Healthtech is one of the fastest-growing technology verticals with thousands of startups launching products, devices and services that can track and analyse health information.
OVHcloud spoke to three healthtech startups to find out the most important challenges faced by companies wanting to break into the healthcare market, and look at how the right technology partner can make all the difference.
Healthcare is one of the most regulated industries, with large fines and even imprisonment faced by directors of companies that do not adhere to a diverse range of laws that dictate where health data can be stored, how it must be handled and who can gain access.
There aren’t any global standards around patient data and individual countries constantly update and add new legislation. Some laws are specific to healthcare but others deal more generally with data protection and citizen privacy.
Understanding the market and ensuring your product, data storage and security practices are compliant with the relevant market is probably one of the most important aspects to get right, according to Mariana Caillaud, founder and CEO of Dolipharm: “It’s quite difficult to be a startup in the healthtech industry because the market is complex, fragmented and immature. This makes it difficult to understand and hard to predict.”
Dr Shanil Mantri from UK-based startup Miicare explains that in the UK, all health data is owned by the individual. “Even though citizens don’t have direct access to their data, they have a right to see it. And if they dispute it, they have the right to have it deleted,” Mantri said.
Once a startup has established itself in one country, expanding to another one can be a potential minefield, says Patrick Palacin, co-founder of Germany-based startup iAtros. The company wanted to operate in Switzerland. Although language wasn’t a barrier, the medical system was different.
“We are expanding into Switzerland where they speak German but they use different medication databases, different ICT10 databases and different data privacy regulations,” Palacin said.
iAtros had to adapt around 50 per cent of its product before it could consider the move. “No one size fits all in Europe. You will need to check 28 different sets of regulations for the 28 countries. Healthcare is far more difficult than other industries,” Palacin said.
Security, privacy and trust
The private nature of patient data makes it extremely valuable and a prime target for hackers. According to an article in Forbes from last year, healthcare data was increasingly under attack, with publicly reported hacking incidents affecting more than 31 million patient records in 2020.
Startups must ensure security practices are compliant with all their target markets, according to iAtros’s Palacin. “There is a huge catalogue of regulations for data security and it is different from country to country. Some countries say ISO 27001 is fine for cloud, others want [German privacy regulation] C5 certification. C5 has nothing to do with healthcare but healthcare companies are required to follow it.”
Palacin is hoping an EU-wide regulation for healthcare will be implemented at some point, but for now, it’s much easier to pass on that responsibility to a certified cloud partner. “It would be much easier if you could just host your data with a cloud provider that has this certification.”
Another risk is ensuring the data stored is correct and cannot be falsified, according to Miicare’s Dr Mantri. This is crucial to avoid inaccurate data being used to make a dangerous diagnosis, putting a patient’s life at risk.
“If you create a device that tracks movement, are you sure that data is accurate? If you provide it to a clinician, how confident can the clinician be that it’s correct?,” asked Mantri. “If you make the same mistake in non-healthcare industries they don’t carry the same risks,” he added.
Financing, investments and innovation
With so much attention on healthcare right now, there are plenty of investors, but innovation is the key, according to Dolipharm’s Caillaud. “It’s a good time to raise funding. Post-Covid there has been a wake-up call to improve health and create international solutions.” Caillaud points out that in 2021 venture funding for healthcare set new records, with investments raising almost $40 billion, more than double what was raised the previous year.
“It’s impressive and half the deals represent early stage startup development. This means the investors were looking for the next big innovation,” she said.
Unfortunately, with the market moving so quickly and products evolving at a rapid rate, trying to predict the type of products needed and the legal requirements for providing them is not easy.
How OVHcloud can help
OVHcloud provides reliable and secure cloud environments for innovative businesses. The company’s startup programme has helped thousands of small businesses grow rapidly and has a special commitment to healthtech.
As a member of the OVHcloud startup programme, Palacin said iAtros is impressed with the available level of technical support, especially for healthtech companies. “It doesn’t matter which cloud provider you use, you usually only get basic support,” he said. “It’s very, very cool that OVHcloud can offer such a high level of service to startups.”
OVHcloud has representatives in many countries that communicate daily with startup programme members. That is something the company will keep focusing on and expanding in the coming months and years.
OVHcloud can help you develop specific contracts in different territories to make sure you are compliant wherever you do business. And, as a European company, OVHcloud commits to not transfer any data to the US to ensure our customers are fully compliant with GDPR and other local regulations.
Healthtech is a fast-growing market with lots of opportunities in niche and specialised applications. OVHcloud will keep supporting healthtech companies — it is at the core of the company’s strategy
Do you want to know more?
To find out more about the OVHcloud Startup Program, or to sign up for free credits and technical support, go to https://startup.ovhcloud.com/