ATA Venture Fair reflects keen investor interest in telemedicine

The ATA's first-ever meeting of inventors and investors takes place from 8:30 a.m. to noon Sunday in Ballroom E
By Jeff Rowe
02:09 PM

AUSTIN, TX – Telemedicine may be changing the way healthcare is delivered around the world, but it's identical to every other economic sector in one critical respect: Without investment, companies don't get very far.

Partly in recognition of that fact – and partly because the telemedicine sector has evolved beyond the point where some healthcare stakeholders are tempted to consider it just a novelty – the 2013 ATA International Meeting & Trade Show will feature the first ATA-sponsored telemedicine venture fair. On Sunday, May 5, from 8:30 a.m. to noon in Ballroom E, attendees will be able to hear presentations from several companies seeking funding, as well as comments and responses from investors who may just be willing to offer it.

According to Alexis Gilroy, a partner at Washington, D.C.-based Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough and the venture fair's chief organizer, the investment community has been interested in telemedicine for some time, but they've remained cautious.

"It's been more a matter of educating themselves," she said. "They've understood the technology sector for many years, but they've needed help understanding the service side of healthcare."

She added that "we're still just starting to see the amount of investment you might expect" for a sector that, as far as healthcare veterans are concerned, is growing rapidly.

At the venture fair, Gilroy said, eight companies will present their products or services to a panel of venture capital experts. Gilroy will be the moderator, and after the companies have finished, the experts – Bryan Bushick, MD, managing director of the Illinois-based Ansley Capital Group; Joe Peterson, MD, CEO of Virginia-based Specialists on Call; and Jack J. Young, director of the San Diego-based Qualcomm Life Fund will discuss the pros and cons of what they've heard.

"We're going to talk about experiences," Gilroy said. "The presenters will discuss what they've learned, and they'll get some advice from the panel." 

"And it's not just for investors proper," she said. "There will be lot of networking opportunities for potential strategic partners such as  telehealth providers and IT platform companies."

As Gilroy sees it, the most exciting recent development when it comes to the potential growth of telemedicine has been the advances in reimbursement opportunities.

"Many private payers are deciding to cover telemedicine expenses" she noted, so entrepreneurs – and, by extension, the investors backing them – are now able to anticipate getting paid for their products and services, which has not always been the case in the past.

"I suspect there's going to be a lot more excitement," she said, as deals that investors may previously have just been interested in suddenly become more enticing as reimbursement opportunities solidify.

That excitement, Gilroy said, was obvious throughout the preparations for the venture fair, with more than 30 companies completing applications for the opportunity to present at the fair and a large number of investors being involved in the selection process.

"There are a ton of young companies," she said, "and one way of looking at the fair is that it's a great petri dish. It should be a great event."

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