9 Takeaways from Rock Boston Demo Day: Health IT Firms Up

8/27/12Follow @gthuang

San Francisco-based accelerator Rock Health had its first Boston Demo Day here in Cambridge, MA, on Friday. I came away with some thoughts, which I will share here. As usual, I was looking more for emerging themes in the field, and not so much trying to figure out exactly what each company is doing, or which ones will succeed or fail.

The health IT sector has been feeling a bit turbulent to me lately—maybe it’s just healthcare in general—but opportunities now seem to be crystallizing along a few promising paths.

1. “The silos of data fell yesterday.” That was John Halamka, the Harvard Medical School prof and Beth Israel hospital exec who has championed various health IT causes, talking about last week’s release of “meaningful use stage two” requirements for electronic health records. The upshot: healthcare institutions must allow patient summary data to be shared (with consent) with external applications and systems by 2013. In other words, look for a lot more interoperability between different health record systems, vendors, and products. “This eliminates a lot of the threats your business models had,” Halamka said, speaking in particular to the Rock Health startups presenting. “It’s a wide open marketplace.”

2. The virtual doctor’s office visit is near. One of the startup presenters, NoviMedicine, sold me on this concept. The company is starting by helping dermatologists diagnose and treat acne online. For certain maladies, simple communication and high-res pictures (available via mobile phone) should suffice, and a Web platform that connects doctors with patients who can log in and pay to be treated makes a lot of sense. Too bad for Boston that NoviMedicine co-founders (and brothers) Josh and Seth Spanogle are moving out of town, probably to Southern California.

3. Physical therapy will increasingly be done at home. Home Team Therapy, another startup, is using online video and gaming sensors (Kinect) to help physical therapy patients do their rehab exercises more effectively at home. The software also includes the usual complement of goal-tracking measures, social comparisons, and feedback to the therapist. The Cambridge-based startup is currently running a pilot in New York City.

4. Everyone’s trying to crack “mobile for health”—and they’re almost there. Several Rock Health Boston startups, including RxApps, Neumitra, and Reify Health, are trying to use mobile phones to help patients adhere to treatment plans, track their health and stress levels, and help medical experts gather data for research and clinical trials. It’s just a matter of time before someone breaks out of this sector with a big moneymaker. (See also local companies such as FitnessKeeper and Ginger.io.)

5. Stress maps could be all the rage. Imagine a map of your hometown, or your daily travels, color-coded with physiological data about how you’re feeling when you’re in various places. Now imagine your mobile phone … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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