The healthcare space is in an incredibly interesting place right now. With the emergence of low cost sensors, a burgeoning interest in wearable technology, an increased focus on big data, and the implementation of new digital requirements for medical records under the Affordable Care Act, we are going to witness a ton of innovation around patient care in the coming years. Mobile has quickly had a massive impact on many industries such as music, photography, media, and payments. It is not difficult to imagine how it is going to quickly transform the way we think about healthcare. There are many founders who are already working on interesting solutions, that put a twist, or employ an entirely new approach to solving the problems, and inefficiencies faced by the healthcare system today.
Medical professionals who work in institutions, and deal with many patients everyday are painfully aware of the shortcomings of outdated policies, and ancient software tools. A quick look at the most commonly used EHR (electronic health record) systems used by most hospitals, will shock most outsiders. It is as if you are teleported back into the 1990’s with painfully slowly software, that is heavy, and poorly designed. The functionality around these EHR’s is also shockingly antiquated. The most common process for one hospital to get the medical records of a patient from another hospital requires a phone call, faxing an authorization, waiting a few hours, and then receiving faxed PDF’s of printouts. Faxes, printouts, and hours of time…in 2014! Often the records don’t come in a timely manner, so doctors are forced to repeat many tests, which leads to increased patient care costs. This is just one large problem that currently exists in the healthcare system. There are countless other areas that are ripe for disruption. The healthcare industry is a trillion dollar market, there are a myriad of opportunities for new companies to come in, and be extremely successful. I think the biggest challenge facing any new players in this space is navigating the regulatory landscape. Operating in the healthcare space, and working with patient data, or medical institutions is much more difficult than simply building a product, and trying to acquire users. I hope/think we will see the emergence of some early adopter institutions that will be willing to partner with new companies, and allow them to pilot new programs, and initiatives in the field. I know UCSF is already partnering with organizations such Rock Health to take a more active role in supporting much needed innovation in and around the healthcare space.
The best thing that could happen is if more professionals from the medical community were willing to work with entrepreneurs who are interested in working in the space. Entrepreneurs can always work on product, and marketing, but they ultimately need a fair amount of guidance figuring out the hurdles they face when working in a tightly regulated industry, that is undergoing a massive transformation due to the Affordable Care Act. Rock Health is currently the most prominent bridge between startups and the medical community, and is doing an incredible job, but I would like to see more similar organizations emerge in the near term.