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Digital health at the Mid-America Healthcare Venture Forum

In case you haven’t seen the official announcements or caught my tweets, later this month I will be moderating a panel at the Mid-America Healthcare Venture Forum, an event being put on by MedCity News, April 22-23 at the J.W. Marriott hotel in Chicago.

The panel is called “Opportunities (and Challenges) in Digital Health. Per the official description: “Digital health — and its business models — are coming of age. Promising young companies are integrating into healthcare and, in some cases, beginning to find exit partners. But that’s also meant new scrutiny from everyone from investors to the FDA. Learn about the challenges, opportunities and promising new markets in digital health.”

Panelists include: Amy Len, director of Chicago-based accelerator Healthbox; Julie Kling, director of mobile health at Verizon Wireless; and Jack Young, who heads the Qualcomm Life Fund for Qualcomm Ventures. I’ll just be there to keep order, and, of course, to cast my usual, skeptical eye on the field and continue to wonder why investors are throwing so much money at me-too fitness trackers and countless direct-to-consumer products that don’t stand a chance in an industry where nearly everything is paid for by third parties. Or at least that’s my thought at the moment, until we have our conference call next week. :)

The session is scheduled for Wednesday, April 23, at 8:55 a.m. CDT. The hotel is located at 151 W. Adams St. in the heart of the Financial District. Years ago, I worked about two blocks west of there, so I know it’s about 40-45 minutes away from me by public transit, and I’m not a morning person. This could get  interesting. (If any MedCity people are reading this, I’m kidding. I’ll be there on time. Hopefully.)

Our session follows a keynote from James Rogers, chairman of Mayo Clinic Ventures. After the panel is a break, then breakout sessions featuring presentations to investors from startups in digital health, medical devices and pharma/biotech. I hope I don’t prematurely burst anyone’s bubble with too much of a reality check. But, in honor of this week being the 25th anniversary of the release of the great Gen X satire, “Heathers,” I offer this quote from the movie: “Heather told me she teaches people ‘real life.’ She said, real life sucks losers dry.”

Wait, was that too cynical?Let me just say that the panel just got another thing to talk about today, as the FDA, FCC and ONC just released their proposed health IT regulatory strategy, as called for by the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act (FDASIA). To nobody’s surprise, they recommend a “risk-based framework” to regulation of health IT and digital health. Now to figure out if there are any details people should be concerned about…

In the meantime, you can register for the conference here.

April 3, 2014 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Counting the health IT accelerators

Have you noticed all the digital health “accelerators” and “incubators” out there? I count the following, in alphabetical order:

In addition, the USC Center for Body Computing has announced plans for its own incubator/accelerator in Los Angeles, but we continue to await details.

That’s a lot. Is it too many? We have seen plenty of failures in digital health entrepreneurship over the years, in no small part because too many companies don’t understand the unique economics of healthcare, particularly in the U.S. With the possible exception of fitness products, direct-to-consumer simply does not work in healthcare because most of the expenses are paid for by third parties. (I’d argue that wellness and fitness are distinct from traditional healthcare anyway because healthcare really does focus on sick care.)

At least one report from the California HealthCare Foundation backs up my belief that the DTC focus is a recipe for failure, one reason why health accelerators probably have it harder than their counterparts in other industries.

June 4, 2013 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Will Healthbox launch offer true innovation, or just more flash?

Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it, or so the saying goes.

My controversial piece on Silicon Valley missing the point of healthcare last summer doesn’t seem so controversial now, as I recently got some validation from others closer to the action than I am. First, reDesign Mobile analyst Rocky Agrawal wrote in VentureBeat that Silicon Valley might be “too smart for their own good,” building products more suited for highly educated techies than for the masses. Last week, former Apple and PepsiCo CEO John Sculley suggested at the Digital Health Summit at 2012 International CES that technology for its own sake is rather useless if you don’t understand the market you’re targeting.

“”The thing that is missing is getting the people with the domain expertise aligned with the people with technological know-how to turn ideas into branded services,” Sculley said, as I report in InformationWeek Healthcare and in tomorrow’s MobiHealthNews.

After raking Rock Health over the coals in my commentary last summer, I offered qualified praise to the San Francisco-based investor/business accelerator for healthcare start-ups last month on this blog. “I was pleasantly surprised to see that the majority of the 15 companies are aimed at either healthcare providers—an important constituency largely missing from the first Rock Health class—and on treatment of truly sick patients.” I wrote.

“I never thought I would say this, at least not before the end of 2011, but kudos to Rock Health for making a real effort to figure out the complex healthcare industry and to add some substance to what heretofore had been all style.”

Tomorrow, I am planning on attending the kickoff event for Healthbox, a similar healthcare business accelerator that differs from Rock Health in at least one key way: it is not in Silicon Valley, but right here in down-to-earth Chicago. Does that make a difference? Well, the kickoff isn’t at a hotel ballroom or Healthbox’s office, it’s in an artsy space called the Ivy Room, in the heart of River North, an area usually populated by more tourists than locals.

I sure hope I’m not in for an over-the-top extravaganza that will highlight cool, direct-to-consumer apps with a snowball’s chance of catching on with the entities that actually pay the bills for healthcare. I want to believe there’s something real here, which is why I’m giving up at least a couple hours of my time to see the presentations. Please tell me that Chicago isn’t becoming a Silicon Valley clone, but rather the hub of health IT innovation it could be.

For what it’s worth, here is the list of companies scheduled to present tomorrow: UnitedPreference, DermLink, SwipeSense (“a comprehensive hand-hygiene solution,” whatever that means), The Coupon Doc, CareWire, Iconic Data, PaJR-Patient Journey Record (helping hospitals avoid 30-day readmissions, possibly making it a Big Deal), CareHubs, Corengi (linking diabetics to clinical trials) and PUSH Wellness. I see real potential in at least four of those, possibly more.

 

January 18, 2012 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.