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Healthcare Trends That Will Rule 2021

By Olivia Zitkus - Updated Jan 30, 2021 at 8:04AM

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Companies working in telehealth, at-home testing, and back-to-work solutions might just win the day -- and in fact, the whole year.

In 2020, many people talked to their doctor over video chat for the first time. It was also the year that three revolutionary at-home COVID-19 diagnostic tests received Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). What are some other trends and products that emerged in 2020 and could stick around for the long haul? Ruby Gadelrab is CEO and Founder of MDisrupt, a platform that connects digital health companies to the scientists and healthcare industry experts they need to build, commercialize, and scale health products quickly and responsibly. Ruby joined Olivia Zitkus and Corinne Cardina of Fool.com's Healthcare and Cannabis Bureau on a Jan. 22 episode of Fool Live to talk about the healthcare trends that are sure to rule 2021.

Olivia Zitkus: How do you think -- from investment to innovation to rate of adoption -- how do you think those trends will evolve in 2021, as we look ahead to the new year?

Ruby Gadelrab: For sure, telehealth and virtual care. Like I said, the cat is out of the bag on that one. I think it's just the beginning. Providers and physicians have experienced the concept of delivering healthcare and receiving healthcare from the comfort of your own home and the comfort of your couch. I think that trend will continue because on Dec. 2, 2020, CMS released a policy showing that it's going to cover over 60 new telehealth services that can now be reimbursed by Medicare. Often when we think about telehealth, we think about primary care, but I think given that it's going to cover 60 new services, I think that also does reach into some of the specialized care areas as well. One company I like to think about in this space is a company called GINA Medical. They are a genetic spaced telemedicine practice. They're trying democratize access to genetic experts. There are only 6,000 genetic experts in the country to service 330 million people. Clearly, that doesn't scale by in-person visits. That's a really, really fascinating company to watch. We talked about telehealth and virtual care. So, 2020 was the year of developing COVID solutions, tests, and vaccines, and therapeutics, but I think 2021 will be more about some of the back to work solutions. Hopefully, as we start to get back to work, and school, and reopen the economy, I think there's going to be some interesting innovation in the back to work space. One company that I think is interesting in this area is a company called Mesa Biotech. They basically built a point of care rapid PCR system that you can get results out of in 30 minutes outside of the lab setting, which is the key thing here. This is important when we consider how some of these back to work solutions, we do have to get testing closer to the consumer where they work, for example, or even in retail pharmacies. That company is interesting as well because they were acquired by Thermo Fisher earlier this week for $550 million. In 2020, as we went through the roughest parts of the pandemic, we saw the states struggle to deliver testing efficiently. The struggle was around test availability, distribution, and long turn-around times. I think these problems are worsening now actually as we see new surges in some of the infection rates. One of our clients at MDisrupt who I think is an interesting example is this category is Everlywell. Prior to the pandemic, their mission was to democratize and simplify access to at-home diagnostic testing, and so they have products such as A1C for managing blood glucose levels and hormone testing. But in May, the FDA issued an Emergency Use Authorization for Everlywell, making their test the first stand-alone at home collection device. Since then, they've shipped over a million COVID tests. Why that's fascinating is because it has validated consumer demand for at-home testing, and it has shown that for certain applications, consumers are willing to self-pay for diagnostic testing. From a financial perspective, they're interesting as well because they raised $175 million in November. I think you guys all saw that, and I think now have valuation of about $1.3 billion. To summarize, three trends of 2021: telehealth and virtual care, COVID back to work solutions, and increased demand for at-home testing and monitoring solutions.

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