On January 3rd Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos, a startup that once epitomized the promise of combining Silicon Valley’s dynamism with a stodgy healthcare market, was convicted of lying to investors about the capabilities of her firm’s blood-testing technology. Yet look beyond Theranos, which began to implode way back in 2015, and a much healthier story becomes apparent. This week a horde of entrepreneurs and investors will gather virtually at the annual JPMorgan Chase healthcare jamboree. The talk is likely to be of AI, digital diagnostics, and telehealth — and of a new wave of capital flooding into a vast industry.
Clunky, costly, highly regulated health systems, often dominated by rent-seeking middlemen, are being shaken up by companies that target patients directly, meet them where they are—which is increasingly online—and give them more control over how to access care. Scientific advances in fields such as gene sequencing and artificial intelligence (AI) make new modes of care possible. E-pharmacies fulfill prescriptions, wearable devices monitor wearers’ health in real-time, telemedicine platforms connect patients with physicians, and home tests enable self-diagnosis.