In the 1930s, a young Danish entrepreneur had gone through a series of tragedies: catastrophic fires, bankruptcy, personal loss. Yet, even after his workshop caught on fire for the second time, he kept his unwavering belief that he can produce high quality, innovative and affordable toys.
His persistence built up LEGO and eventually revolutionised a very traditional industry. At the intersection of traditional healthcare and technology, we are now looking at the dawn of a new and booming industry with huge potential in Denmark: Health Tech. We have already seen +200 entrepreneurs taking a risk and starting up 180 companies the last 10 years – focusing on solving health problems using technology and data.
We want to celebrate these entrepreneurs and startups! Some of them may create the future Novo Foundation (who are planning to donate 5 billion DKK yearly to society the coming 3 years). Some may create the new LEGO of healthcare. Many have the means to impact billions of people’s lives.
With the Corona situation, it’s very obvious to most people that we need to digitise our health care sector much faster than previously thought. Beyond this acute situation, and the business and entrepreneurial considerations though, there are three main reasons why health tech must be seen not as a ‘nice to have’ but as a ‘need to have’:
Public expenditure on health is rising at an unsustainable rate. Aging demographics and the associated increase in burden of disease are two main contributing factors. No increase in number of hospitals, practices or the overburdened medical staff can feasibly keep up. More efficient processes, a focus on prevention, better and faster diagnosis and the ability to self-manage a disease outside of a doctor’s practice are key. Health Tech offers all that.
What is not often discussed is that Health Tech also has a positive environmental impact is an important role in the climate change. In the past 10 years, several studies showed a significant reduction of greenhouse gases around the use of telemedicine (1,2,3). These findings can be extrapolated to any do-it-at home apps that reduce travel. Furthermore, improper disposal of medical waste is a recognised issue by the WHO, with 15% of waste being hazardous (4). Several Health Tech companies have taken on tackling medical waste as part of their wide reach mission.
Quality of life, Empowerment & Inequality
Increasing accessibility, availability and affordability are central to Health Tech. A virtual physiotherapy platform can make healthcare more accessible for people who for example cannot travel far or cannot afford several sessions with a physical physiotherapist. We are also living in a time when people are increasingly ready to take control of their own health and be less reliant on the healthcare system. Be My Eyes, one of the first Danish Health Tech solutions, makes it possible for almost 200 000 blind people to ‘borrow’ the sight of 2 million volunteers worldwide through a simple app. In more than one way, Health Tech can reduce health inequalities and can be a big contributor to SDG 3 – Good Health & Well-being.
Our aspiration is that in a few short years, using Health Tech solutions for anything health and well-being related will become as seamless and natural as using your mobile phone to communicate. Denmark has all the ingredients to create this environment in an ethically responsible manner. But can we have the speed to do it in a timely manner? We hope so and therefore we invite you to become the entrepreneurs, adopters, innovators, collaborators, investors and supporters necessary to reach this aspiration.