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December 07, 2017
Startups give the healthcare industry a glimpse of the future
By: Jill Dailey

My personal take on the second HealthTech Innovation Challenge

More than amazing ideas are on display at Accenture’s second annual HealthTech Innovation Challenge. There is also passion and commitment, both by participants and those who judge them.

Almost 700 entries came in; just over 30 were selected to go head-to-head in three regional competitions, held during October and November in London, Singapore and Boston. From this group, 10 will meet for the final round on January 8 in San Francisco at the Startup Health Festival.

I attended the event in Boston where I was coach for the second year. Seeing innovators come together at Accenture’s new offices overlooking the Charles River to pitch ideas and get valuable feedback from life sciences and healthcare executives proved even more inspiring than last year.

Each startup has its own station. Judges rotate from one to the next. Interactions are conversational, yet very fast-paced. In just 18 minutes, a startup presenter pitches a team of judges, explaining the problem being solved and the differentiated value of their solution while fielding questions.

Other sidebar moments were also memorable: A startup team talking excitedly between pitches about what worked and what didn’t; a lone presenter staring out at the river through a picture window gathering thoughts for the next pitch; judges in a backroom comparing notes on what they liked best.

The ideas themselves are awesome. Nanowear, for example, came in with a device that fits the human torso like a crossing-guard belt, monitoring such life signs as heartbeat and respiratory rate for cloud-based analysis. It’s a biometric tool that uses cloth-based nanosensors and will cost a fraction of what exists now in the market.

Wellth uses behavioral economics to ensure patients take proper dosages of their prescribed medications. Participants get $150 for 90 days of program adherence, but must show they are following the program by simply taking a picture of their meds at the right time, otherwise the $150 keeps going down. This not only validates that participants take the right medication, but incentivizes them to keep to their plans. 

Nanowear and Wellth are both moving on to San Francisco from the Boston regional, along with Babyscripts and Jvion Health.

Another idea that I found impressive was from Parasail. It addresses the increasingly critical challenge of affording medical payments, what one judge described as “solving a huge, unmet need.” Parasail works with providers to integrate a long-term payment solution for consumers into the way patient billing is presented. If you believe people want to pay their medical debts, but not everyone can all at once, Parasail could put them on a path of being able to do so without destroying the rest of their lives.

The way I see it, energy levels are high and optimism abounds at the HealthTech Innovation Challenge. Even ideas that don’t advance have the chance to showcase themselves to healthcare leaders, get constructive feedback and make connections. For those of us judging or coaching, there is the excitement of beholding tech-infused industry-altering ideas, and knowing what we see today could improve or even lengthen lives tomorrow.

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