As state and federal insurance exchanges struggle to open their portals to millions of new insureds, the Affordable Care Act is spawning myriad opportunities for startup entrepreneurs in the healthcare IT space.
The 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act in 2009 handed physicians generous incentives to invest in healthcare information technology. Unprecedented investment has been finding its way to to electronic medical record (EMR) vendors. Use of these systems has exploded, roughly doubling since 2012.
That other familiar new legislation, the Affordable Care Act, affectionately dubbed "Obamacare," seems to be awakening the sleeping giant of American capital investment, as the largest growth in the history of healthcare insurance is being launched this month. Private exchanges have offered one such opportunity, but many more are on the horizon, as healthcare providers turn to technology to cope with increases in patient services, and as new providers hang out their shingles to capture the burgeoning patient market. Coupled with the aging of the Baby Boom generation, healthcare industry fortunes have never looked so good.
Remote patient monitoring tools, including wearable sensor/transmitters, represents one of the early forays for startups. Mobile devices will monitor patients and report bio data to patients' healthcare provider teams. As the ACA changes the game from the existing volume-based model to a value-based revenue system, physicians will no longer have an incentive to order a flurry of expensive tests, but to maintain a 360-degree view of patients' health, catching threats while intervention is relatively less costly, and to prevent hospital re-admissions by remote monitoring of biometrics during at-home recovery and on an ongoing basis. Federal incentives to treat patients under outpatient conditions will be an initial major driver. A recent estimate by Rock Health pegs recent investment in this technology at $102 million.
MedTronic, a manufacturer of mobile insulin delivery technologies, recently announced FDA approval of its new "artificial pancreas," a mobile device that combines automated constant glucose testing with insulin delivery. The device, already in use in Europe, collects and can report patient blood glucose levels and insulin pump interventions on a minute-to-minute basis, and will be rolling out in the U.S. over the next year. The device does not yet transmit data, but must be downloaded.
Fitness-tracking devices are among the new direct-to-consumer devices finding acceptance in the market. Some see this development as helping to bring down the cost of mobile biometrics, and providing the data stream needed to feed the emerging preventive care and early intervention movement. The presence of such technology in the consumer market could ease consumer acceptance of more clinically-oriented mobile technologies related to population health management, a potentially enormous new segment in the industry.
Population health management encompasses tools and expertise to capture and analyze vast streams of biometric data and broader patient health information in order to identify trends that threaten particular populations. Hospitals are the current market for these tools, but new markets can be imagined among outpatient services providers of many types, in supply chain management, pharmaceuticals and medical devices, as well as government-based public health entities.
New ways of delivering primary and specialty care represent another area of growth. Concierge clinics, and clinics that cater to niche patient populations make heavy use of technology in acquiring and keeping patients, frequently commanding higher fees than broader-based clinics.
The emerging "maker community" also represents a new force in the healthcare technology and medical device development markets. New technologies that democratize the prototyping of new technologies, utilizing $35 computers, smart phones and inexpensive 3D printing, are attracting record numbers of individual inventors to the once-stodgy healthcare industry dominated by huge conglomerates like GE and 3M. What healthcare will look like after the coming boom is anyone's guess, but it will almost certainly involve more people applying more intelligence and effort to our health, and, as their achievements emerge, so may vast new wealth.
CarePrecise provides data products to the healthcare IT market, and marketing tools to vendors of health IT, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, including numerous startups.