Creating scalable Healthtech platforms to improve patient access
23 June 2022
Published in the ‘Global Family Office Community’ Journal
Article by Ed Radkiewicz, CEO – MARCOL Health
Creating scalable Healthtech platforms to improve patient access
The patient access landscape
Discussions about flawed access for patients have pervaded the healthcare sector for decades – and technologies seeking to solve this issue have been around for just as long. But the uptake of these has, until now, always been limited.
Prior to the pandemic, healthcare had been lagging behind in the digital evolution that has swept across other industries, revolutionising the way people work and communicate. COVID-19 created unique barriers limiting patients’ access to care such as closed GP offices, reduced appointment availability, and patients forgoing appointments due to fear of contagion and pandemic restrictions. Theses dynamics forced healthcare systems to turn to technology and they found that digital solutions can bring advantages to both patient and clinician that will stretch beyond the pandemic. With this in mind, by applying the right expertise and approach, there is a huge opportunity for investment; we are at an inflection point as technologies have advanced rapidly over the last two years so payors, physicians and patients have become more comfortable with harnessing their power to improve access to and the delivery of care.
How can technology improve access?
Patient backlogs following the pandemic have put a strain on healthcare systems, meaning most patients aren’t able to receive the care they need, when they need it. In the UK, the NHS waiting list hit 6.1 million in January, and the number of people waiting more than a year for care now stands at 311,528.
Telehealth presents a complementary solution to this problem. Research suggests that 75% of primary care consultations in Europe could be resolved remotely but less than 1% of them are executed digitally. Telehealth provides a system that allows for smarter patient triaging which can help free up doctors’ time. For non-urgent services, patients can be diagnosed remotely and easily receive needed prescriptions, reducing waiting times and providing reassurance throughout the patient journey, especially when managing chronic conditions. The service also allows patients – and healthcare professionals – the flexibility to better align healthcare with their lifestyles.
HealthHero, a MARCOL portfolio company and one of the largest telehealth providers in Europe, is advancing the benefits of telehealth by aligning human expertise and digital convenience to optimise the experiences of 30 million individuals who have access to the service.
Mental health and wellbeing
Healthcare services are facing considerable pressures, and mental health services even more so as the pandemic has pushed us into a global mental health crisis, especially in the workplace setting. There is huge variation in the numbers of people accessing crisis care services and one in five people who came into contact with NHS services in crisis were not assessed at all.
Part of this is down to an inherent lack of access to quality mental health care. A lack of education about the issue means that many people either can’t recognise when they need help or they don’t know where to go to seek it. It is therefore essential to have systems in place to recognise and help to deliver appropriate care for patients with poor mental health and wellbeing. GoodShape, another MARCOL portfolio company, works closely with organisations (both public and private) to deliver such help, combining a technology platform that can identify and even predict these issues early on with 24/7 clinical expertise to enhance wellbeing.
Technology not only enables more convenient access to doctors, but to specialist diagnostics. MRI and CT scanning machines, for example, are not all the same – many of them need specialist radiographers and they are often sparsely located. This means that accessing such diagnostic services is challenging when patients live in remote areas where there is a lack of resources.
Mobile diagnostic imaging services – which bring these high-tech solutions to patients via transportable units – ensure that people don’t need to travel long distances to receive the care they need. medneo, MARCOL’s diagnostic imaging business offers easier access to diagnostic tools via both mobile services and static imaging centres, currently across Germany, Switzerland and the UK.
As mentioned above, a physical trip to the pharmacy can be a slow process for many people – especially if that follows a trip to their doctor. Depending on the regulatory environment in different countries, online pharmacies offer a strong alternative to the traditional model. By placing orders online, being able to receive over-the-counter treatments straight to a patient’s front door unlocks greater convenience, enabling patients to prioritise their healthcare more easily.
The online nature of the platform also brings opportunities to deliver value beyond just prescription medicines: empowering patients to take a more proactive approach to their own wellbeing. MARCOL’s leading pan-European online pharmacy business, Atida, has the ambition to move wellbeing from a strictly curative and reactive approach to one that is proactive and incorporates prevention. It creates bespoke wellbeing packages of vitamins and supplements for its millions of customers and provides them with online access to qualified pharmacists, meaning that they never have to leave their own home to have access to the same expertise as well as a vast array of wellness products.
The investment approach: Scaling healthcare technology
The potential for digital health platforms has been borne out by the amount of investment seen in recent years. In 2021, funding to the sector grew 79% to reach a record $57.2bn. Investors have seen the opportunity – but that is not to say that investment is enough to meaningfully improve access while delivering returns.
The first step is harnessing the power of healthcare expertise to identify platforms that are legitimately scalable. Many digital health companies work really well in one location but, due to regulatory differences across markets, aren’t scalable across geographies.
MARCOL Health looks at all of its investments through this lens. We have leveraged our specialist sector knowledge to identify the access issues outlined above and have invested in companies to address the opportunity across markets – HealthHero (telehealth), medneo (diagnostics), GoodShape (corporate wellbeing) and Atida (online pharmacies). These, as well as our future investments, grow through sustained operational support, financial investment and incisive strategic collaboration with executive leadership teams who can work with MARCOL Health to drive the growth and transformation of the business.
By supporting the growth of its portfolio with more than just capital, MARCOL Health has been able to transform innovative, cutting edge, digital technology into viable, scalable platforms, that accelerate growth and drive international expansion – in turn helping to improve the future of healthcare delivery.
 The Guardian, ‘Number of people in England on NHS waiting list hits record high’, (10 February 2022)
 Healthhero, https://www.healthhero.com/, (last acc. 6 April 2022)
 CB Insights, ‘State Of Digital Health 2021 Report’, (20 January 2022)