By Jean Haggerty
Private equity interest in healthcare IT is showing no signs of slowing, but few investors think a bubble is on the horizon.
By all measures, the private equity healthcare industry, as a whole, is booming, and overwhelmingly, private equity investors are saying that their healthcare IT investment strategy is proving to be a sound one.
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Only 5 percent of private equity investors who participated in a recent Healthcare Growth Partners’ (HGP) survey said that their health IT investments are not meeting their investment expectations.
The same survey revealed that only 28 percent of survey respondents think that health IT is in a bubble; in 2016, 25 percent of survey respondents held this view.
Christopher McCord, managing director at HGP, told HCB News this slight uptick is probably linked to the number of funds and the amount of capital chasing deals in the market right now. “Whether valuations have gone up as a result, ... it certainly feels like they have from an investor’s perspective,” he added.
Health IT is now a mainstream sector, and digital healthcare solutions and artificial intelligence (AI) are emerging as critical areas for technology spending among healthcare executives. At this stage, however, the adoption of new technology is uneven.
For example, radiology and imaging groups view machine learning, a subset application of AI, as an important part of medical imaging, but most are still two to three years away from adopting machine learning, said Erik Westerlind, vice president of healthcare markets at Reaction Data in Salt Lake City. In a recent survey, Reaction Data found that only 22 percent of radiologists and imaging professionals are currently using machine learning in their practices; 51 percent said that their group is one to two years away from adopting this technology.
According to HGP’s findings, the overall healthcare IT market needs to grow at a 10-20 percent annual rate to support the rate of heathcare IT investment. “For a market, that’s a very fast growth rate, and that’s our conservative estimate,” McCord said, noting that from both a value and regulatory perspective healthcare IT’s fundamentals are strong.
For its survey, HGP, a healthcare-focused investment bank and strategic advisory firm, defined health IT as any health software, information, consulting or technology-enabled outsourcing company designed to assist providers, payers, pharma, employers or consumers.