Rock Health, Startup Health's Q1 numbers show expected slowdown in digital health investment

Rock Health tracked just under a billion dollars in investment for the quarter, while Startup Health's more expansive methodology had the figure at $2.8 billion.
By Jonah Comstock
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The first quarter of 2019 is behind us and both Rock Health and Startup Health have released their funding report for the quarter.

Both agree that funding for Q1 2019 is down relative to other recent years. But both see other reasons to be optimistic about digital health investment.

Rock Health tracked $986 million of investment across 61 digital health deals in the US, which is lower than both Q1 2018, when about twice that much was raised, and Q1 of 2016. It’s about on par with 2017.

Startup Health, meanwhile, had a rosier picture, tracking $2.8 billion over the quarter, just 3.7 percent lower than their Q1 2018 figure. The stark difference is attributable to two factors: Rock Health tracks only US deals, whereas Startup Health tracks global deals. That accounts for about a billion dollars. Additionally, Rock Health has a narrower definition of digital health that excludes companies like Clover Health, which accounted for $500 million of the Startup Health figure by itself.

Among the promising indicators in Rock Health’s report: the high number of corporate VCs investing relative to the rest of the market, two new digital health unicorns (Calm and Health Catalyst) and the promise of some new digital health IPOs after a two-year drought: Livongo, Peloton, Change Healthcare, and Health Catalyst were all reported this quarter to be planning IPOs.

Startup Health, on the other hand, premiering a new focus and design for its quarterly reports, focused on the high median deal size, at $9.2 million, and the diversity of deals which cover areas like insuretech, women’s health, access to care, cancer, addiction and more.

You can check out Rock Health’s Q1 report here and Startup Health’s Q1 report here.

WHY IT MATTERS

Rock Health and Startup Health have both tracked digital health investment for a number of years. The quarterly reports provide a proxy for the health of the space, or at least for the interest of both private and corporate investors.

WHAT’S THE TREND

Last year’s record-breaking digital health funding year has led some inside and outside the industry to question whether digital health is a bubble, a question that Rock Health has dedicated some resources to exploring.

In January, Rock put out a report examining the question and concluding that while the space doesn’t fit the profile of a bubble, it is probably due for a slowdown — which is exactly what the Q1 numbers show, no matter whose numbers you use.

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