Startup funding for digital health care, such as telehealth or wearable technology, is expected to double in the United States over the next three years, growing from $3.5 billion in 2014 to $6.5 billion by the end of 2017, according to a report from Accenture.
An estimated $2.8 billion was used to fund digital health startups last year, growing at an annual rate of 31 percent since 2008.
Accenture projects digital health startup funding will grow to $4.3 billion in 2015, and it is expected to reach $6.5 billion by the end of 2017.
"Driven by consumer expectations, we anticipate this momentum to continue as digital health startups seek to combine social, mobile, analytic, cloud and sensor capabilities into the health-care experience," Dipak Patel, managing director of Accenture's patient access initiatives, told eWEEK.
However, Patel also noted there are several important challenges that have to be addressed before these technologies become mainstream and are widely leveraged by the health care system.
"One of the largest challenges we must overcome is integrating the data these technologies collect into the health-care model and making it usable and interpretable for physicians and providers," he explained. "Because these devices collect so much information, sophisticated analytics will be needed to make the information understandable in a clinical setting."
Patel said another challenge is weaving that insight into provider workflows in a natural way that compliments the way they currently monitor and deliver care.
"We can't just add another thing to the list for them to do as they are already overburdened. Ideally, the technology could reduce the workload and replace it with something superior," he noted. "I believe that is very possible, but weaving this into natural office visits, et cetera, is not a trivial endeavor."
Between 2008 and 2013, engagement solutions, such as wearable technology and incentive programs targeting behavioral change among patients, received $2.6 billion in startup funding.
Addressing the recently revealed Apple Watch, Patel said the device is unique because of its broad consumer base, and the company is now using that consumer platform for offer an information ecosystem that they are squarely bringing to bear in the health industry with the Apple Watch and health app.
"While not a game-changer by itself, the platform and infrastructure behind it offers significant potential to integrate various forms of consumer health information," he said. "That would open up possibilities that have not yet been available in the health-care industry until now. In theory, the interoperability being established could help extend care management beyond the four walls of the doctor's office."
The report also revealed that between 2008 and 2013, infrastructure capabilities, such as interoperability and health analytics, accounted for an estimated $2.9 billion in startup funding, which was used by organizations to comply with industry changes and federal Meaningful Use guidelines.
Diagnosis technology captured $2.1 billion in startup funding, representing a rapidly growing segment of clinical and consumer tools, such as remote monitoring, that provides practitioners with real-time insight, while treatment tools, which enable alternative care channels by leveraging technology, such as telehealth, received $2.6 billion in startup funding.