Investors keen on analytics, patient safety tech

By Patty Enrado
10:30 AM

The federal incentives target electronic medical and health records, but other healthcare technologies have the potential to transform the industry, a panel of investors said last week at the Health Technology Investment Forum.

EMRs are becoming a commodity, but putting applications on top of EMRs to deliver usable data creates value, said Lisa Suennen, managing member at Psilos Group. "There is a lot of interest in analytics," she said.

Another big area of growth is patient safety - eliminating medical errors, she said. The Institute of Medicine's 2000 report, "To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System," estimated that medical errors cost the country $37.6 billion annually.

Remote monitoring is also getting a lot of attention, she said. While Suennen is seeing interesting technology in this area, she isn't seeing business models. "It's an evolving concept," she said.

The industry has the infrastructure to handle the volume and multiple types of data, said Jack Young, senior investment manager for Qualcomm Ventures. The question is what do you do with the data being collected, he said. Young is looking for solutions that use data to manage patients for caretakers and patients themselves.

He is also interested in useful information such as vital signs that can be communicated bi-directionally in the form of implantable devices and miniaturization paired with wireless capabilities.

The state of California, which will receive $38.8 million to develop a statewide health information exchange, is interested in personalized health, said Kathryn Lowell, deputy secretary for health systems and knife sciences, California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency. The state is looking to pilot how to integrate genomics data into a health IT platform.

Government-driven policy, as opposed to government funding, has the potential to spark innovation. Reimbursement is key to getting some of these technologies adopted, Suennen said.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has initiated demonstration projects and mandated no payments for "never events." Both present opportunities for technology to build services, she said.

Healthcare reform legislation will put the approximately 32 million uninsured population into the healthcare system, creating demand for innovative solutions, she said. With a shortage of primary care physicians, nontraditional methods - such as telemedicine and MinuteClinics - to access primary care will be needed. Reform legislation will also require new insurance products, such as value-based insurance design, that focus on cost, quality and the consumer.

Tao Dagi, MD, partner, HLM Venture Partners, acknowledged an increasing reliance on data. Venture capitalists have a "so what, who cares?" approach with entrepreneurs, he said. "If it's not actionable, it has no use," he said. For any funding to flow, entrepreneurs need to prove what difference their data makes.

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