After wrapping up a second day of hearing so many ideas about start-ups in health care, Health 2.0 Spring Fling in Boston left me wanting to start my own company and join all the entrepreneurs that attended. As a small representative sample of the groups of entrepreneurs that form the Health 2.0 space, who better than the chairs of the Health 2.0 organization to interview?
Indu Subaiya, Co-Chairman and CEO of Health 2.0:
“Is responsible for Health 2.0’s strategic direction and incredible production values. She started her career in health technology assessment at Quorum Consulting and then served as VP of Healthcare at Gerson Lehrman Group, an investment research firm. Before co-founding Health 2.0 she was Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Physic Ventures, where she helped evaluate companies. When she is not running Health 2.0, she applies her producing and directing skills to making film.”
Not to mention that she is also an MD who decided to take the entrepreneur path. I bet many of us can relate.
Matthew Holt, Co-Chairman of Health 2.0:
“Spent the 1990s learning from the best to be a health care futurist at Institute for the Future, and a survey researcher at Harris Interactive. In the early 2000s he spent time at a PHR start-up, but since he’s been the Founder of (and now occasional author on) The Health Care Blog, and co-founder of the Health 2.0 Conference – roles for which he was mostly self-taught.”
MC: What was the path you followed to end up founding Health 2.0?
Matt: I was a health consultant for a long time and wrote the Health Care Blog… and about 2000-2005 I was starting to focus –on the Health Care Blog– looking at all the companies that focused on patient to patient online communication and doctor knowledge exchange; there was always this new wave of online services and tools that was starting to creep into health care, which was growing quickly and was already a big deal outside of health care. So we [Matt and Indu] met at a barcamp, –one of the first barcamps of health care– and we started talking and decided to put together a small meeting and we did it by the end of 2007, we had like a small room at an hotel in San Francisco, but so many people came that we had to get the next room and then the next room and then all of a sudden we were running a conference, so we were almost an accidental company.
Indu: Matthew is totally right about that story, but before all that happened I was trying to start a technology company in the space, I didn’t even know the term health 2.0, I thought that I was going to merge Web 2.0 with medical records, and I was thinking that I was actually going to work in an actual startup. I was also an Entrepreneur-in-Residence for the Venture Fund and looking at the consumer health space, I was looking at what was going to be changing for the consumers and so that led to this first event where I met Matt. I knew Matt for his blog but then we met at this event, and my interest was that I’d love to meet other people in the space because I’m interested in starting a technology company and he knew a lot about the space because he was a blogger and a writer and an analyst and said that we should do the event. However, I didn’t realized that my technology company would be an interesting idea but actually not something that become a business and this conference company will actually be my business.
Matt: So there is actually a company launching here during the conference that is almost identical to what Indu thought, it is called OnPulse and you should definitely check them out. Honestly, I think that the service that we do in bringing all these people together and making connections is the value that we create. I think this conference in Boston is the core of this service, because we’re putting together big companies and small companies around these MatchPoint meetings and showing how these partnerships work.
MC: Indu, as an MD who decided to take the path of entrepreneurship, what would you say is the main reason that gave you the courage to make the decision to leave clinical medicine?
Indu: We’re not the only ones saying this, but right now is probably the best time to be a health IT entrepreneur. There is more financing options, more ability to work with large health care companies and build applications. When we started with Health 2.0, then it was very much that if you build an interesting application and maybe you were lucky to catch the attention of a hospital or health plan, but now the large hospitals and health plans are looking for innovative companies much more aggressively. So I think for the physicians out there it is a great time whether you are looking to get involved with a start-up from a consulting standpoint or actually lead a start-up company full time.
Matt: Physicians can do both, physicians tend to have freedom, but you’ve got to, at some point, make a choice. You have three choices: 1) you’re going to start a practice and work there; 2) you can say “I’m going to build the thing that’s missing” and start or join a company and develop your product; or 3) there is a middle choice, which I think most physicians are thinking, is thinking “how can I take all these tools and these different types of services that are now becoming available and change the way that I practice?” or “how can I become a better doctor using EMRs or patient support tools and putting all this stuff together.” I believe it is a different mindset that physicians have nowadays in how to deliver better care. I think it shouldn’t just be about becoming an entrepreneur; you shouldn’t train to become a doctor for all these years, doing residency and fellowship and then say: “well I suddenly want to become a software designer.” I mean, it is fine to do that, but the point is can they use all these tools to have a better experience with themselves and better quality of care and experience for their patients, that I think, is what the promise of Health 2.0 is.
MC: Focusing on the Health 2.0 Conference, what would you say are the key aspects that attendants should really focus and take the most advantage of?
Matt: We have the Health 2.0 Code-a-thon to build ideas from scratch or Developers Challenge to help new products be developed by past or existing teams and companies, so how to get the early stages ready. The next thing is how do you help this entrepreneurs get over the ledge, and we have a panel of incubators and early stage analysts and investors that help with seed money, support, mentoring, etc. and the last stage is how to take this to larger scales and include costumers. And on the other side we also have this private but in-public meetings between the large companies and small companies to foster partnerships, we have about 60 small companies (selected among +200 that applied). So to summarize, it is about the life cycle of a start-up from the idea and incubators, through investors and to the customer and also the partnerships. Also, a can’t miss is the keynote of Jonathan Bush CEO of AthenaHealth, who is the perfect guy to have to explain the life cycle of a start-up because he is one of the few in Health 2.0 who has probably been through the whole life cycle. They built an entire cloud-based services companies for physician practices and the experiences he got on the way, such as doing a start-up, have it fail, doing a re-start, how do you build it, how do you get the money, how do you make partnerships, what do you do next, etc. happen to be perfect for explaining the life cycle.
MC: What lies in the horizon for the Health 2.0 Conference? What future goals have you set?
Matt: So this conference focuses more on partnerships but the large conference in the fall has to do with everything around Health 2.0. We continue to be a showcase for all new developments in this new technology space, and we believe that new technologies are going to be taking more and more parts of the health care system and we want to be the showcase for that. Secondly, we are continuing to help and assist with innovation and commercialization, so we have these Developer Challenges, these Code-a-thons; we’re also introducing a series of new commercialization services which are really helping, the MatchPoint here is one of them, but we’re helping the large companies figure out how to navigate through the world and work with innovative pilots. And the third thing we’re doing is providing market intelligence services, which are going to help organizations that are new to this space understand what’s going on.
Indu: We are going internationally too. There are now about 40 chapters around the world including countries from South America, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, India, and Europe.
After this delightful conversation with the founders and chairs of Health 2.0, it is clear that one of my goals for the next few months will be to get all my ideas rolling and engage on some of this new entrepreneurship spirit that I caught during the last two days. I think that the key phrase to summarize my experience at the Health 2.0 Spring Fling Conference would be:
“… right now is probably the best time to be a health IT entrepreneur.”