Health IT Venture Fair targets up-and-coming HIT vendors, hot trends

The economy might not be filling everyone's wallets these days, but the landscape for venture capital firms looking to invest in healthcare has never been hotter.

So said Neil W. Borg, managing director of BC Ziegler, one of the oldest healthcare-directed VC firms, at the start of Monday's Health IT Venture Fair & Strategic Partner Forum.

Speaking before a packed conference room filled with VC firms and entrepreneurs – a curious mix of somber suits and briefcases interspersed with South Park T-shirts and North Face backpacks – Borg was part of a five-member panel that kicked off the day-long conference with an overview of the healthcare investment space. He pointed out that the healthcare space, in the midst of serious reform, is ripe for investment from not only traditional VC firms, but from other venture capital sources as well.

"The big healthcare names (in managed care, health information exchange and pharma) are paying attention to the innovators and making strategic investments," he said, pointing out that the larger companies are acquiring smaller, innovative companies.

The venture fair and strategic forum, launched in 2007 by HIMSS and the law firm of Blank Rome LLP, has experienced significant growth in its seven years, according to organizers. What began in 2007 as a small pre-conference get-together of some 25 people attracted more than 300 attendees this year. They gathered to listen to presentations from 18 up-and-coming healthcare companies, so-called "elevator pitches" from three brand-new companies, and a special panel presentation by Aventura, a past participant that has enjoyed significant success since receiving VC support.

The day-long conference began with breakfast, of course, then was followed by the panel. Aside from Borg, it featured Blank Rome partner Beth Cohen, healthcare lawyer Howard Burde, Jay Srini of SCS Ventures and Joseph B. Volpe III of Merck Global Healthcare. The panelists talked not only about the healthcare investment landscape, but offered their insight into the hot trends, ideas for attracting investors and pitfalls and guidelines to living with investors.

The overriding theme: Healthcare innovation is stepping into the limelight.

"The rest of the economy has discovered healthcare," said Burde.

Of the hot trends, Borg identified revenue cycle management and patient access solutions, population management and remote patient management. All of the panelists highlighted data analytics, or the ability to take data accumulated in the healthcare space and put it to use in clinical and business functions, as well as mobile health.

'The world is mobile," added Burde. "You can't be tethered anymore, so all health is mobile. Everyone is constantly on the move."