As far as I can tell, digital health encompasses any health care company that is using any kind of IT or communications technology, so it is not surprising that a Rock Health report finds record levels of digital health funding. (Rock Health Report) In the first half of 2017, according to this report, $3.5 billion was invested in 188 firms. Seven of these transactions were for fundings of more than $100 million. Outcome Health and Peloton Interactive had the two largest digital health deals recorded by the firm in its history. 2014, 2015 and 2016 had annual fundraising totals that were very similar, in the $4.4 billion range, with a pretty even spread throughout the year, so 2017’s first half marks a significant acceleration in that funding activity. Of the $100 million plus rounds, several companies basically market products to consumers, so they aren’t exactly doing something to dramatically improve the system, on the contrary, they are probably encouraging pointless spending. These companies have nicely euphemistic business descriptions, like “consumer health information” or patient community. In fact the biggest single category for funding was consumer health information, followed by digital gym equipment, then consumer health care engagement, EHR/clinical workflow and analytics and big data. Only the big data/analytics category is a repeat for top funding from 2016. California had a third of all dollars invested, followed by New York, Illinois, Florida, Georgia and Massachusetts. 331 investors participated in the first half 2017 rounds, 138 of whom were doing their first (and maybe last when they see the returns or lack thereof) digital health funding. In contrast to funding, merger and acquisition activity in the sector declined, with only 58 deals compared to 87 in the first half of 2016. Many of these are the weak buying the weaker. There have been no digital IPOs this year, but there haven’t been many most years. The good news for digital health is that investors have way too much capital sitting around and will invest in just about anything.
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The Healthy Skeptic is a website about the health care system, and is written by Kevin Roche, who has many years of experience working in the health industry through Roche Consulting, LLC. Mr. Roche is available to assist health care companies through consulting arrangements and may be reached at email@example.com.