Children’s Hospital LA is launching a pediatric health accelerator open to international digital health startups

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The hospital is introducing a 13-week pediatric digital health accelerator program, dubbed KidsX, which will link more than 30 hospitals across the US, the UK, and Australia with companies focused on cultivating pediatric digital health innovations. As part of the program, hospitals will present problems and challenges to the startup community and work with digital health companies to ideate solutions that tackle them.

While digital health is booming for adults, it hasn’t taken off among the pediatric population. Despite the pandemic-induced rise in virtual health use among adults, the pediatric population hasn’t yet taken the leap to digital health: Younger cohorts are hampered by unique challenges such as low engagement, privacy concerns among parents, and limited availability of population-specific solutions.

Further, evidence-based research used in developing digital health tools is largely driven by adult data—so, there’s a gap limiting startups from developing effective innovations and attaining the regulatory clearances needed to bring pediatric-focused digital health tools to market. These challenges are compounded by the fact that pediatric populations range from infants to young adults, and each subgroup has varying health needs—and digital health tools must be designed for the unique needs of each niche pediatric population. So, for developers of these solutions, the pediatric market may not be as lucrative as the adult market, where they can cast a wider net with their tools.

Because the pediatric digital health market is largely untapped, there is a wide opportunity for players to scoop up their share of it. While digital health firms largely haven’t targeted children, they may prove to be active users of digital health tech, considering they have the tools they need to access digital health: 53% of kids in the US own a smartphone by age 11 and 84% of teens own a smartphone, per Common Sense Media. And we’ve seen pediatric-focused digital health initiatives start to gain traction: Just last week, digital therapeutics (DTx) provider Cognoa filed for FDA clearance of an AI-powered autism diagnostic and health monitoring tool; meanwhile, DTx startup Akili scored FDA clearance for its video-game driven digital therapy solution for pediatric ADHD patients earlier this year.

Accelerators like Children’s Hospital LA’s will fuel further digital innovation in pediatric care, and we think payers in particular will eye pediatric-focused digital health tools, considering a healthy childhood can serve as a preventative precursor to the development of chronic illness in adulthood: Nearly half of US adults have a chronic condition, and chronic diseases cost the US more than $3.8 trillion.