Health IT is a booming sector, but physicians are already becoming inundated and overwhelmed by the influx of new tools.
And yet, in Silicon Valley, dozens of startups are building new technologies for doctors. The Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, presents a unique opportunity for health care entrepreneurs. It aims to change the payment structure for health care and is incentivizing doctors to keep people healthy — not just bill for expensive tests and procedures.
One of these young companies is Mountain View, Calif. based HealthLoop, which gained the first $10 million investment today from Canvas, a new health and IT-focused venture firm, and Subtraction Capital. HealthLoop is focused on one particular problem: helping doctors connect with patients between visits.
The company was founded by a practicing physician, Dr. Jordan Shlain, who was looking to solve a personal problem. He calls it “innovation by irritation,” as Dr. Shlain wasn’t looking to start a new venture. He realized that most physicians could benefit from more efficient tools to track patients between visits than an Excel spreadsheet.
Rebecca Lynn, a digital health-focused investor at Canvas, is confident that HealthLoop will rise above the rest, as it is designed by a physician to make life easier for other practitioners. Much of the new health IT is developed by entrepreneurs with scant understanding of doctors’ needs.
HealthLoop helps physicians keep track of their patients with an analytics toolset that pinpoints the people most at risk in any practice. In addition, the company offers peer-reviewed follow-up plans, which automate some of the most routine aspects of care. These plans are a simple but ingenious idea, as they free up time for doctors to focus on the most complex cases.
“Doctors are dealing with a lot right now, and little of it has to do with their core business, which is helping patients,” said Lynn. Most doctors adopted electronic health records in the wake of the HITECH Act of 2009, which incentivizes care providers to shift away from paper-based records. But this transition is an ongoing process, and doctors are having a hard time determining what’s next.
“Doctors are struggling to figure out what this all means to their future and what is going to happen to them in the next five to 10 years,” she added.
Another unique aspect to HealthLoop is that the technology can be used by large physician practices, hospitals, and employers. According to Lynn, a distinction from earlier versions of this technology is that patients aren’t treated autonomously or on a case-by-case basis. Instead, she says HealthLoop promotes “connectivity and continuity” between all parties in the health care system.
HealthLoop founder Dr. Shlain also serves as the commissioner of San Francisco’s human health services board and on the board of the Hope Street Group, a bipartisan policy think tank.