Health Innovation Has its Own Community: Rock Health

by francine Hardaway on January 23, 2012

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Rock HealthHealth Innovation Summit on

Rock Health 2011 Demo Day

Image by mariachily via Flickr

Jan.20th. It was the third day of a conference that highlighted development, design, and business issues around the potential for health care transformation through technology. The room was full, and the audience stayed until the end, even on a Friday afternoon.

Why? Because they knew something big was up. What’s up is the awareness of the Rock Health accelerator and the move to change a system only a young person from outside the industry could even hope to change. For three days, enthusiastic developers listened to cynics like me talk about business models, chasms, and challenges. I hope our doubts didn’t make a dent in their drive.

A year ago, there was no Rock Health, but more important, there was no community pulled together around the cause of health care innovation brought about by young people largely focused on digital and mobile technologies. A scant one year later, there is a vibrant health tech community in San Francisco, supported by large hospital systems, insurance providers, VCs, angels, entrepreneurs and mentors. The need is recognized, but until Rock Health, there hasn’t been a community. Health 2.0, another wonderful step in the direction of change, focused more on showcasing change than on financing or mentoring change.

The second class in the Rock Health program kicks off this week. Some of the grads from the first have already received additional funding or gotten to revenue.

They won’t all succeed. They have no concept of how complicated this industry is. But here’s the most important point: Rock Health has drawn together all the people inside and outside the system who want it to change, who are willing to take chances, and willing to support the effort to move the needle.

And thus I feel like 2011 was a tipping point for health care as an industry. After last year, for many reasons, it can’t remain the same. The larger providers and payers have already begun to circle the wagons around Obama’s health care reform law, because they are realists and know it’s not going to be repealed completely no matter who gets elected. So they’ve begun the journey toward bundled payments, Accountable Care Organizations, medical practice acquisitions, and better electronic health records. The battleships are slowly changing direction.

And the best part, Rock Health was founded and is run by women — the very people who make most of the health care decisions anyway.

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