Disruption in the health care industry is not going to come from health care providers; it will come from small, scrappy startups. RockHealth Demo Day was a chance to see some world-changing ideas on display. Selected from a pool of 350 applicants, the first 13 companies of startup accelerator RockHealth combine social media savvy with pervasive technology, such as smartphones, to improve the health of millions of people through simple behavior modifications.
It’s likely that Crohnology co-founder and RockHealth participant Sean Ahrens said it best during his pitch: “Being an entrenched player in healthtech puts you at a disadvantage.” Crohnology is a patient-to-patient information sharing platform where people with crohn’s disease and colitis can connect with each other and share knowledge and experiences.
RockHealth Demo Day was the rare opportunity to be in the presence a batch of companies whose sole mission is to transform unhealthy habits through technology. It was a truly exhilarating experience, and here’s a look at a few of the standout companies.
BitGym is a deceptively simple concept, but the team may have found the holy grail. Combine the lean-back fun of Nintendo’s Super Mario Kart with the aerobic potential of an exercise bike. Put your iPhone or iPad on the magazine rack of an exercise bike, and BitGym app will capture the vibrations of your movements to speed up or slow down a car driving on a race track. The forward-facing camera tracks eye movements so that you can steer. All of a sudden a nation of couch potatoes can get fitness and video games in one.
CellScope is going to unlock the power of smartphone cameras for assisting in medical diagnosis. The idea of doing smartphone-based health diagnostics is not entirely new, but the practice has been confined largely to parts of the world where access to medical care is limited. Each year more than 30,000 million children are taken to the doctor for ear infections, but often a diagnosis could be rendered just by looking at a photo. With a special light attachment fastened to an iPhone or comparable mobile device, CellScope patients can relay information to their doctor or health professional without having to travel.
BrainBot is dedicated to helping people lead better, less stressful lives through meditation. The company has a smartphone app that is connected to a brainwave-sensing device worn on the skull that tracks brain activity and encourages focus. The voice of a meditation expert can remind the user to focus on her breathing when the sensor detects changes in brain activity that indicate distraction. These same brain wave monitors are plummeting in price, largely as a result of the their growing popularity in video gaming. As a revenue stream, neural researchers interested in accessing a large data pool on brain behavior might pay the BrainBot to use their data, or they may sell subscriptions to meditation guides from the world’s top meditation masters, or both.
HeartBeat bills itself as an enterprise solution for wellness practitioners. Citing the example of a yoga teacher who has a Twitter account, Facebook page, Yelp and an email list, as well as software for billing and booking appointments, the HeartBeat team says that too much time is spent on administrative tasks, and not enough on doing actual healing. HeartBeat combines these services into a unified set of tools that are familiar to social media users, making it easy to claw back time for what they’re passionate about.
Health in Reach
We have great choice when shopping for a flatscreen TV. Should we really have less information when choosing a surgeon? Health in Reach wants to inject cost transparency into the purchase of out-of-pocket health care, such as non-insured dental work and a host of others. Americans spend $100 billion each year on out-of-pocket medical treatment and Health in Reach wants to help save people money by adding a group-buying dyanic into this lucrative market.
In addition to the brilliant founders on display, RockHealth did a lot of things right during its demo day. RockHealth had a simple app that let attendees connect with presenters and ask questions, or visit their websites with the click of a button. Nothing too complicated, but it was effective.
There was a very refreshing vibe around the RockHealth Demo event. Very enthusiastic applause followed each presentation, and then again after the question and answer session. There was also lots of laughter throughout.
“I think when you bring the right minds together, what we’ve done is really break down the barriers between the medical community and the technology community, which have traditionally been very siloed,” RockHealth creative director Leslie Ziegler told VentureBeat. In the Silicon Valley tech world we spend a lot of time celebrating companies that thrive in the attention economy, where clicks, likes and user data matter more than impact. It’s a rarer to encounter startups focused on improving our lives physically.
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