Wanted: ways to age better, and people interested in them

Some colleagues and I are collaborating to identify, trial and review ways that technology can help our parents, and our patients (and us) experience a more vital and exciting life as they age.
Learn more here.

We are seeking fellow travelers who would like to join us. If you are interested, I hope you will read about what we hope to accomplish and sign up to help realize our vision of tech-enhanced life. [Read more…]

What if tech really could take 20 years off your age?

Functional ability

Functional ability declines with age. Can technology slow down the decline?

My favorite question when I meet someone with an idea for a new venture is: “what problem are we trying to solve?

Recently, I have been meeting quite a few new ventures in the “aging” space, and when I ask this question, I get a broad range of answers, many of which don’t quite resonate with me.

I am convinced there are some very important “problems” that relate to the last decade or two of life, though. And some of them might well be solvable with judicious applications of technology.

For example, here is one problem statement which gets me excited. What if we can push out the time at which we start to experience functional decline, or slow it down? [Read more…]

Aging “gray tsunami”: challenge or opportunity?

Gray TsunamiI have been doing a lot of work over the last year or two on projects that relate to our growing elderly population, and the seductive idea that novel technology may somehow make the life of the aging population better, and perhaps the care of the elderly cheaper.

The demographics are typically framed as “a challenge”. I have decided it is more useful to frame the upcoming “gray tsunami” as an opportunity. [Read more…]

Crowdfunding done right: Scanadu’s tricorder

I’ve been excited about the potential of crowdfunding for quite a while (here and here). The campaign that launched this morning on Indiegogo by Scanadu (developing a Tricorder) is a good example of a campaign done right, and shows the potential of this approach.
Scanadu on IndieGoGo

  1. The campaign reached its goal of $100K in 2 hours.
  2. It’s up to $240K as I write this and day 1 is not ended.
  3. 1200+ people already pre-bought the product as a result of this campaign, thus doing a great job of validating that (some) people will buy it. Frankly, this is probably more important than the capital.

BUT, …. this is by no means a “typical” crowd funding result. What are the lessons? [Read more…]

Copying what works to reduce healthcare costs

If, as a country, we cared about improving the ratio of quality to costs in our healthcare system, why wouldn’t we:

  • Look for examples of things that already “work”, either in the USA or abroad; and
  • copy them?

In a post yesterday that got me thinking, John Goodman makes the point that:

  • there are real examples out there of individuals who have found ways to dramatically change the cost/quality ratio of healthcare (he gives interesting examples); but that
  • we are not doing a good job of systematically looking for such examples and then trying to replicate and scale them.

It is well worth reading the full article.

While depressing, it makes you realize there are probably some exciting opportunities out there that are not being exploited as yet.

Web-based healthtech startups have invention risk. Surprise!

As readers of this blog know, I am interested in the potential of novel social networking and other internet-age techniques to transform our creaky healthcare system. A particularly intriguing class of startups is using these social techniques to change the behavior of patients in ways that lead to better health. For example, helping people to eat less, or avoid pre-diabetes, or manage their medication better, or avoid hospital readmission by taking better care of their heart disease.

The exciting thing about these web-based startups is that they use Lean startup methodology, have low capital requirements, and are staffed with young, energetic, change-the-world types.

And, putting on my investor hat, they have market risk perhaps, but no invention risk, because all this internet stuff is engineering right?

So, I was quite surprised recently, when I had reason to think more carefully about this class of companies, to realize that I think they do indeed have a pretty substantial invention risk. And interestingly, most of the ones I have looked at don’t realize they have invention risk, and are not managing their businesses as if they have invention risk. That is a worry. [Read more…]

Invention risk makes lean science startups different

A hallmark of new ventures that are based on scientific advances in fields like medical devices, health tech, or cleantech is that they often have invention risk. Frequently they also have market risk.

InventionAnd while the standard venture capital reaction to startups with both market and invention risk is “come back when one of the risks has been eliminated”, I find them exciting, have been involved with quite a few of them over the years, and am always looking for ways to optimize the rate of risk reduction per dollar invested.

For the last 18 months I have been trying to apply / modify the principles of lean startup and customer development to a handful of companies I have been helping, each of which has a healthy amount of invention risk as well as a dollop of market risk. I have gained some insights that I have not seen discussed elsewhere, and thought I would share them.

And lest you think invention risk only applies to hardcore science projects, one of the most counter-intuitive things I have come to realize (here) is that many of the new, web-based healthtech startups that aim to change patient behavior, and thereby improve healthcare, have a very high degree of invention risk (as I define the term).  [Read more…]

Disease economics: COPD and Pneumonia

Following on from my last post on asthma, here are the economic details for the other two big respiratory disease expense categories: COPD and Pneumonia.

Copd_versus_healthy_lung

[Read more…]

Disease economics: Asthma

Asthma and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) show up as the the fifth most costly clinical category in US healthcare at $60+ Billion / yr. (see footnotes for source etc). As with prior posts in this series, I wanted to see if a deeper analysis of the economics suggested possible interesting business opportunities.

And I have recently seen several interesting healthtech startups attacking the asthma space and wanted to use these expense numbers to understand better the opportunity they are targeting.

Asthma

[Read more…]

Disease economics: Backpain

I was interested to see that Back problems are the ninth most costly clinical category in US healthcare at almost $40B / yr. I chose back pain as the second in my series on disease economics.

Back pain

Most ($31B) of the costs falling into the back problem category come from a single clinical condition code #205 (Spondylosis; intervertebral disc disorders; other back problems).

And most of these expenditures go toward hospital in-patient visits/procedures ($11B), and Clinician office visits ($13B).

For the details, read on.

[Read more…]

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