Compared to other developed nations, the U.S. ranks highest on chronic disease burden, lowest on access to care and healthcare equality — despite annual national spending of $3.6 trillion ($11,172 per person). It begs the question, what isn’t wrong with this picture?
When we started TMV 5+ years ago, “The Care Economy’’ was one of our initial areas of focus. We chose those words carefully, in recognition that, despite the funding going to big bio, cutting-edge pharma and med tech, there were huge gaps in consumer and enterprise healthcare — not to mention adjacent industries. So when we, as investors, thought about where we could create the most impact, the Care Economy seemed the necessary place to start. We began by keying in on a range of sub-sectors within healthcare, including child, elder, pet, personal, and more.
Healthcare Inequalities: All for Some
We continue to ask ourselves questions like, why is reproductive and fertility care so damn expensive? Why don’t more people have access to specialists via telehealth? Why hasn’t elder care evolved over the decades despite a booming aging population? Why do we put whole ingredients into our bodies, but not into our pets?
The Care Economy comprises some of the largest addressable markets out there — from aging-in-place to early childhood education to palliative care to caregiver quality of life. There is abundant space to disrupt the current business model, which is rife with inefficiencies, from billing obstacles to the inability (or reticence) to adopt new technologies due to any number of regulatory hurdles.
Why now? Tech innovation is growing by the second, regulations are changing, and the pandemic has amplified the need for higher-quality, accessible and affordable care, especially for underserved communities. In short, the world is waking up to one of its most pressing needs.
From our start, we at TMV have been investing in the people who are addressing those needs. To name a few: Kindbody provides best-in-class, fertility and gynecological care, giving more options to more women. FIGS creates purposefully-designed, comfortable, functional apparel for healthcare professionals. Parsley Health offers personalized, doctor-led care — online or in-person — and support for chronic conditions, as well as extensive digital resources that help patients understand the root causes of their symptoms. Cityblock Health delivers affordable healthcare to some of the country’s most vulnerable communities, with access to physical, mental, and social services that help improve their overall well-being and quality of life.
Kindbody recently announced the largest fertility raise in history; Parsley Health was named a World Economic Forum 2021 Technology Pioneer; and Cityblock Health is expanding nationwide. All three companies underscore the power of business models that create financial value while achieving positive social impact. But this is just the start of our commitment to investing in the Care Economy. We are doubling down on our focus; there is so much more work to do in order to help create a lasting system of effective and equitable care.
The Age of Telehealth
In 2021, it’s impossible to talk about healthcare without mentioning COVID. Perhaps the most significant innovation to drive the sector in the past year is the growing adoption of telehealth. When the pandemic hit, it became either unfeasible or highly risky to visit a doctor’s office, which, in turn, forced the acceleration of new technologies and drove regulators to keep up. (Did you know that Zoom is HIPAA-compliant?) COVID created critical and immediate needs both in supply (solutions that enabled doctors to offer virtual services and bill insurance), and demand (patients had few other safe alternatives.)
According to a study conducted by Mckinsey in July of this year, new analysis indicates telehealth use has increased 38X from the pre-COVID baseline. Around 40% of surveyed consumers stated that they believe they will continue to use the service going forward. As of April 2021, 84% of physicians were offering virtual visits, and 58% continue to view telehealth more favorably now than pre-pandemic.
Investment in virtual health continues to accelerate. Overall, it’s crystal clear that public desire for telehealth reflects what consumers have demanded in almost every industry outside of healthcare: convenience. And it creates greater access to better resources for more diverse groups of people. Telehealth is more than a service: it’s a way of operating that is fast becoming a core element for both new and established businesses seeking to create a patient-first experience.
Way Beyond Telehealth
As to where this titanic industry is headed next, we at TMV see telehealth as an important innovation, but not the only answer and maybe just the beginning of a revolution in remote care. With regulations in place, we see the Care Economy widening to include even more tech-enabled solutions spanning from the office to the metaverse.
The businesses that will thrive? Those who recognize that by addressing the needs of underrepresented persons, our entire population wins.
Written by Soraya Darabi