13 Reasons to Be Optimistic About Healthcare, Courtesy of Rock Health

6/14/12Follow @wroush

There are many reasons to fear that the healthcare crisis in this country is going to get worse—a lot worse—before it gets better. More than two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, with costly knock-on effects from heart disease to diabetes. The overall cost of care seems to be spiraling upward unstoppably. The FDA is so weighed down by bureaucratic caution that it’s slowing drug and medical-device innovation to a standstill. The Supreme Court might be on the verge of striking down the only real attempt to fix healthcare delivery in decades.

And yet—when you look around places like San Francisco and Silicon Valley, you see so many passionate young entrepreneurs with ideas for improving the system that you can’t help feeling a little better about the future. Last night I went to the 2012 demo day for Rock Health, the San Francisco- and Boston-based startup accelerator focused on the healthcare industry. In a two-hour session held at Practice Fusion’s new downtown headquarters, 13 companies (pictured above right) shared their ideas for helping consumers lead healthier lives and making care delivery easier for healthcare professionals. Maybe it’s just a case of infectious enthusiasm, but I came away feeling that if even half of these ideas take hold, the U.S. will be a healthier, happier place.

Here are 13 reasons to feel good about the future of healthcare—one for each company.

1. There are organizations and brands out there who want to reward you for making healthy choices in your life. AchieveMint is building a system that lets users of mobile apps earn points when they do health-promoting things like checking in at a gym, logging a run on their Fitbit device, or saving a healthy recipe on Epicurious. The points can be redeemed for gift cards, merchandise, or cash, with insurers and other companies footing the bill in return for branding opportunities. (It’s a little like Kiip for health.)

2. It’s getting easier for doctors to figure out the right diagnosis or the right treatment for every patient. Agile Diagnosis, which completed the Y Combinator incubator program before joining Rock Health and has already raised $2.5 million in funding, is building a browser- and tablet-based platform that walks doctors through diagnostic algorithms that can help them spot rare conditions and be sure they’re adhering to best-practices guidelines. Reducing misdiagnoses would save the medical system hundreds of billions of dollars per year in added costs, says Agile co-founder Borna Safabakhsh.

3. Getting a cancer diagnosis doesn’t have to be such a lonely experience. Avva is working on an online tool that helps cancer patients manage the social, emotional, and educational sides of their situations, as well as the treatment side. The company is starting out with a focus on helping breast cancer patients prepare for doctor visits by preparing customized, printable list of questions. It expects to make money by using the system to help pharmaceutical companies recruit patients for clinical trials.

4. Your smartphone is evolving into a powerful diagnostic tool. Virtually every sensor in a smartphone, beginning with the camera, can be used to monitor health data. That’s exactly what Cardiio is working on. Co-founder Ming-Zher Poh, a former MIT Media Lab researcher, has designed software that can determine a person’s heart rate just by scanning their face for a few seconds through the iPhone’s camera. (There will be a Cardiio app in the iTunes App Store soon.) The same technology could be used for telemedicine, neonatal monitoring, and exercise tracking, says Poh.

5. There are easy ways to cut the readmission rate for senior citizens discharged from the hospital. Right now, one in three of all Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries released from hospitals end up readmitted within 30 days. Care at Hand is working on tablet software that could help home health aids make sure doctors know when patients recovering at home are having a health flareup or have stopped taking their medications (a frequent cause of complications and readmission).

6. If you’re a woman, it’s about to get easier and more fun to find health information online. Sites like WebMD and Wikipedia often present data about gynecological issues and other women’s health matters in a sterile, confusing way. ChickRx is a new personalized health and welness platform built for women, by women. Women can browse existing content (“written in a humorous, we-get-it tone,” according to the founders) or submit public or anonymous questions for experts. If the solution involves a product, ChickRx will provide the opportunity to buy it, making the service into a shopping and e-commerce play.

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Wade Roush is Chief Correspondent and Editor At Large at Xconomy. You can subscribe to his Google Group or e-mail him at wroush@xconomy.com. Follow @wroush

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  • Civisisus

    Nice article Wade. Suggestions:
    #4 to #1#5 – easy? no#7 need considerably more science to say this#10 – 1/2 hour to discount solution? failentries that seem likely to make $? 0 – though as you point out, a few at least have a plausible path to revenue.nice efforts by the kids, but frankly youtube-duration attention spans aren’t really suited to solving genuine health challenges. My advice: stick to games