthotics, 3D printing is used mainly for the development of bone structures, complex implants, and surgical guides. One of the first cases of 3D-printed prosthetics used in an animal was noted in the USA, where Derby, the dog, was born with short forelegs and no front paws, making him unable to walk. In December 2014, with the use of 3D scanning software, Derby was equipped with 3D-printed prosthetics, allowing him to start running and walking freely. Other notable cases of successful 3D-printed prosthetics applications in animals include Romina, a whippet who lost her leg in an accident in 2016. Her leg was fitted with a 3D-printed limb by specialists at Mexico City’s Veterinary Hospital, allowing the dog to walk again.

3D printing in surgical models planning

3D printing technology is ideal for surgical model planning since it allows surgeons to examine and determine bone structures based on a visual examination as the initial stage in surgical planning. Vets can directly quantify the deformity by doing preoperative assessments, however, sometimes, visual inspection of complex bone conformation might be challenging. Furthermore, 3D printing technology in surgical planning is a useful resource to help pet owners better understand their animals’ health issues and planned treatment options.

Future of Animal Medicine Will Be 3D-printed by EOS Intelligence

Future of Animal Medicine Will Be 3D-printed by EOS Intelligence

Education and training

3D printing is one of the most practical and efficient methods for the production of exact anatomic models needed at learning and training facilities across all levels of the veterinary education system. Students can examine and practice on realistic models, gaining a better understanding of complex anatomical structures and surgical techniques. This technology enhances the learning experience and prepares future veterinarians for various scenarios. The list of universities that use 3D printing in their veterinary medicine program is long and expanding and currently includes US-based institutions such as Ohio State University, University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania State University, Cornell University, North Carolina State, University of Tennessee, as well as University of Nottingham and University of Derby in the UK, Satbayev University in Kazakhstan, Indian Veterinary Research Institute and Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University in India, University of Ghent in Belgium, Utrecht University in the Netherlands, University of Bern in Switzerland, University of Glasgow in Scotland, and University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna in Austria, to name a few.

3D printing implants

Implants developed using 3D printing technology are customized to enhance the quality of an animal’s life and are particularly useful in oncological cases, where massive excision requires implant structures to replace removed tissues and restore their functions. A wide range of implants has been created utilizing common biocompatible materials such as titanium and nylon, which have demonstrated a considerable success rate in a variety of complex procedures ranging from skull flap and limb replacement to tibial tuberosity advancement implants. To create medical implants, veterinarians employ powder bed fusion, a metal 3D printing method, which allows them to create implants in a variety of desirable shapes and structures.

3D-printed masks

3D-printed masks are useful and essential to cure wounds from surgery and help to recover from fractures and bone destruction. The 3D-printed mask helps animals recover from injuries without the risk of reopening a wound or dislocating their bones. In August 2017, a female black-breasted leaf turtle in Tennessee suffered a wound on one of her nostrils and was having difficulty eating. To permanently repair the damage, a 3D-printed face mask was created to cover the whole wound region without blocking eyesight or limiting her ability to move her head.

Dynamic drivers power global 3D printing market growth in animal medicine

The global 3D printing in veterinary medicine market size is expected to increase from USD 2.8 billion to USD 11 billion and is estimated to grow by 15.24% CAGR during the forecast period of 2023-2031.

The North American market is expected to be the leading market due to high animal adoption rates, increased pet expenditures, and the abundance of veterinary facilities and clinics in the region. The European market is expected to be the second most prominent, with an increase in the number of experienced veterinarians and R&D investment, particularly in animal health, factors that are likely to drive market expansion. The Asia Pacific market is experiencing a moderate growth rate and is expected to continue showing promising growth in the coming years. This can be attributed to the increasing trend of pet adoption, particularly in countries such as Japan and Australia, where owning a pet is viewed as a symbol of social status. Australia has the highest pet ownership rate in the world, with 63% of the population owning a pet.

The major growth factors that are globally boosting 3D printing in veterinary medicine include wide applications in animal care as the technology enables the creation of patient-specific solutions and a cost-effective approach that varies from a few hundred to around a thousand dollars, which is less than traditional manufacturing methods for veterinary implants. Rapid prototyping is another major growth driver for 3D printing since it allows veterinarians and researchers to quickly prototype and test ideas, resulting in more efficient development procedures. 3D printing also improves patient outcomes by providing personalized solutions that result in better-fitting prosthetics, implants, and devices, which can improve an animal’s quality of life and overall health.

Extensive R&D efforts contribute to the market players’ growth

The global 3D printing market in veterinary medicine is competitive and includes a diverse range of established and startup companies that are actively contributing to advancements in veterinary care. Among the companies providing 3D printing solutions in animal medicine, some of the few leading players include Formlabs, Materialise, Med Dimensions, VET 3D, BTech Innovation, M3D ILAB, DeiveDesign, and Cabiomede. Given the relatively early stage of development that the market is currently at, it is not surprising that R&D plays a vital role in most players’ operations and growth. Many players work toward offering more comprehensive solutions to end-user entities through strategic agreements, partnerships, and acquisitions.

3D Systems Corporation, headquartered in the USA, is considered the leading manufacturing company in this market. It provides medical and dental solutions, as well as veterinary applications. 3D Systems provides a diverse array of products and services that have been used to produce anatomical models, implants, prosthetics, and surgical guides for animals. The company uses various 3D printing technologies such as film-transfer imaging, SLA, SLS, and direct metal printing. It outsources certain printer assembly, printer production, and refurbishment activities to selected organizations and suppliers. With the advancing technological changes in 3D printing, the company claims to have been focusing on ongoing R&D programs to develop new and enhance existing printers and printing materials.

Another market leader is Stratasys, an American-Israeli manufacturer with a global presence in the 3D printing industry for animal medicine. The company offers a range of 3D printing solutions, including 3D printers, materials, Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), and PolyJet technologies. These technologies have been effectively utilized in veterinary medicine to create patient-specific models and surgical guidance for preoperative planning. Stratasys is another player that claims to put investment in R&D to the forefront, to broaden its capabilities and offerings in the veterinary field. The company collaborates with hospitals and universities, such as Colorado State University’s veterinary hospital and AniCura, a European network of animal hospitals and clinics, to advance the use of 3D printing in animal care and creating patient-specific implants. They have been actively integrating this technology into their veterinary practices.

Materialise is a provider of 3D printing software solutions and complex 3D plastic printing services for animal medicine. It employs technologies such as FDM, Multi-Jet Modeling (MJM), and vacuum casting. The company provides custom implants, 3D visualization, and orthotics surgical solutions. Materialize supplies to veterinary research institutes, hospitals, and major medical device manufacturing companies. The company’s software section offers software-based applications and related technology, such as CAD packages and 3D scanners. It has a strong presence in the Americas and offers worldwide coverage to its clients.

Another two companies worth mentioning are VetCT and Wimba. VetCT, a US-based company, specializes in veterinary imaging and has developed expertise in producing 3D reconstructions from a variety of imaging modalities. The company provides 3D modeling and printing services to veterinarians to improve treatment knowledge and planning. Wimba, headquartered in Poland, provides a variety of personalized animal 3D and 4D printed orthopedics items by applying unique measuring techniques and specialized software, resulting in products that are more durable and lightweight.

All these players in the 3D printing market for animal care continue to develop and advance in their specialized product offerings. It can be expected that this specialization will continue and deepen, with the companies trying to carve a unique niche for themselves, especially as the competitiveness in the market is likely to intensify.

A range of challenges continues to put a brake on 3D printing’s mainstream use

3D printing technology has made remarkable advancements in animal medicine, offering immense potential to transform veterinary practices. However, several challenges must be overcome before 3D printing may successfully become main stream in animal treatment.

One of the significant barriers to the adoption of 3D printing technology in clinical practice is its time-consuming nature. The process of creating a replica model and the printing itself are all complicated procedures that can take anywhere from three days to several weeks. This can be a significant challenge for veterinarians who need to provide prompt and effective treatment for their patients.

Creating precise 3D models for printing often relies on medical imaging techniques such as CT scans or MRIs. However, generating high-quality images of animals, especially exotic and small species, can be challenging. Movement during scanning, anesthesia risks, and imaging artifacts can affect the quality of the 3D model. This can lead to inaccuracies in the printed model, leading to ineffective treatment and potential harm to the animal.

The integration of 3D printing into the existing veterinary medicine process presents a significant challenge. The use of 3D printing technology involves a multi-step process, including imaging, model generation, and printing to create anatomical models. Coordination between veterinarians, radiologists, and 3D printing experts is essential to ensure that the process runs smoothly.

The selection of appropriate materials, such as plastics, living cells, titanium, resins, glass, nylon, and metals, is critical for 3D printing in animal medicine, as the availability of materials that offer the required properties, such as biocompatibility and durability for model development is limited and not all materials can be temperature controlled enough to allow 3D printing. Furthermore, many of these printing materials cannot be recycled and are quite unsafe.

The field of animal medicine has greatly benefited from the advancements in 3D printing technology, particularly in the development of personalized implants and prosthetics. However, the diverse anatomies of animals present unique challenges in designing and printing these specialized products. Animals vary greatly in size, shape, and structure, which makes it more complex to create products that fit well and function optimally. This requires specialized skills and software tools such as CAD, as well as a deep understanding of animal anatomy.

In addition to the design and implementation challenges, regulatory authorization is required for the use of 3D-printed products and implants in animal medicine, which includes approval or clearance process, clinical data, post-market surveillance, international harmonization, labeling, and instructions. The safety and efficacy of these products must be thoroughly tested and verified before they can be used in clinical settings.

Furthermore, ethical concerns about the use of animals in medical research must be addressed. It is important to ensure that the use of 3D-printed products and implants does not cause harm or unnecessary suffering to animals. Ensuring the long-term biocompatibility of 3D-printed implants and prosthetics in animals also requires thorough testing and monitoring. Animals have distinct physiological reactions and potential differences in healing processes that must be considered. The use of 3D-printed products must be carefully evaluated to ensure that they do not cause adverse effects or complications

EOS Perspective

3D printing technology has emerged as a promising area in veterinary medicine, providing customized solutions for a wide range of animal health issues. Despite facing some challenges, the technology’s ongoing advancements and increased accessibility are expected to drive significant growth in the market in the future.

With its ability to fabricate precise, patient-specific implants, prostheses, and tissue replacements, 3D printing has the potential to revolutionize veterinary medicine, enhancing outcomes and improving the quality of life for animals. Incorporating 3D printing into animal medicine requires collaboration among veterinary doctors, imaging specialists, 3D printing experts, regulatory authorities, and ethicists.

Nevertheless, there is still a significant amount of work to be done, and addressing these challenges will require substantial effort, innovative solutions, and thoughtful consideration. This is a dynamic and promising field that beckons thorough exploration, continued innovation, and the unwavering commitment of professionals to enhance the global standard of animal care. While the full extent of 3D printing’s impact on veterinary medicine remains to be seen as research and development continue, the initial outcomes are undoubtedly encouraging.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

Commentary: Microsoft-Activision Blizzard Deal – A Potential Game-changer in the Gaming Industry

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Gaming industry is booming, with a significant surge in growth occurring during the 2020-2021 pandemic, when millions of people turned to games during lockdowns. The industry is currently worth US$184 billion and is expected to reach over US$200 billion by 2025.

The market is very competitive, with a need for considerable investment and time for publishers to create successful games and for companies to develop consoles that offer advanced features and an attractive catalog of games. This is pushing players towards increased consolidation to achieve economies of scale and lower risks and to strengthen their position in the market. More than 650 gaming M&A or investment deals were announced or closed in the first six months of 2022.

Out of the numerous M&As that have recently occurred in the industry, Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, the maker of the world’s most popular games such as Call of Duty, Warcraft, and Candy Crush, is anticipated to make a substantial impact on the market. Microsoft announced its intent to acquire Activision for US$68.7 billion in January 2022, which was going to be the largest acquisition in the gaming industry to date. The consolidation of two strong players in the industry – Microsoft being the manufacturer of the Xbox gaming console and Activision being the publisher of many popular games – could offer users a large catalog of games and improve gaming experience and cloud-gaming services. However, it has also raised a concern that this could suppress the competition in the market of consoles, gaming subscriptions, and cloud-gaming. Many regulators across the world have blocked the deal, including the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). Microsoft is currently trying to get approval from the regulators.

How does the deal benefit Microsoft?

If the deal gets approved, it will turn Microsoft into one of the top three video game publishers, right behind its rival Sony. This would enhance Microsoft’s games catalog with Activision’s games, making Xbox’s choice more attractive than Sony’s PlayStation. Microsoft would also be able to enter the mobile gaming market with Activision’s mobile games, such as Candy Crush and King. This opens a large market segment, previously unaddressed by Microsoft, a segment that accounts for 50% of the total gaming market. Microsoft is planning to open Xbox’s mobile game store to compete with Apple and Google game stores.

As users increasingly prefer gaming subscriptions and cloud gaming services over physical DVDs, it gives an added advantage for Microsoft to own some of the most popular gaming titles and offer attractive subscriptions on its platform. Currently, Microsoft holds 60-70% of the global cloud gaming services market and could further squeeze into the shares of other companies, such as Google, to dominate the market.

The company would also be able to venture into metaverse and Non-Fungible Token (NFT) games using technological and newly acquired game development capabilities.

What does this deal mean for gamers? 

The Xbox Game Pass subscribers would benefit from the added list of Activision Blizzard games, which would be incorporated into the existing catalog. However, it is unclear whether Microsoft could make future games developed by Activision unavailable on other consoles, such as Sony PlayStation and Nintendo Switch. There is also a possibility for Microsoft to increase the subscription prices if gamers are highly reliant on Xbox-exclusive games.

Cloud gaming technologies are likely to improve in the future to overcome high latency and lost frames issues faced currently. However, if Microsoft dominates the cloud gaming space, it may reduce the gaming choices for gamers.

What are the concerns over the deal?

The major concern put forth by the regulators is whether the deal could negatively impact the competitive landscape of the market. For example, Sony currently owns 21 in-house game studios, and Microsoft owns 23. If Microsoft manages to get the deal, the company will have 30 in-house game studios, making Microsoft’s Xbox a much better choice and also giving the power to decide where these games are to be played. If Microsoft makes Activision’s future games exclusive on its platforms, it will dominate the console, mobile, and cloud platforms, killing the competition. This can discourage competitors from developing high-quality games. It can also enable Microsoft to decide to reduce the quality of its games or increase the prices when it dominates the market. Even if the company makes these games available on other platforms, competitors fear that the company may offer low-quality versions or remove their marketing rights or support for other console features.

The biggest concern is over one particular game – Activision’s Call of Duty, the most-played video game in the world. Microsoft has already agreed to offer a 10-year licensing deal to console manufacturer Nintendo, however, Sony has refused to accept the offer. When Microsoft purchased Bethesda game studio in 2021, the company made its highly anticipated sci-fi game Starfield into an X-box and PC exclusive. This is one of the reasons why regulators are concerned about Microsoft’s promises to make its games available on other platforms.

The regulators also raised concerns about how the company could completely sabotage the cloud-gaming market by withholding Activision’s games from rival cloud-gaming services.

Status of the lawsuits

Microsoft is yet to receive approval from the US FTC and UK CMA. The company attempted to convince the CMA by entering into agreements with cloud gaming competitors to provide access to Xbox games. CMA remains unconvinced, which appears to be a major block for this deal. However, the company’s agreements with Nintendo and NVIDIA on providing a 10-year licensing deal for the Call of Duty game have convinced the EU regulators, and the company has won the EU antitrust approval. Regulators in Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Chile, Serbia, Japan, and South Africa have also approved the deal.

The case filed by FTC is still in the document discovery stage, and an evidentiary hearing is scheduled for August 2023. Even though the company has won FTC lawsuits before, it is to be seen if it can win the approval for this massive acquisition deal.

EOS Perspective

Considering how Nintendo managed to acquire a 30% market share in the video gaming console industry by owning just 2 studios compared to Microsoft’s 25% share with 23 owned studios, it might not be very concerning that Microsoft owning 7 more studios through the Activision deal could sabotage the competition in the market. The deal can make the rivals more competitive to develop better console generations and games.

However, it can be anticipated that Sony might lose some of its market share to Microsoft right after the deal. It can also affect Sony’s profit if the company has to take paid licenses of games owned by Microsoft. However, on the other hand, if Microsoft goes against its promises and makes the games exclusive on its platforms or does not support the other platforms’ gaming experience, it could seriously damage the competitors’ businesses. Looking at the brighter side, the marriage between two superpowers in the gaming industry could significantly transform the gaming experience for the users, open new possibilities such as Xbox mobile-game subscriptions or metaverse games, or improve cloud-gaming services.

 

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

Scarcity Breeds Innovation – The Rising Adoption of Health Tech in Africa

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Africa carries the world’s highest burden of disease and experiences a severe shortage of healthcare workers. Across the continent, accessibility to primary healthcare remains to be a major challenge. During the COVID-19 pandemic, several health tech companies emerged and offered new possibilities for improving healthcare access. Among these, telemedicine and drug distribution services were able to address the shortage of health workers and healthcare facilities across many countries. New health tech solutions such as remote health monitoring, hospital automation, and virtual health assistance that are backed by AI, IoT, and predictive analytics are proving to further improve health systems in terms of costs, access, and workload on health workers. Given the diversity in per capita income, infrastructure, and policies among African countries, it remains to be seen if health tech companies can overcome these challenges and expand their reach across the continent.

Africa is the second most populated continent with a population of 1.4 billion, growing three times faster than the global average. Amid the high population growth, Africa suffers from a high prevalence of diseases. Infectious diseases such as malaria and respiratory infections contribute to 80% of the total infectious disease burden, which indicates the sum of morbidity and mortality in the world. Non-communicable diseases such as cancer and diabetes accounted for about 50% of total deaths in 2022. High rates of urbanization also pose the threat of spreading communicable diseases such as COVID-19, Ebola, and monkey fever.

A region where healthcare must be well-accessible is indeed ill-equipped due to limited healthcare infrastructure and the shortage of healthcare workers. According to WHO, the average doctor-to-population ratio in Africa is about two doctors to 10,000 people, compared with 35.5 doctors to 10,000 people in the USA.

Poor infrastructure and lack of investments worsen the health systems. Healthcare expenditure (aggregate public healthcare spending) in African countries is 20-25 times lower than the healthcare expenditure in European countries. Governments here typically spend about 5% of GDP on healthcare, compared with 10% of GDP spent by European countries. Private investment in Africa is less than 25% of the total healthcare investments.

Further, healthcare infrastructure is unevenly distributed. Professional healthcare services are concentrated in urban areas, leaving 56% of the rural population unable to access proper healthcare. There are severe gaps in the number of healthcare units, diagnostic centers, and the supply of medical devices and drugs. Countries such as Zambia, Malawi, and Angola are placed below the rank of 180 among 190 countries ranked by the WHO in terms of health systems. Low spending power and poor national health insurance schemes discourage people from using healthcare services.

Health tech solutions’ potential to fill the healthcare system gaps

As the prevailing health systems are inadequate, there is a strong need for digital solutions to address these gaps. Health tech solutions can significantly improve the access to healthcare services (consultation, diagnosis, and treatment) and supply of medical devices and drugs.

Health tech solutions can significantly improve the access to healthcare services (consultation, diagnosis, and treatment) and supply of medical devices and drugs.

For instance, Mobihealth, a UK-based digital health platform founded in 2017, is revolutionizing access to healthcare across Africa through its telemedicine app, which connects patients to over 100,000 physicians from various parts of the world for video consultations. The app has significantly (by over 60%) reduced hospital congestion.

Another example is the use of drones in Malawi to monitor mosquito breeding grounds and deliver urgent medical supplies. This project, which was introduced by UNICEF in 2017, has helped to curb the spread of malaria, which typically affects the people living in such areas at least 2-3 times a year.

MomConnect, a platform launched in 2014 by the Department of Health in South Africa, is helping millions of expectant mothers by providing essential information through a digital health desk.

While these are some of the pioneers in the health-tech industry, new companies such as Zuri Health, a telemedicine company founded in Kenya in 2020, and Ingress Healthcare, a doctor appointment booking platform launched in South Africa in 2019, are also strengthening the healthcare sector. A study published by WHO in 2020 indicated that telemedicine could reduce mortality rates by about 30% in Africa.

The rapid rise of health tech transforming the African healthcare landscape

Digital health solutions started to emerge during the late 2000’s in Africa. Wisepill, a South African smart pill box manufacturing company established in 2007, is one of the earliest African health tech success stories. The company developed smart storage containers that alert users on their mobile devices when they forget to take their medication. The product is widely used in South Africa and Uganda.

The industry gained momentum during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the emergence of several health tech companies offering remote health services. The market experienced about 300% increase in demand for remote healthcare services such as telemedicine, health monitoring, and medicine distribution.

According to WHO, the COVID pandemic resulted in the development of over 120 health tech innovations in Africa. Some of the health tech start-ups that emerged during the pandemic include Zuri Health (Kenya), Waspito (Cameroon), and Ilara Health (Kenya). Several established companies also developed specific solutions to tackle the spread of COVID-19 and increase their user base. For instance, Redbird, a Ghanaian health monitoring company founded in 2018, gained user attention by launching a COVID-19 symptom tracker during the pandemic. The company continues to provide remote health monitoring services for other ailments, such as diabetes and hypertension, which require regular health check-ups. Patients can visit the nearest pharmacy instead of a far-away hospital to conduct tests, and results will be regularly updated on their platform to track changes.

Scarcity Breeds Innovation – The Rising Adoption of Health Tech in Africa by EOS Intelligence

Start-ups offering advanced solutions based on AI and IoT have been also emerging successfully in recent years. For instance, Ilara Health, a Kenya-based company, founded during the COVID-19 pandemic, is providing affordable diagnostic services to rural population using AI-powered diagnostic devices.

With growing internet penetration (40% across Africa as of 2022) and a rise in investments, tech entrepreneurs are now able to develop solutions and expand their reach. For instance, mPharma, a Ghana-based pharmacy stock management company founded in 2013, is improving medicine supply by making prescription drugs easily accessible and affordable across nine countries in Africa. The company raised a US$35 million investment in January 2022 and is building a network of pharmacies and virtual clinics across the continent.

Currently, 42 out of 54 African countries have national eHealth strategies to support digital health initiatives. However, the maximum number of health tech companies are concentrated in countries such as South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, and Kenya, which have the highest per capita pharma spending in the continent. Nigeria and South Africa jointly account for 46% of health tech start-ups in Africa. Telemedicine is the most offered service by start-ups founded in the past five years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the most popular telemedicine start-ups include Babylon Health (Rwanda), Vezeeta (Egypt), DRO Health (Nigeria), and Zuri Health (Kenya).

Other most offered services include medicine distribution, hospital/pharmacy management, and online booking and appointments. Medicine distribution start-ups have an immense impact on minimizing the prevalence of counterfeit medication by offering tech-enabled alternatives to sourcing medication from open drug markets. Many physical retail pharmacy chains, such as Goodlife Pharmacy (Kenya), HealthPlus (Nigeria), and MedPlus (Nigeria), are launching online pharmacy operations leveraging their established logistics infrastructure. Hospitals are increasingly adopting automation tools to streamline their operations. Electronic Medical Record (EMR) management tools offered by Helium Health, a provider of hospital automation tools based in Nigeria are widely adopted in six African countries.

Medicine distribution start-ups have an immense impact on minimizing the prevalence of counterfeit medication by offering tech-enabled alternatives to sourcing medication from open drug markets.

For any start-up in Africa, the key to success is to provide scalable, affordable, and accessible digital health solutions. Low-cost subscription plans offered by Mobihealth (a UK-based telehealth company founded in 2018) and Cardo Health (a Sweden-based telehealth company founded in 2021) are at least 50% more affordable than the average doctor consultation fee of US$25 in Africa. Telemedicine platforms such as Reliance HMO (Nigeria) and Rocket Health (Uganda) offer affordable health insurance that covers all medical expenses. Some governments have also taken initiatives in partnering with health tech companies to provide affordable healthcare to their people. For instance, the Rwandan government partnered with a digital health platform called Babylon Health in 2018 to deliver low-cost healthcare to the population of Rwanda. Babylon Health is able to reach the majority of the population through simple SMS codes.

Government support and Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs)

With a mission to have a digital-first universal primary care (a nationwide program that provides primary care through digital tools), the Rwandan government is setting an example by collaborating with Babylon Health, a telemedicine service that offers online consultations, appointments, and treatments.

As part of nationwide digitization efforts, the government has established broadband infrastructure that reaches 90% population of the country. Apart from this, the country has a robust health insurance named Mutuelle de Santé, which reaches more than 90% of the population. In December 2022, the government of Ghana launched a nationwide e-pharmacy platform to regulate and support digital pharmacies. Similarly, in Uganda, the government implemented a national e-health policy that recognizes the potential of technology in the healthcare sector.

MomConnect, a mobile initiative launched by the South African government with the support of Johnson and Johnson in 2014 for educating expectant and new mothers, is another example of a successful PPP. However, apart from a few countries in the region, there are not enough initiatives undertaken by the governments to improve health systems.

Private and foreign investments

In 2021, health tech start-ups in Africa raised US$392 million. The sustainability of investments became a concern when the investments dropped to US$189 million in 2022 amid the global decline in start-up funding.

However, experts predict that the investment flow will improve in 2023. Recently, in March 2023, South African e-health startup Envisionit Deep AI raised US$1.65 million from New GX Ventures SA, a South African-based venture capital company. Nigerian e-health company, Famasi, is also amongst the start-ups that raised investments during the first quarter of 2023. The company offers doorstep delivery of medicines and flexible payment plans for medicine bills.

The companies that have raised investments in recent years offer mostly telemedicine and distribution services and are based in South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, and Kenya. That being said, start-ups in the space of wearable devices, AI, and IoT are also gaining the attention of investors. Vitls, a South African-based wearable device developer, raised US$1.3 million in funding in November 2022.

Africa-based incubators and accelerators, such as Villgro, The Baobab Network, and GrowthAfrica Accelerator, are also supporting e-health start-ups with funding and technical guidance. Villgro has launched a US$30 million fund for health tech start-ups in March 2023. Google has also committed US$4 million to fund health tech start-ups in Africa in 2023.

Digital future for healthcare in Africa

There were over 1,700 health tech start-ups in Africa as of January 2023, compared with about 1,200 start-ups in 2020. The rapid emergence of health tech companies is addressing long-running challenges of health systems and are offering tailored solutions to meet the specific needs of the African market.

Mobile penetration is higher than internet penetration, and health tech companies are encouraged to use SMS messaging to promote healthcare access. However, Africa is expected to have at least 65% internet penetration by 2025. With growing awareness of the benefits of health tech solutions, tech companies would be able to address new markets, especially in rural areas.

Companies that offer new technologies such as AI chatbots, drones, wearable devices for remote patient monitoring, hospital automation systems, e-learning platforms for health workers, the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), and predictive analytics are expected to gain more attention in the coming years. Digitally enabled, locally-led innovations will have a huge impact on tackling the availability, affordability, and quality of health products and services.

Digitally enabled, locally-led innovations will have a huge impact on tackling the availability, affordability, and quality of health products and services.

Challenges faced by the health tech sector  

While the African health tech industry has significantly evolved over the last few years, there are still significant challenges with regard to infrastructure, computer literacy, costs, and adaptability.

For instance, in Africa, only private hospitals have switched to digital records. Many hospitals still operate without computer systems or internet connections. About 40% of the population are internet users, with countries such as Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, Morocco, Ghana, Kenya, and Algeria being the ones with the highest number of internet users (60-80% of the population). However, 23 countries in Africa still have low internet penetration (less than 25%). This is the major reason why tech companies concentrate in the continent’s largest tech hubs.

On the other hand, the majority of the rural population prefers face-to-face contact due to the lack of digital literacy. Electricity and internet connectivity are yet to reach all parts of the region and the cost of the internet is a burden for many people. Low-spending power is a challenge, as people refuse to undergo medical treatment due to a lack of insurance schemes to cover their medical expenses. Insurance schemes provided in Africa only cover 60% of their healthcare expenses. Even though health tech solutions bring medical costs down, these services still remain unaffordable for people in low-income countries. Therefore, start-ups do not prefer to establish or expand their services in such regions.

Another hurdle tech companies face is the diversity of languages in Africa. Africa is home to one-third of the world’s languages and has over 1,000 languages. This makes it difficult for companies to customize content to reach all populations.

Amidst all these challenges, there is very little support from the governments. The companies face unfavorable policies and regulations that hinder the implementation of digital solutions. Only 8% of African countries have online pharmacy regulations. In Nigeria, regulatory guidelines for online pharmacies only came into effect in January 2022, and there are still unresolved concerns around its implementation.

Lack of public investment and comprehensive government support also discourage the local players. Public initiatives are rare in providing funding, research support, and regulatory approval for technology innovations in the health sector. Private investment flow is low for start-ups in this sector compared to other industries. Health tech start-ups raised a total investment of US$189 million in 2022, which is not even 10% of the total investments raised by start-ups in other sectors in Africa. Also, funding is favored towards the ones established in high-income countries. Founders who don’t have ties to high-income countries struggle to raise funds.

EOS Perspective

The emergence of tech health can be referred to as a necessary rise to deal with perennial gaps in the African healthcare system. Undoubtedly, many of these successful companies could transform the health sector, making quality health services available to the mass population. The pandemic has spurred the adoption of digital health, and the trend experienced during the pandemic continues to grow with the developments in the use of advanced technologies such as AI and IoT. Telemedicine and distribution have been the fastest-growing sectors driven by the demand for remote healthcare services during the pandemic. Home-based care is likely to keep gaining momentum with the development of advanced solutions for remote health monitoring and diagnostic services.

Home-based care is likely to keep gaining momentum with the development of advanced solutions for remote health monitoring and diagnostic services.

With the increasing internet penetration and acceptance of digital healthcare, health tech companies are likely to be able to expand their reach to rural areas. Right policies, PPPs, and infrastructure development are expected to catalyze the health tech adoption in Africa. Companies that offer advanced technologies such as IoT-enabled integrated medical devices, AI chatbots, drones, wearable devices for remote patient monitoring, hospital automation systems, e-learning platforms for health workers, and predictive analytics for health monitoring are expected to emerge successfully in the coming years.

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