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This is a guest post by investor Boris Wertz
Over the past five years, we’ve seen professionals in numerous fields adopt innovative software products that help them work more effectively and efficiently. While healthcare has always been a conservative sector, it’s currently primed for some dramatic changes.
In my opinion, the biggest winners in this impending disruption will be the companies that can connect practitioners and patients, and improve collaboration protocols — all while navigating a heavily regulated market.
“Consumerization” is at the core of healthcare delivery
Smart fitness tracking devices like Fitbit and Pebble are examples of innovation that can help prevent health conditions, but soon we’ll see an increasing use of sensor and mobile technologies in our doctor’s treatment plans. For instance, AgaMatrix is a new app that tracks blood glucose levels for diabetic patients. Novartis’ “smart pill” system, where microchipped medication tablets track how accurately patients are keeping up with their medication instructions, is expected to sell in Europe in 2014.
While smart pills and swallowable diagnostic capsules are flashy examples, the most dramatic change in healthcare may take place behind the scenes, helping providers work smarter, faster, and more collaboratively.
Even in the face of today’s technology, there’s still an enormous gap in clinician-to-clinician communication; faxes are still the most common method of sharing information between offices. The traditional healthcare model involves a doctor working alone on a patients’ case, and perhaps collaborating with a handful of colleagues and specialists within the same practice, hospital, or network. In this environment, any data on symptoms, tests, and outcomes is siloed within an individual professional or provider.
The “consumerization of healthcare” as I often call it will help move data and conversations from the doctor’s office into the cloud, where they are now visible and useful to countless other healthcare professionals working on similar cases.
The right collaborative tools will bring together professionals, as well as patients, to generate faster and more effective diagnoses. Solutions will include platforms that enable the secure sharing of medical records, as well as large public knowledge-bases that can crowdsource symptom diagnosis and treatment.
Who’s going to win?
The companies that will win big in this space are those who can successfully connect people (doctor-doctor, patient-patient, doctor-patient) in a large, secure, and regulatory-compliant network. In addition to unlocking data, platforms will incorporate analytics and machine learning in the backend in order to add actionable insights and predictions to the data dump.
Early players today are already beginning to make the initial ripples in this new collaborative, cloud-based, consumerized landscape.
To offer a few examples, I recently invested in Figure 1 is a photo-sharing app where healthcare professionals can privately share photos of surgical procedures and rare medical conditions. The website Crowdmed uses the wisdom of crowds, along with its prediction market technology, to uncover diagnoses to medical cases that have stumped doctors for years. Doximity, a LinkedIn-like networking tool that lets verified physicians privately share patient data, now reaches approximately 30 percent of doctors in the U.S. There are also several EHR-centric companies that are not only improving the workflow within a practice, but also introducing some standardization of data for easier collaboration between doctors.
Solutions like these are democratizing medical knowledge, as well as enabling physicians to work together without traditional geographical barriers and information silos. In some cases, these tools have helped doctors find a specialist faster for their patient. In other cases, the crowd helped diagnose a rare disease that hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical tests had failed to find. These early results are just the tip of the iceberg.
The future of healthcare technology will be guided by the simple principles that collaboration leads to better treatment and patients should be capable of making an informed decision about their health, independent of their socio-economic status, geographic location, and health needs.
The result will be lower overall healthcare costs, personalized and effective diagnosis and treatment plans, and in some cases will make the difference between life and death. As the cloud helps transfer knowledge and transparency to the patient, we’re all in better position to take control of our health destinies.
Boris Wertz is the founder Version One Ventures, an early stage VC firm that has invested in more than 40 early-stage consumer Internet and enterprise companies, including Flurry, Indiegogo, Wattpad, and Edmodo.
Read more from Boris at on his blog or find him on Twitter @bwertz.