The Health Economy is one of the world’s fastest-growing industries, covering a wide range of services, applications and technologies focused on improving the human health span. And Estonia, as it turns out, is a perfect place to build a digital health startup.
Let’s start by explaining Digital Therapeutics (DTx). In short, DTx has clinically proven software applications prescribed by physicians to prevent or treat specific diseases. It means that digital therapeutic applications go through clinical trials and regulatory review, like a traditional drug or medical device, in order to validate their safety and efficacy.
Although it might sound all the same, in reality, the difference between digital therapeutics and other health apps is the ability to prescribe treatments for everyone exactly according to their needs. It is like comparing a universal suggestion to take a supplement like Vitamin C or a specific prescription by your doctor which you buy from a pharmacy.
Collaborating to cure and prevent
To accelerate the adoption of evidence-based digital therapeutic solutions and drive cross-industry collaboration, DTx Estonia, the industry alliance of Estonian digital therapeutics manufacturers was founded. The founding members are all also founders of companies developing novel technologies that improve treatment access for a vast range of health challenges haunting us daily. These include a digital headache clinic, a speech therapy platform, digital therapeutic solutions for psoriasis and mental health, as well as a platform for predicting and preventing heart disease.
As people don’t know much about digital therapeutics yet, lack of awareness is still the key barrier in the way of DTx adoption. Hence the alliance aims to spread the word widely. And the ambition of DTx Estonia is nothing less than conquering the world. The founders are convinced: “We believe Estonia has a unique opportunity to become a key player in the global DTx market. Our ambition is to create a unique public-private digital medicines industry here.”
Collaboration is the key. To make the investment, digital medicine manufacturers need a long-term vision from the government for the systematic development of digital medicines as a new high-tech industry. In the deployment of new health technologies, it makes sense to use a model of public-private collaboration to bring the necessary solutions to market more efficiently, quickly and flexibly. For the introduction of more complex technologies, it makes sense for the public sector to work with companies that specialise in solving a particular problem with long-term investment.
It is impossible to create a single, centralised, generic system to support the treatment of thousands of conditions – it can only work as an ecosystem of different services and solutions. “Together, we are working to take these messages to decision-makers and, in partnership with government, to build this critical ecosystem,” says Birgit Krieger, CEO of SpeakTX, a digital speech therapy support platform.
Another association that helps boost the health economy is Health Founders, the first health tech accelerator in the Baltics. The people involved in DTx Estonia and Health Founders are all more or less intertwined. Still, the latter comes in with helping early-stage startups through their wide network of mentors with long-term healthcare industry experience.
Co-Founders Erki Mölder and Siim Saare saw the gap in the digital health sector and joined the knowledge that they’ve gathered for decades in healthcare and business development.
“The digital health sector is predicted to grow 30% annually over the next five years and reach 640 billion by 2026. This is fuelled by technological advancements and favourable government policies due to the pandemic. All this creates a massive opportunity for new entrants with solutions that have a global impact. There is a saying that the world’s biggest problems are also the biggest business opportunities. Nowhere is this more true than in healthcare,“ says Saare.
This article is part of the Life in Estonia magazine. Be sure to read the separate pieces about particular companies and initiatives, including:
- SpeakTX and CoNurse
- Mental Pin
- Better Medicine
- Menken Trials