In a little over two months, a lot has changed for business. Access to investment, ideas and the international community has become more difficult. However, new niches also appeared. What opportunities have opened up for startups in medicine?
From a financial point of view, the healthcare sector became now more promising than ever for startups. Many drugs, molecules, dietary supplements, as well as equipment and consumables for import substitution in Russia became deficit or disappeared.
In 2022, federal budget expenditures to support healthcare will be increased to 1.2 trillion rubles, and priority in procurement is given to domestic manufacturers.
Investment in MedTech is growing globally. According to eMarketer, in 2021, 541 transactions worth $21.3 billion were concluded in the field of digital healthcare in the United States, in 2020 there were 464 transactions worth $14.6 billion.
The market is also growing in Russia. Total investments in Russian digital healthcare in the first quarter of 2022 amounted to 415 million rubles. For comparison, over the same period last year, 2 times more transactions were made, but for a smaller amount – 337 million rubles. Such data are provided by ARMIT.
The International Medical Cluster Fund predicts the growth of the medical services segment in Russia in the next five years by 10-15% annually.
The development of the domestic pharmaceutical industry is impossible without public demand and state assistance. It is necessary to create conditions for the development of the chemical industry, domestic components and molecules for the production of drugs. We are talking essentially about creating a circular industry, where startups are unlikely to find places now.
However, startups successfully compete in the dietary supplement segment. Import substitution here began several years ago. Raw materials variety allows you to make good products in the Far East, Altai, Karelia and other regions. These successes were not noticeable to the general consumer, since funding for such projects has so far been insufficient.
The lack of supplies from abroad of Iherb products, as well as restrictions on payment for goods at other sites, will now open up additional opportunities for manufacturers of domestic dietary supplements.
In February 2022, clinics in aesthetic medicine, plastic surgery, dentistry faced a shortage of imported consumables. In these segments of healthcare, dependence on imported materials is strongest.
Now the supply has almost returned to its usual values. According to various estimates, the supply of consumables should be enough for about the next six months. However, prices are unstable and often change upwards, logistics problems affect them.
The share of Russian analogues is negligible. In such a situation, it remains only to accelerate import substitution. And there are all the prerequisites for this. For such money as now, many foreign consumables and medical equipment of the clinic will not be bought.
Many large clinics considered the opportunity to act as a customer for wearable digital devices. Their task is to prevent diseases thanks to the ability to monitor remotely the patient’s basic vital signs.
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased demand for this kind of gadget.
Venture capital firm Starta Ventures estimates that the total number of digital wearables sold at MedTech will reach more than 120 million units by 2023, a figure that will increase by 10% annually. The development of the devices will come from smart sensors, artificial intelligence, Big Data, robots and radar technologies.
Demand will be initiated, among other things, by the sports industry, insurance, as well as by employers who, due to the specifics of the industry, monitor the well-being of employees during working hours.
Without big breakthroughs, however, solutions in the field of telemedicine are confidently gaining popularity.
According to VEB Ventures estimates, the average annual growth rate of the Russian telemedicine market in the next 5 years will be about 116%. By 2025, it can grow more than 60 times, reaching 96 billion rubles.
In fact, this is an opportunity for the patient to contact the doctor for clarification and adjustment of treatment, when it is not possible to meet in person for various reasons. In Russia, the law prohibits making a diagnosis and prescribing treatment remotely, telemedicine is used actively for repeated appointments.
In the commercial segment, telemedicine is a private project of clinics and technology startups. It has not yet been possible to scale the technology in healthcare. Telemedicine isn’t just a Skype call. Digital platforms, equipment, organization of secure communication for the transfer of personal data, tariffs for telemedicine services developed by the Federal Fund of Obligatory Medical Insurance are needed. Doctors need have appropriate training and competencies in the field of telemedicine.
Speaking about the prospects of startups in medicine, few people remember educational initiatives.
Russian manufacturers have the opportunity to replace the departed international brands, to offer a higher quality product. Difficulties on this path lie not only in the inaccessibility of borrowed funds or in the cost of technologies and molecules.
Everything is complicated by the shortage of qualified personnel. It is necessary to improve the quality of educational programs in universities, to implement retraining of teaching staff and continuous advanced training throughout the life of health care specialists. The world is changing rapidly, and university programs simply do not keep up with all the changes.
For educational startups, this is a huge opportunity for development and at the same time a serious challenge.
By Olga Shuppo, Scientific Director of the Grand Clinic network of immunorehabilitation and preventive medicine clinics