The next big thing usually starts out very small, with a crazy idea and a couple of hard-working visionaries willing to risk it all on a chance to change how people think, live, and work. Mobile healthcare has experienced an explosion of such activity in recent years, revolutionizing the way patients interface with their physicians and with technology. With the help of some notable names like Kaiser Permanente, GE, and a former Apple executive, as well as a lot of quieter partners in the venture capital space, 2013 is on track to be a record year in mHealth investment, producing innovative solutions to problems that didn’t even exist a decade ago.
In 2012, Rock Health found that venture capital investors showered more than $1.4 billion on digital health companies, including giving $340 million to startups focused on developing EHR and consumer-oriented health solutions. The first quarter of 2013 is already $100 million ahead of this time last year, with big deals coming through at an astonishing pace. Remote patient monitoring devices like sleep trackers, independent living solutions for the elderly, foot ulcer sensors for diabetics, and a number of wearable health trackers have scored more than $40 million to develop their products. The mHealth industry is expected to be worth a whopping $26 billion by 2017, and it seems to be well on its way.
A great deal of that growth is due to the backing of established health IT companies and mentoring academies designed to discover and coach innovative entrepreneurs into bringing their products and services to market. DreamIT Ventures in Philadelphia recently announced its inaugural class of startup companies participating in a four-month mentorship program sponsored by Independence Blue Cross and Penn Medicine. Ten companies, focusing on mHealth apps to reduce hospital readmissions, provide mobile diagnostic tools linked to EHRs, control costs, and rapidly analyze data to provide quicker and more accurate patient care, will receive a stipend up to $50,000 to develop their visions.
GE healthymagination and StartUp Health, another academy-style program, also selected a small group of companies – thirteen out of more than 400 international applicants – to benefit from long-term collaboration with the technology giant to work on such projects as patient data analytics, healthcare coordination and remote monitoring for the elderly, a patient engagement platform designed to increase workplace wellness, and apps to connect patients with providers and with their personal health information through simple mobile and online tools.
The proliferation of ideas is ultimately good news for consumers, who are faced with navigating a healthcare system that is not always easy to understand. Entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and healthcare giants are all recognizing the opportunities to solve problems created by a dizzying array of health IT initiatives, and are working together to highlight creative answers that may ultimately streamline the healthcare system, reduce unnecessary costs, and provide quality products to make use of the growing interest in what mHealth technology can do to improve the lives of patients and providers alike.