Best Business Ideas for 2023: Healthtech

Healthtech is one of the key drivers of the UK startup scene, and is only expected to get bigger in 2023 and beyond.

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Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young

The UK health and social care industry is in dire straits. Staff vacancies in social care in England increased by a record 52% last year, with 1 in 10 posts vacant. This is exacerbating the current NHS crisis, which has seen critically-ill people waiting hours for an ambulance to arrive.

The emergency is sending people to search for innovative, at-home care solutions that they can rely on for both preventative and reactive treatment. Unfortunately, the healthcare sector is notoriously slow to update and implement new technologies – which is where healthtech comes in.

Digital health services are helping to modernise the industry and improve accessibility by supporting customers remotely. The technology can be complex, and sensitivity to patient needs must be paramount, but developing digital tools to make people healthier and happier has a clear appeal for emerging entrepreneurs.

To help you land on a winning idea, we’ve picked out four, propitious healthtech areas expected to grow rapidly in 2023 and beyond.

On-demand medication – the next generation of pharmacy

Pharmacies haven’t really changed much for hundreds of years. You get sick, you go to the place with the medicine to make you feel better, you pay for it, and you (hopefully) feel better. If you have an ongoing condition, you go there again and again and… well, you get the idea.

Now though, a bunch of startups are dragging the pharmacy sector into the 21st century. Clever, app-based tools like Pharmacy2u and Medicine Direct mean users simply have to sign up, select their prescription, pay for it, and wait for it to be directly delivered to their doorstep.

If you have a repeat prescription, then the service will remind you when it’s time to order again. You still need a GP to write the original prescription (although as we’ll see later, you might be able to do this online too), but as for the rest of the process, you need never step into a pharmacy if you don’t want to.

Jon Higham, managing director of Medicine Direct, advises that building trust is key for on-demand patient services. He reveals that “the online pharmacy sector is still a growing space, with many people yet to warm to the idea of their healthcare being managed by a doctor or pharmacist that they have never met.”

Amongst the trust-building techniques that Medicine Direct employs, the company ensures that patients know exactly who is assessing their online consultations, gives them direct access to healthcare professionals, fact-checks every medical claim, and lists a named author for all of its content.

Entrepreneurs shouldn’t feel limited to prescription medication, however. PocDoc, a Startups-100 listed company for 2023, has zeroed in on another basic service that’s creating a bottleneck in NHS hospitals – the blood test.

With the dedicated PocDoc device and associated app, anyone can have the ability to run their own blood test, from home. No need to make an appointment, no endless phone calls or online forms – all that’s required is the PodDoc kit and a mobile phone.

74% of the pharmacy team members said their pharmacy had seen a significant increase in requests from members of the public for healthcare advice last year. By relieving pressure on UK pharmacies and general practices, these startups have hit upon a winning formula to feed growing demand in 2023.

On-demand medication business ideas

Start an online pharmacy

This does require some specialist knowledge. But while companies like Echo and Medicine Direct have made their mark, the sector still has huge potential. Despite the growth already recorded, the online pharmacy sector still only represents approximately 4% of the overall UK pharmacy market, so there’s plenty of opportunity for new entrants.

Help existing pharmacies get online

If you don’t fancy starting an online pharmacy from scratch, then you could work with the UK’s existing network of pharmacies. For example, if you’re a web designer, then you could specialise in creating stylish and informative pharmacy websites that easily let people order online, and offer guidance for online consultations.

Care apps – how tech can help solve the social care crisis

UK care homes are on their knees. While headlines focus on the 13,000 patients waiting to be discharged from hospital into residential care, approximately 500,000 people are awaiting a social care assessment or service because of insufficient workforce capacity and decades of underfunding.

Such ferocious consumer appetite means care home costs are also rising. On average, it now costs £600 per week for a care home placement, and over £800 a week for a nursing home.

As only a small percentage of people qualify for government help, vulnerable and elderly people are being forced to cut corners on their own health and wellbeing due to this financial pressure. Towards the end of 2022, one in ten over 60s in the UK were already reducing or stopping their social care – or expect to do so in the coming months – due to the cost of living crisis.

Arriving at the scene and striving to sort out the madness is Lottie, an online care home marketplace that came eighth in this year’s Startups 100 Index.

Brothers Chris and Will Donnelly launched the website after personal struggles trying to find an appropriate, affordable, and trustworthy care home provider for a family member.

Combining Will’s social care expertise with Chris’ tech know-how, they are striving to redefine the care-seeking process by offering care seekers full transparency when it comes to residency fees.

“The care sector was heavily impacted by the pandemic,” Chris Donnelly tells Startups. “Now more than ever care seekers are interested in transparency in the care sector. They instantly want to know how much a home will cost, what its rating is (CQC), and the facilities available. It’s all about being as transparent and clear as possible from the outset.”

Now more than ever care seekers are interested in transparency in the care sector.

Donnelly is clear that Lottie’s ultimate mission is to drive positive change in the care home industry. As he counsels, being purpose-led is an important trait for healthtech startups.

“We knew that we wanted to set a high standard across the care sector, so we personally vet all the homes listed on our platform,” he explains. “Having such a clear idea of what we wanted to improve in the care industry really helped shape the platform for our launch and beyond.”

Another excellent case study for startups is Birdie, a tech platform that enables the care community to deliver personalised care at home.

Max Parmentier, CEO of Birdie worked alongside co-founders Abeed Mohamed, Rajiv Tanna, Gwen Lecalvez to pull together a team of technology builders, healthcare leaders, renowned designers and care partners to build the home healthcare platform that Parmentier says “makes growing older at home as simple as it should be.”

For those looking to enter the sector, Parmentier has a simple line of advice: prioritise data. Given the many different partners involved in administrating an individual’s care treatment – from the NHS, to pharmaceutical companies, to local authorities – Parmentier says the startup is “collecting and analysing an increasing amount of data [to] ultimately provide better health outcomes.

“We are currently working on integrating GP Connect this year to improve access to NHS healthcare data, and in turn derive better insights that would inform earlier interventions and potentially drive cost savings.”

At-home care business ideas

Develop a care app

Try to think about problems in the current care system and how they could be solved – it might be a good idea to focus on how people manage specific conditions rather than trying to provide a universal fix.

For example, assistive technology company How do I? worked with the Alzheimer’s Society to develop the Refresh app. It aims to support people with dementia by linking personalised videos to objects in the home, helping people remember daily routines and even reminding them of cherished memories.

Start a digital training business

It feels like the real barrier for care apps is that the elderly demographic they’re supposed to help doesn’t, for the most part, use apps.

You could help combat this by setting up a business that will teach people how to use advanced technology like smartphones and help them to find their place in a modern world that is becoming increasingly reliant on digital devices.

Telemedicine – clinical communication for healthcare

Telemedicine – talking to a doctor via a video or telephone call instead of in person – is not exactly new (the first attempts were made in the early 1900s). However, the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the perception of telemedicine.

Suddenly, this strange novelty is a necessity, especially for vulnerable patients that could be endangered by a visit to their doctor. Clinics moved to using accuRx software, which offered basic video calls and was already familiar to doctors as they previously used it to send text messages to patients.

Babylon Health, which is one of the biggest names in healthtech and recently went public with a £3bn valuation, has now made video and telephone consultations a core part of its business model. Patients are able to seek medical expertise within a few hours, giving them more autonomy over their own treatment.

Vinehealth is an early adopter of the trend. As hospitals become full and wait times extended, the need for self-management and tackling mental health and loneliness has sky-rocketed.

Those suffering from long-term health ailments like cancer have borne the brunt of the chaos. This is the target audience that Vinehealth is here to serve, with its smartly-designed app that tracks things like symptoms, side effects, and medications, to optimise cancer patient outcomes.

“There is a wealth of knowledge to be found in the lived experiences of cancer patients,” says cofounder and CEO, Dr. Rayna Patel. “We’re rapidly moving towards an era in which patient self-management is becoming ever more impactful through wearables, data and AI-driven personalisation [driving] robust, remote, longitudinal patient-reported data collection.”

We’re rapidly moving towards an era in which patient self-management is becoming ever more impactful.

Producing an app that relies on using sensitive patient data to scale has brought with it some challenges. “Developing healthcare-focused technology is not straightforward and security, privacy, regulation and accessibility are all paramount to achieving positive impact”, Patel warns.

Vinehealth’s founding team employed a wide-range of testing to ensure that they were able to gather data from every type of user and “ensure that patients of all ages and with all manner of accessibility constraints could use our technology with ease.”

The business model is attractive to a wide-range of partners. Vinehealth’s unique focus on improving patient engagement and satisfaction is crucial to life sciences organisations, healthcare providers and insurers – opening up partnership opportunities with NHS cancer centres such as the Royal Marsden, as well as Macmillan and Cancer Research UK.

Telemedicine business ideas:

Telemedicine training

While there are definitely similarities, delivering telemedicine effectively requires different skills to the ones traditionally taught to GPs. For example, a GP doing a video chat consultation can’t give a nervous patient a reassuring pat on the shoulder – so they need to find an alternative way to calm patients, perhaps by lowering the tone of their voice, speaking more slowly, or even telling a joke.

This is even more important in the case of remote GPs, who will probably never meet their patients in person. Therefore, with the rise of telemedicine, communications specialists or psychologists could find a great niche in teaching GPs and other medical staff the best way to interact with their patients over video chat.

Translator for non-English speakers

Telemedicine is still in the relatively early stages of development, however it is essentially a way to improve communication by service providers. There is a real opportunity for startups to help patients by turning NHS explain their symptoms, particularly for those who don’t speak English as a first language.

Connecting patients to private consultants who can speak their mother-tongue will ensure that guidance on treatment or health and wellbeing measures is properly relayed.

Fertility tech – new ways to support

Globally, infertility rates have been rising for some time. Recent studies show that after a year of having unprotected sex, 15% of couples are unable to conceive a child. After two years, the number still hovers at around 10%.

Thirty years ago, infertility was considered a taboo topic. Open discussion was not encouraged, and as a result, the subject has become shrouded in shame (particularly in the workplace).

Given the huge emotional and physical toll that fertility techniques like IVF can have on a person – not to mention the financial stress – this can have a real impact on employee wellbeing and productivity.

Thankfully, the tide is starting to turn. More people are sharing their experiences with IVF, causing employers to begin treat the process appropriately and as a medical appointment. Flexible working or even paid time off for those undergoing IVF is now increasingly common.

But business leaders need help to support their employees who might be undergoing fertility treatment. As well as understanding the statutory requirements, there’s a whole host of other considerations to make to support colleagues. For example, career planning, financial help, and internal communications.

Smart startup leaders have already taken note of these emerging requirements and have begun servicing them with clever tech-led initiatives. For example, there’s Harper.

Founded by Mithi Thaya in 2021, Harper offers a range of supportive treatments for employees. Still, its IVF coaching is the most revolutionary. By being conscious of the need for personalised and thoughtful assistance, Harper is used by progressive companies to give staff access to tailored coaching sessions.

These carried out via video conferencing, with a fertility-trained professional, in 30-minute sessions. Bespoke activities are also recommended to aid with improving mental health, as well as connecting patients with resources and specialists, if needed.

Vira Health is another new firm that’s catering to a relatively newly-recognised fertility-related workplace trend: menopause.

The UK government started 2023 setting back the women’s equality movement by declaring that menopause is not a “priority” at the moment.

In actuality, the menopause can have significant and longterm effects on women’s everyday activities. A recent survey by the TUC confirmed that 35% of respondents had taken annual leave or rest days because of their symptoms.

Firms should be sitting up to address the issue – especially during the current recruitment crisis that is making it more difficult to retain older workers.

Vira Health offers personalised digital therapeutics for women going through menopause via its app, Stella. Stella can recommend a variety of techniques to mitigate symptoms include exercise programs, diet advice, or a course of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to combat insomnia or mood-related issues.

Fertility tech business ideas

Male fertility education

Men are gradually facing up to the vital role they play in the conception process, and many are now keen to take co-ownership of the reproductive health journey. However, there’s a knowledge gap here. While female reproductive health has been discussed for decades, its male counterpart has been largely ignored.

Something that tackles the subject from a male perspective, then, could have a big audience – whether that’s a simple book or even a mobile app that guides men through what they should be doing to help their partner conceive.

Fertility improving products

As the public becomes more aware of the infertility issue, a market of fertility-boosting accessories and digestibles has arisen designed to enhance the chances of conception.

Pregnancy supplements, made with ingredients like Folic Acid, is one trend. Meanwhile, so-called ‘cooling’ underwear has been found to naturally improve male fertility and testosterone. Whatever the product, this business idea is about converting science-backed research into a B2C business model.

Final thoughts

Healthtech is not just a business idea for the next few years – it’s going to be a hugely important business trend for (at least) the next few decades. The shift towards an aging population isn’t changing anytime soon, and finding new ways to combat health problems will stay fixed on the agenda.

Key takeaways from the above case studies for startups include the need to prioritise patient safety, build customer trust, and take a purpose-led approach that considers the difficulties faced by the health and social care industry.

We’ve picked out a few key growth areas here but there are loads of others, from menopause tech to high-tech period pants. Healthtech affects us all, and so it’s hugely fertile ground to nurture the next generation of superstar startups.

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.
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