Advice to mHealth entrepreneurs? Change behaviors

From the mHealthNews archive
By Eric Wicklund

Got a sure-fire mHealth idea that will help save healthcare? Amita Shukla, who spent eight years in the VC business before launching her own mHealth company, has three tips.

First of all, she said, ask simple questions. Second, value failure more – don't be afraid to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them. And third, always remember that the mission is health.

Speaking before a packed room at the Venture+ Forum on Sunday at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center outside Washington D.C., Shukla helped kick off the 2013 mHealth Summit with an honest appraisal of the market. Her advice? Focus on convincing the consumer that good healthcare begins with good health.

Which isn't an easy proposition.

"All of this is meaningless unless we can impact human behavior," said Shukla, founder and CEO of Vitamita. "Why, despite knowing what's good for us, do we often not do it?"

That same message was delivered by Jack Young, director of Qualcomm Venture's Qualcomm Life Fund, who helped kick off the day-long program. While pointing out that about $4 billion has been invested in the mHealth space over the past few years, and noting that mHealth investment is still trending upward, he challenged the room of investors, clinicians and venture capitalists to move beyond solutions that mobilize data and focus instead on organizing that data into insights.

Like Shukla after him, Young pointed out that mHealth won't succeed unless it drives behavior change that affects meaningful outcomes.

That's what many, if not all, of the 10 companies chosen to present at the Venture+ Forum are targeting. The MediSafe Project, for example, creates an online portal that allows pharmaceutical companies and providers to "engage, analyze and act" on patient medication compliance.

"I think that physicians are looking for solutions," said company co-founder Omri "Bob" Shor, who's piloted the solution in his native Israel and Europe and is now looking for pilot sites in the United States. "They're trying to solve the non-adherence problem."

'The issue is a lack of communication," Shor added. "People do not manage their medications. They need help."

In conversations around the room during Sunday's forum, those seeking funding and those looking to provide it offered the same take on the industry. The greatest mHealth invention in the world won't succeed unless it's accepted by clinicians and consumers. To both groups, it has to be unobtrusive – fitting into workflows and daily lifestyles – and it has to deliver value.

"Know your audience," one investor said to an aspiring entrepreneur who was working the room before the forum began. Forget about who's going to pay for it, he said. Find who's going to use it, determine why they should be using it, and then convince them to use it.