Patients Take Charge of Health with Mobile Tech

Cloud services, mobile technologies leading consumerization of American healthcare system.

Recent government reforms intended to catalyze change in the American healthcare system have created a launching pad for what may prove to be a 21st century space race in healthcare. Startup companies hoping to seize the opportunity are sparking an explosion in technologies and services that promise to connect doctors and patients like never before and attracted more than $1 billion in venture funding in 2012 alone.

Halle Tecco Rock Health

"Mobile presents a tremendous opportunity for the healthcare market. Mobile is always on and always with you just like our health," said Halle Tecco, CEO Rock Health.

One company helping to fuel this explosion is Rock Health. The so-called “seed accelerator” invests in digital health startups and provides funding and other support to entrepreneurs and engineers. The non-profit recently announced it will increase the amount it invests in startups from $20,000 to $100,000 after high-profile funding was kicked in by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Mohr Davidow Ventures, Aberdare Ventures and the Mayo Clinic.

Halle Tecco, who co-founded the company in 2011 and is its CEO, is steering those funds toward companies — Rock Health has funded 35 startups to-date — that build new tools and services aimed at improving healthcare outcomes and tackling America’s estimated $2 trillion annual healthcare expenses. In a recent interview, she talked about why the healthcare and technology industries need to find middle ground where practical innovations can be brought to life quickly.

You’ve worked in Silicon Valley at both Apple and Intel. What led you from hi-tech to healthcare?

I was actually working at Apple and I was covering the healthcare and medical segment within the app store. I recognized that the apps that I was covering weren’t as creative and robust as some of the other segments. I thought, we have all this great talent in Silicon Valley. We can start channeling that toward something more meaningful in healthcare.

What technologies are having an impact in healthcare?

Mobile presents a tremendous opportunity for the healthcare market. Mobile is always on and always with you just like our health. Tying health to technologies, both the software and hardware, can help patients track and manage their health, and ultimately live a healthier life.

Mobile is just a first step in living a healthy, connected life. Next is using sensors to constantly tracking health data like your vitals so devices can help predict if something bad is about to happen. You can track what you eat, your movement and location. This first wave has brought sensors that are large and clunky, like a watch or a band. These will eventually get integrated into our clothing or other things we use in our everyday lives.

Healthcare has been behind other industries in adopting the cloud for hosting and retrieving data, for example. But we are seeing some really cool technologies aimed at producing this service. Like a fetal monitor for delivery rooms, which was built by a Sequoia-backed startup. If the doctor is away, the mother is able to access this data and be notified if there are any problems.

The cloud is a tremendous opportunity in healthcare, but the industry has been slow to adopt it. It’s partially because of regulation, but it is something that I think all doctors and hospital administrators are aware that it’s a great opportunity.

How does the need to secure personal health data affect product and service development?

There are tradeoffs between hampering innovation and keeping data safe. At Rock Health, we want to help build an ecosystem that enables innovators to create great technologies that protect the consumer but that aren’t so extraneous that we’re hampering innovation.

From technologies that are reducing costs and inefficiencies within the hospital system to enabling patients to monitor their own health. Diabetics can now monitor their health remotely and take their blood glucose levels from home. Then they can send that information directly to their mobile phone and have their doctors see that data.

Are startups driving change in the healthcare industry?

Healthcare is very bureaucratic. Anytime there’s any new drug, it goes through years of testing, trials and regulation before it gets to market. In technology, we have this culture of fail fast and iterate quickly. These two worlds have to find a middle ground where we’re still innovating quickly and not wasting resources on technologies that aren’t going to work. But we have to move forward, and do so in a way that’s cautious and safe for the patients.

I don’t know if we could have existed 10 years ago. There certainly were incubators 10 years ago and most of them aren’t around today. The general cost of bringing a new product to the healthcare market was dramatically more expensive 10 years ago than it is today, especially the software solutions that we are focusing on now. We wouldn’t have been able to build these products in a cost-efficient manner like we can today. Technology is redefining innovation by giving innovators new tools to be more creative.

SOURCE: Intel Free Press