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Posts of Note: The 2013 Harvard Business School Cyberposium

This past weekend, I attended Cyberposium at Harvard Business School where I was invited to speak on the Healthcare Technology panel. Cyberposium is one of the largest MBA student-run tech conferences in the country and typically gets around 1,000 attendees — students, industry professionals, press, and VCs. This year was no different.

The atmosphere was buzzing. There’s always a certain energy at these events, and when you’re surrounded by individuals who are passionate about innovation and the curiosity and sense of possibility that come with it, it’s an exciting place to be.

The morning’s keynote featured Bill Clerico, CEO of WePay (a competitor to PayPal in the online payments space). Bill told us about his motivations for starting WePay, their journey to raise $20M, and how he and his team worked relentlessly to scale the organization.

His two big takeaways on what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, especially if you’re just starting out: 1) you have to be scrappy and 2) you have to have maniacal focus on the customer (both when you acquire and service them). I couldn’t agree more. Personally, it was a reminder that as we grow bigger at CareCloud, we can never lose sight of our entrepreneurial roots.

After the keynote, I headed off to the Healthcare Technology panel. On the panel, I was joined by HCIT folks from Activate Networks, athenahealth, HealthTap, and Operating Analytics. Our panel was moderated by Zen Chu, serial healthcare entrepreneur and founder of MIT’s H@cking Medicine program (who earlier in the day, told me about a startup he recently invested in called Figure1 — think of it as a Pinterest for doctors).

The 50-minute discussion focused on the future of healthcare, from the impact of reform to emerging business models and trends in HCIT investing. As I think back on the panel and dozens of conversations throughout the day, a few things stood out:

1) Big data’s a big deal: Our panel immediately jumped into big data, with one of the more interesting discussions around what’s needed to reach the promised land called population health. For me, it’s about starting with a platform that can easily house both patient and claims data. You can’t have one or the other, you need both – especially as providers take more financial risk for care delivery.

More critically, as you build analytics on top of that, the platform needs to be scalable, have enough horsepower to aggregate and analyze all the information, and is interoperable so you can bring in new data sets from different sources (think genomics or the quantified self). The combination of storing administrative, financial, and clinical data in a powerful, cloud-based system is what we have at CareCloud today and in my view, is a critical enabler for big data going forward.

2) Selling to doctors is hard: During the panel, an audience member (a new HCIT entrepreneur) asked what’s the best way to sell to doctors. As a marketer, we work to connect with practices every day – helping them navigate through the pain of declining reimbursements, while easing their struggle with poorly designed HCIT. In my view, it’s a twofold solution.

First, it’s having a simple, flexible business model like SaaS-based pricing that makes finances easier on practices. Secondly, it’s developing products with “design thinking” from the start. You can build all the Meaningful Use features into your EHR, but if you’re making the doctor’s life harder and she can’t go home to see her family, you’ve failed. Usability has always been an obsession with us at CareCloud, and that’s why I’m so encouraged by the great work of our product teams, led by Edwin Miller, to make the fastest, most user-friendly HCIT solutions out there.

3) Engaging patients is even harder: Throughout the day, there was a lot of buzz about wearable devices like FitBit, mobile health apps like Ginger.io, and physician networks like HealthTap. While the growth of these tools is exciting, it made me realize how siloed all data is and how hard it will be to get patients to take action (I, for one, don’t walk an extra mile when Jawbone Up tells me I’ve hit less than 10,000 steps on any day).

Perhaps it’s linking all this disparate data into a patient portal so it reaches doctors and EHRs, incentivizing doctors on care planning (not just care delivery), or simply having patients pay a greater share of their healthcare spend.  However, in my view, a combination of integration and incentives are required to reduce the physician/patient asymmetry.

4) … but it’s a great time to be in healthcare IT. Coming out of the panel and throughout the day, I never felt more excited to be in healthcare IT. The numbers certainly don’t lie. According to Rock Health’s latest funding report, VCs poured $849M into digital health in the first half of 2013 – a 25% increase in deal volume over 2012. Whether it’s HITECH Act, shift to ICD-10, influx of 30M uninsured, or growth in genomics and Google Glass, I believe these trends create an amazing short-term opportunity to solve disparate point problems for patients, providers, big pharma … you name it.

But I think the real long-term opportunity is finding a way to aggregate and analyze all this data – from all these sources – to ultimately hit the triple aim of lower costs, better patient experience, and improved population health. No doubt, this is the hardest problem we have in front of us, but it reminds me how exciting it is to be at CareCloud and in the early innings of a long game.

After the panel, we demoed our snazzy practice management, EHR, and iPad solutions (Central, Charts, Companion) alongside many other vendors. As the only HCIT company there, it was great to share our story, our growth, and our mission with students, doctors, and industry pros. Overall, it was a great day at Cyberposium. Energized by what I saw and fortunate to build new relationships, I look forward to heading back next year to see what’s in store.

Grant Ho ( @grantho) is head of product marketing at CareCloud, where his team leads the marketing strategy, integrated go-to-market execution, and messaging for the company’s portfolio of cloud-based HCIT solutions. Prior to CareCloud, Grant led marketing for GE Healthcare’s EHR and revenue cycle solutions into hospitals and health systems. Grant currently resides in Boston with his wife and two kids.

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