This is a guest post by Jiff CEO Derek Newell

Digital health may be garnering all the glory for its promise to transform health care, but take a closer look and you’ll find a promising next wave of health care investments.

With a proliferation of mobile apps and data being generated at a dizzying pace, few investments have yet to fulfill their financial promise. The real money will be made when companies build services around these applications, make the data actionable, and connect all this inbound patient data to the physical health care system.

Expect companies that find new, creative ways of connecting data to patients, determine what to do with the data when it’s generated, and figure out ways to creatively (and profitably) engage the health care system, to attract the attention of VCs and entrepreneurs alike. Here are three areas worth watching.

Smart sensors

What if a device could predict whether you were going to catch a cold, succumb to diabetes or even your risk for getting cancer? Sounds a little far-fetched, but a new generation of sensors holds the promise to do just that.

Companies developing smart sensors that can be placed on the body or in the home that can accurately, non-invasively predict your chances of becoming ill stand to attract investors’ attention. Component and connection costs are dramatically dropping, while at the same time the value of connecting to the Internet has dramatically increased. Just think of Tesla’s ability to collect data from its cars. Look for value in companies that develop sensors that collect, connect and predict high-cost events that can be prevented by timely intervention.

Software systems for data analysis

Data generated from new smart sensors holds little value if it can’t be analyzed and acted upon. New investment opportunities in the companies that develop software systems to analyze data and determine what to do with it will ultimately be very profitable for some investors. Single-use systems, where a single sensor talks to a single server designed to analyze its data (which is the way most are architected today), will be much less valuable than servers that can import and analyze data from dozens, hundreds or even thousands of sensors.

Businesses across the spectrum are developing algorithms to analyze, for example, whether a person’s blood pressure and weight require a fitness program or whether other symptoms merit immediate provider attention. The smarter the software, the better. Just imagine patient alerts being delivered to warn of an increased risk of illness before the illness is even detectable through symptoms. Watch for large companies, such as IBM, to jump into the fray while new companies emerge to help connect all the dots. It’s also worth keeping a close eye on artificial intelligence companies.

New service models for patients

Smart sensors and smart software, however, will only go so far. At some point, we’ll need good old-fashioned people power. A new crop of services companies will arise to give virtual care a healthy dose of checks and balances. Take, for instance, the smart sensor that detects a racing heartbeat or chest pain.

Software algorithms will take in the information, analyze it and determine, for example, that a person needs immediate attention. But what if the racing heartbeat was just a false positive because the person had just climbed stairs? Activating an expensive health care system will be a waste of money, so services companies that provide the human intelligence to validate and verify the information will be required. A second type of services company will also emerge to manage the care.

Everything that can be done digitally and virtually will be done digitally and virtually. This will dramatically improve access to and efficiency of the traditional health care system. Call centers will be staffed not just by the traditional nurse, but also by physicians, pharmacists and other professionals who can provide a higher level of care.

DerekHeadshot2012Derek Newell brings more than 20 years of experience growing and leading innovative health care technology and services companies to his role as CEO of Jiff Inc. He is passionate about exploring the intersection of health care and emerging technologies, and believes that health outcomes and wellness improve when mobile and digital health technologies connect consumers with the traditional health ecosystems. 

Prior to joining Jiff, Newell was president and CEO of Robert Bosch Healthcare. While at Bosch, Newell worked to build Bosch into the world’s largest remote patient monitoring company. Previously, he was the CEO of Health Hero Networks, a US-based remote-patient monitoring company, and the chief marketing officer of a leading disease management company. 

Derek is a leading voice in the areas of health care technology and finance. He has co-developed and taught health care finance classes at the Haas School of Business from his alma mater at the University of California, Berkeley, where he holds graduate degrees in business and public health.

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