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

8/27/12Follow @gthuang

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could receive soothing text messages or invitations to play a relaxing game when you’re feeling stressed (or when you’re in locations correlated with stress). Neumitra, based in the Boston area, is trying to track the events that lead to feelings of stress and anxiety, using wearable sensors, and mitigate them with existing mobile apps. Think students, returning soldiers, expecting moms, golfers, even whole companies.

6. Can anyone diagnose Alzheimer’s before symptoms appear? A huge medical question, obviously. NeuroTrack is using an eye-tracking test developed and tested at Emory University that purports to predict the onset of Alzheimer’s within three years. If the early-diagnosis test is accurate, one of the immediate returns would be to help drug companies design better clinical trials for new drugs by recruiting the right patient populations.

7. Startups focused on a specific disease case are easy to grasp. Podimetrics has developed a home sensor that looks like a bathmat and detects diabetic foot ulcers, which often lead to amputations if undetected. (Diabetic patients often can’t feel the bottom of their feet.) How well the technology works and whether it addresses a big enough market is hard to determine in a short pitch—but at least you get what they’re trying to do. This is one example of what will probably be an explosion in home health-monitoring and sensing devices.

8. Investors are still moving relatively slowly in the sector. Just a feeling I get, but it seems like tech angels and VCs are still more apt to back more “proven” social-mobile or commerce plays than healthcare-focused startups. But as they get more familiar with health IT strategies, and a few winners break out, that will all change. Which leads me to…

9. Health IT is the new social media. Or Wild West, or whatever you want to call it. There’s a flood of opportunity here, and almost anything goes. It has taken a few years, but the opportunities are now becoming real. So when friends and entrepreneurs ask me what areas they should look to start a company in, health IT is probably at the top of my list. That’s partly because a lot of people don’t quite get it yet. But they will.

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 or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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