Healthcare IT startups, investors rub shoulders on 'fertile ground'
March 22, 2013By Zack Seward, @zackseward
Healthcare IT entrepreneurs and healthcare IT investors swapped stories at the University City Science Center Thursday.
Here's the takeaway: It's a good time to be a tech company trying to make the healthcare system more efficient.
"Now is a great time to be in healthcare," said Danish Munir, co-founder of tele-psychiatry startup 1DocWay. "With this recognition that healthcare needs to change — that healthcare is becoming too burdensome on the economy — there's so much room for innovation."
Munir says the Affordable Care Act has spurred interest and investment in internet-enabled healthcare technologies.
If the web can make other markets flexible and fluid, why not the healthcare sector? That's the dream at least.
"Being young and being an entrepreneur, it's a great time to be [in this space], because the ecosystem is really supportive right now," Munir said.
1DocWay provides a video platform for patients in rural areas to get psychiatric care from big city doctors. The 2-year-old firm is a graduate of tech accelerator DreamIt Ventures.
In a sign of the sector's growing buzz, DreamIt's Philadelphia branch is launching its first startup accelerator devoted exclusively to healthcare. It will announce its inaugural class in early April.
Follow the money
Andrew Khouri is an associate at Quaker Partners, a Philadelphia-based healthcare venture fund. He says the Affordable Care Act has brought major incentives for better systems.
"All of us are very aware, it's in the news constantly, as to how much our healthcare system costs the federal government, it costs us as taxpayers," Khouri said. "We need to do a better job of delivering that care more efficiently ... and healthcare IT is a crucial part in addressing that challenge."
Khouri says IT is "fertile ground" for entrepreneurs and investors alike.
By placing an emphasis on cost efficiency, healthcare reform is creating new opportunities, Khouri says. Providers and insurance companies are investing in technologies that may help them reach newly-prescribed goals.
"As technology has done in other industries and other sectors, in terms of increasing efficiency and driving down costs, so will it also function in healthcare," said Khouri.
The question becomes whether the Philadelphia region can capitalize.
With a healthy mix of academic institutions, major insurers and established life sciences companies, experts at Thursday's Science Center confab say the ingredients are there.