Monday, January 14, 2013

Chicago Health 2.0’s Hacking Healthcare Event

I often find that some of the best ways to discover new ideas for startups is through attending local meetup events around the specific industry that you're interested in learning more about.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend Chicago Health 2.0's Hacking Healthcare Series, which was centered around the topic of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and the new opportunities it would open up for healthcare startups.

It was interesting to hear that over 10% of the population is already covered by ACOs and there are ~350 ACOs in the U.S. today with the largest one located in Chicago. The basic idea of the ACO model is that there will now be quality metrics that will drive how physicians and providers get paid (instead of being paid by patient volumes) and we will now have healthcare managers that work with you and your physician to not only improve your care, but also reduce unnecessary spending and over-treating of patients with repeat procedures, scans and unnecessary tests. The savings generated through this new model will then be divided between the payer and the provider, so initially it seems that the patient and employer does not save much money on the reduced healthcare costs, but they will hopefully benefit through better quality of care.

The most interesting part of the conversation was when the discussion turned to advice for startups. The two tips for healthcare startups were summarized as: 1) Follow the Money and 2) Don't screw with the money. 

The idea of "Follow the Money" is to make sure that as a startup working with healthcare companies, you need to make sure to understand that these companies are not only working for improved patient care, but they are also following the monetary incentives that the government is creating to help reduce costs and improve healthcare quality (i.e. government incentives to implement electronic health records).

The second tip, "Don't Screw with the Money," basically means that as a healthcare startup you need to make sure that your business model does not hinder the transition from Fee-for-Service to the ACO model of paying for quality, since this is most likely the future direction that the healthcare industry is moving towards.

Specific ideas for healthcare startups that follow these two pieces of advice include discovering a new method using the combination of programming and statistics to help insurers determine which patients can become high risk under this ACO model to help diagnose them early on before implementing a treatment plan. This could theoretically be done by looking through 2-3 years of historical claims data on patients to identify those with high healthcare costs.

Another idea for healthcare startups is to figure out a way for EMRs (electronic medical records) within a system and outside of a system to be able to communicate with each other. We will need to discover a way to add a layer over traditional EMRs to help implement a way for various healthcare systems to transfer information to each other electronically. 

Overall, we will see healthcare moving towards personalized medicine at a faster rate with improved treatment plans that are tailored for specific individuals. Also, it's clear that our healthcare system is at least 10 years behind the banking system because we need a similar platform or model as online banking, but for our healthcare industry. I think within the next 5 years, we will have a for healthcare which includes charts and graphs to help us track and analyze our health and share this information with our doctors. I personally cannot wait until this is developed because I believe it will help give consumers more transparency into their personalized healthcare and also motivate them to take better care of themselves by exercising more and eating better as they are able to see the benefits of small changes in their behavior showing up in the trends they are tracking online. 

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