The COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly putting startups in a novel situation. With great hardship comes great opportunity. Several startups are making bold, valiant bets to develop technology and solutions aimed at combatting COVID-19. Here are four classes of these startups that are paving the way to a better future—both in the short and long term.
Telemedicine was gaining popularity far before the COVID-19 outbreak. Before the crisis, the market for telehealth was projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of more than 14% in 2019 and 2020. But COVID-19 has accelerated the transition. In March, the US Department of Health and Human Services eased constraints that made it very difficult for individuals to meet digitally with a doctor due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s (HIPAA) privacy concerns.
Several telemedicine startups have gained traction in recent weeks. One promising company is Doctor On Demand. Doctor On Demand is a platform that offers on-demand 24/7 visits with US-licensed healthcare providers. Hill Ferguson, the CEO of Doctor On Demand, has explained the motivation behind Doctor On Demand, “When you look at the data…about 30 percent of adults don’t have a primary care physician. 50 percent of millennials don’t and that trend is growing.”
Another promising startup pushing the future of telemedicine is San Francisco-based Lemonaid Health. Users can use the app to connect to a doctor or nurse practitioner. While Lemonaid initially started by offering birth control, it has recently branched out to help individuals affects by COVID-19. Dr. Davis Lui, the chief clinical officer for Lemonaid Health, has explained, "What it really does is break away all those barriers to see a doctor...I think what coronavirus is demonstrating is that there's a way to provide care that's convenient, affordable, and accessible in a way that most Americans haven't thought of until now.”
2. Testing kits
Since the very beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, developing and delivering testing kits have ben top-of-mind. Several startups have started to offer COVID-19 testing kits directly to consumers. One promising company is EverlyWell, an Austin-based startup. EverlyWell offers more than 30 at-home lab testing kits, including kits for food sensitivity, fertility, and metabolism.
EverlyWell is joined by other companies such as Nurx and Scanwell Health. Nurx is reportedly developing its own mail-in coronavirus test and Scawell Health is providing what it terms the first clinical-grade at-home test for COVID-19 can be completed in a mere 15 minutes.
3. Hygiene education
As reported by Silicon Republic, some startups are getting back to the basics in their efforts to develop products and services amidst the outbreak. Dublin-based startup SureWash has developed an app that teaches medical professionals to wash their hands properly in the workplace. What’s especially impressive is that the app gathers data on competence in staff hand-washing and hygiene to inform future training.
Another “back to basics” startup is Slightly Robot. Slightly Robot has designed a wearable bracelet that tracks your hands and vibrates when you forget to do something such as pulling your hair or biting your nails. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, its wristband, Immutouch, now vibrates if a wearer touches their face.
4. Ventilator manufacturing
Manufacturers have been up against the clock trying to increase the production of medical ventilators that help save lives. While giants such as Medtronic—which is aiming to more than double its ventilator manufacturing workforce and production capacity to help meet urgent demand from hospitals worldwide that fighting the novel coronavirus—are ramping up production, it’s going to take more than one or a few companies to solve the shortage. As Bob White, president of the Minimally Invasive Therapies Group at Medtronic, said “No single company will be able to fill the current demands of global healthcare systems”.
To help combat the shortage, startups such as London-based Geomiq are stepping up. Geomiq is a design and manufacturing workflow tool that is used by over 500 hardware companies worldwide such as GE and BMW. It is also currently dedicating its 3D printing engineers to developing prototypes and manufacturing ventilators to assist in the battle against CovID-19
We’re living in unprecedented times. Despite the immense hardship, there is also opportunity. As Vikas Shah, a professor of entrepreneurship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management, and an adviser to the UK government, has reflected, “The financial crisis was a great time for startups,” says Vikas Shah, a professor of entrepreneurship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management, and adviser to the UK government. He calls recessions a “filtering mechanism” for startups.
Inevitably, as we enter a new chapter, some startups will breath new life. Fortunately, several startups are devoting themselves to ensuring that we mitigate the risk and effects of the current and any future outbreaks.