After a surge in uptake during the Covid-19 pandemic, the telehealth industry is courting new investment to further innovation and increase access to care in emerging markets. Digital health companies raised a record $57.2bn in global venture capital funding in 2021, a 79% jump from the $32bn raised in 2020, with 30% of the total directed towards telehealth. An estimated $140bn in private sector finance will be needed annually between 2015 and 2030 to realise the UN’s health-related Sustainable Development Goals, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development, underscoring the importance of boosting spending commitments in the global health tech space.
As health tech ecosystems in developed countries mature, emerging markets offer an avenue for digital health technology to expand access to care and improve patient outcomes, while also bringing down costs. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, some countries have as few as 0.23 doctors per 10,000 people compared to 84.2 in some of the most developed countries, according to the World Health Organisation. Investment in low-cost, high-impact fields such as telehealth could help to bridge this gap, however, with Africa’s health tech market on course to reach $11bn by 2025.
The Ministry of Health and the Ghana Health Service set up teleconsultation services as early as 2016 in collaboration with the Swiss Novartis Foundation, and in October 2021 a local health tech start-up, mPharma, announced plans to construct 100 virtual health centres in seven African markets. Backed by Silicon Valley-based Breyer Capital, the start-up raised over $50m between its founding in 2013 and 2021. Highlighting its potential, mPharma’s partnership in September 2021 with Gabon’s strategic investment fund, which is geared towards building drug supply infrastructure, has saved the country 30% in procurement costs in one year.
Many countries are leveraging tools such as 5G, artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things to improve patient outcomes, reduce medical staff burnout, and lower health care and operating costs. Internet connectivity plays a fundamental role in India’s health tech expansion. In India, AI-powered predictive analytics are enabling the early detection of diabetes and cancer. These technologies could be integrated with portable screening devices to provide early testing for underserved rural areas, where 70% of the country’s population lives. The country’s health care sector is set to reach $372bn by the end of 2022, and the integration of data and AI in the delivery of health care could add an estimated $25bn-30bn to GDP by 2025.
The Future of Health
Meanwhile, Kuwait’s health care sector has also entered the era of innovation, as both public and private players accelerate their digital transformation and integrate innovative solutions into operations in the areas of telehealth, electronic health records, laboratory information systems and exchanging health information between countries, among others. As a result of these initiatives, the digital health market in Kuwait is projected to grow by 12.5% between 2022 and 2027, reaching a value of $198.7m in 2027, according to research firm Statista.
Under the New Kuwait 2035 development strategy, the Ministry of Health launched an electronic portal in 2017 that allows patients to access telemedicine services. Indeed, in the years leading up to the pandemic Kuwait had invested significantly in its health care system at a rate that was proportionally higher than most of its GCC peers. In 2019 health expenditure reached 5.5% of the GDP, compared to 5.1% the previous year. As a result, there was advanced medical infrastructure in place to deal with an unforeseen crisis. The country continues to focus on the segment. The Kuwait Telehealth Technologies Summit, which was held in October 2022, brought together representatives from the public and private sectors to explore the role of evolving digital health technologies and how they may affect health care delivery in the future.