While Politicians Fight, Entrepreneurs Focus on “Smart Health”


Xconomy San Francisco — 

A new decade of “smart health” arrived in 2011.

Granted, it wasn’t always easy to discern – what with the noisy background of healthcare legal challenges and political one-upmanship. Fortunately, even while various policies continue to be ironed out, a set of resilient entrepreneurs have been busy making sure we get smarter about our health.

The idea of interactive health – where consumers play an active role — seemed far off when I completed my PhD in molecular biology in 1994. In fact, the healthcare and medical communities have been among the laggards in transitioning to the digital age.

While traditional scientific entrepreneurs continue to make great strides in our understanding about disease diagnosis and treatment and genetics, a new breed of digitally-savvy, health-focused entrepreneurs have arrived on the scene. They are focused on dissecting and disseminating a vast and growing body of health knowledge and distilling it in ways that are meaningful to both clinicians and consumers alike.

Who are they? People like:

• Ron Gutman, an entrepreneur we seed funded last year after he explained his vision of “trustsourcing” versus crowdsourcing for relevant health information. His company, HealthTap, announced this week a new round of financing and is now connecting consumers with more than 6,000 leading U.S. physicians and 500 healthcare institutions from mobile devices or the Web with its new Q&A model.

• Aza Raskin, the former Creative Lead for Firefox and a founding member of Mozilla Labs, who this year turned his attention to bringing the kind of innovation we expect from the Internet world to health care. He is a co-founder of MassiveHealth, which recently launched “The Eatery,” an iPhone app that tracks and analyzes overall eating patterns to provide a big-picture breakdown of the best ways to improve your habits.

• Halle Tecco, one of the founders of Rock Health, a seed-accelerator we work with along with others in the venture community. Its mission: catalyze innovation in the interactive health space. Along with Rock Health, we believe mentorship and operational support – in addition to funding – is where entrepreneurs can benefit most.

At this week’s mHealth Summit in Washington DC, Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, described in her keynote a “remarkable future” where control over a patient’s own health was always within their control. This wouldn’t be possible without advances in web and mobile.

We anticipated that same future a few years ago, which is why we have been active investors in this area. My colleagues and I believe the next big healthcare breakthroughs will be a direct result of “smart health” – brought to us by the exponential growth in web and mobile technologies and the ingenuity of consumer-centric entrepreneurs. (No politicians required).

Rowan Chapman is a partner at the venture capital firm Mohr Davidow. The firm invests in web/mobile and infrastructure startups that improve business performance or provide a better consumer experience, as well as cleantech and data-driven healthcare companies. Follow @

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One response to “While Politicians Fight, Entrepreneurs Focus on “Smart Health””

  1. Gyan Patra says:

    Hi Rowan:

    Very nicely put. Giving the right set of tools to the consumer at the decision making point can improve efficiency while reducing cost. We, at RxNetwork, released a preview version of drug pricing solution. Upon fully developed, consumer will be able to manage the Rx Shopping as soon as she receives the eRx in her Virtual Medicine Cabinet. The solution will help the consumer to view the net cost of the drug along with available coupons, deals, discounts by taking into account the profile of the consumer.

    Gyan Patra
    Founder, CEO