Top 10 Takeaways from WTIA’s Healthcare-IT Event: Follow the Money, Startup Opps, & More

9/24/09Follow @gthuang

The role of information technology in healthcare reform is such a huge, sprawling topic that it’s hard to make any real progress in just an hour or two of discussions. Yet that’s just what transpired at a stellar event last night called “Healthcare-IT—Innovations That Will Transform Healthcare Now and in the Future.” It all took place at the Herban Feast in Sodo Park, South Seattle, and it was organized by the Washington Technology Industry Association.

Over some fancy appetizers, a distinguished panel of technologists, executives, and entrepreneurs debated everything from the technical and cultural issues of privacy and security in electronic medical records to who’s going to get a piece of the $19 billion in federal stimulus funding for digital healthcare; everything from whether consumers really want e-health enough to drive regulatory changes to—and this was particularly interesting to Xconomy—what the real opportunities are for startups in the space. The panel showcased some of the first-rate expertise we have here in the Seattle and Portland regions.

Moderator Joel French, the founder and managing director of Nephalios Group, a management consultancy, kicked things off by saying the whole healthcare debate boils down to four things: a cost problem, quality variability, access and coverage, and wellness. In each of these issues, IT plays an important role. “You can’t really share information if it’s not digital,” French said.

With that, it was open season on the panelists:

—Henry Albrecht, CEO of Bellevue, WA-based Limeade, an online health and productivity startup making software-as-a-service for employers (we reported Limeade raised money in July).

—Carla Corkern, CEO and chairman of Bellevue, WA-based Talyst, a company that makes software and systems to help pharmacies manage medications in hospitals and long-term care facilities (we reported on Talyst’s broader strategy and funding in June).

—Luis Machuca, CEO of Hillsboro, OR-based Kryptiq, a maker of collaborative software that lets healthcare providers share information with patients, labs, and physicians (we’ve reported on some of Kryptiq’s deals and customers, including NASA).

—Mohan Nair, executive vice president and chief marketing executive of Oregon-based Regence, the largest health insurer in the Northwest (he has a background in tech entrepreneurship).

—Michael Raymer, global market strategist and general manager for Microsoft’s Health Solutions Group (we’re reported on HealthVault, the company’s Web platform for medical records).

For the next hour, some tough questions flew out from the audience, and among the panelists. Here are my takeaways from the discussion:

1. “The magic pill is data liquidity.” That was from Luis Machuca, who argued that patients need to be able to own and access their own digital health information and use it to get better healthcare. “Universal health will fail, everything will fail, if we don’t have data liquidity and digitization,” Machuca said.

2. An open market, human behavior, and connectivity are important too. Nair argued that the present closed marketplace for healthcare services encourages entitlement instead of earned rewards. Albrecht noted that we should pay more attention to behavior, and less to technology. Raymer added, “Data liquidity needs to be coupled with tools to empower people to make changes, and connect people together.”

3. If you want better healthcare, go to jail. “We see the best compliance for … 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 or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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