When entrepreneurs focused on improving the health care industry talk about “pain points,” they’re not referring to physical discomforts of arthritis or cancer treatments.
At Startup Weekend Columbia’s Health IT Startups 101, health professionals and business developers discussed how some of the aches the system, such as potential breaches in personal data and inadequate tools for patient care, can be alleviated through innovation.
“Our system is so broken; it’s ripe for disruption,” said Dr. Aaron Gray, a family physician and sports medicine specialist at the University of Missouri and one of the speakers at the event Thursday evening.
With one of the highest concentrations of doctors in the country and a public university that is one of only six in the nation to have medical, veterinary and engineering schools, Columbia is home to resources such as the Life Science Business Incubator and programs like Startup Weekend that foster innovation.
“I think Columbia’s a really ripe area for creating some startups, creating some tech companies that can make some change.” Gray said.
Regardless, the challenges of creating healthcare solutions were not bandaged over.
For Matt Botkin and his colleagues, finding the pain point was easy, but nailing down the paying part has taken some time.
Botkin, chief operating officer of MedSocket, a Columbia Startup Weekend 2012 company, explained that CEO Dr. Karl Kochendorfer focused on developing technology, originally with Cerner, to help doctors to pull patient information out of their individual records and access personalized medical risk calculators for the patients with conditions such as breast cancer.
However, after the the startup received funding it had to figure out how to both get its product to the doctors who needed it and generate revenue, because targeting health systems and small practices didn’t work. MedSocket believes it may have found the solution —partnering with pharmaceutical companies interested in supporting specific risk calculators — and is working on contracts.
“There’s a lot of money in healthcare and a lot of innovation needed, but you’ve got to remember who’s problem your solving and who’s going to pay for it,” Botkin said.
Jason Wang, the CEO and founder of TrueVault, told the audience that the idea is not to make information more accessible, but more secure.
TrueVault, a San Francisco-based Y Combinator alum, offers databases and products that help developers create applications that measure up to the security standards mandated by the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, which guards the privacy of a patient’s information.
Wang originally sought to easily store all types of information, but later decided that his company would zero in on health data.
“HIPAA really made it so that a lot of developers (who) were not using regulation now have to follow a new set of laws or rules and TrueVault really makes it easy for them to innovate in healthcare without being kind of put back, without being too much of a hurdle [where] they just give up,” he said. “So for that reason we’re going to focus on healthcare, make it easy for developers in healthcare so that they can actually go change lives.”
While Wang went into fine detail explaining the standards that are necessary for developers to consider in order to make the HIPAA cut, he also pointed out that the ubiquity of mobile technology has changed the possibilities for healthcare innovation.
“Now we actually have a device in our pockets capable of actually improving healthcare that we can relate to and it is at that point where technology and regulation and demands finally have all met together,” he said.
In the end, Wang’s point of view about innovative to take away the “pain points” was simple.
“I think healthcare is no different than any other industry,” Wang said. “You need to just go out there, build something and just throw it out there and see what sticks.”