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Rock Health Makes Another Stab at Health Care Reform

Posted Jul 28 2011 12:00am

It gets better from there. Rock Health is a new nonprofit incubator in the touristy Chinatown part of San Francisco.  But take the elevator past the imported knickknacks and large animal sculptures in the doorway and you will find an open, industrial workspace dedicated to software development to change health care. These women have the dream of disrupting the worst-run consumer industry in America with new mobile technologies that put power back in the hands of patients and providers.

In case you are wondering where the power lies now, it’s in the hands of the payers.

In most industries, the growth of information technology has shifted power to the customer. Or at least put it in the hands of the vendor who can target based on known customer preferences.

But healthcare has very little , and no . These software driven terms translated to health care would mean that the provider had adequate information about you to offer you intelligent treatment choices, and that you as the patient had the power to choose who and what gets treated and what you will pay. In healthcare, the patient has almost no choice of either treatment or cost.

Rock Health has eleven resident grantees (who have received nominal sums of $20,000) in its the first program, and twenty “member companies” who have not received money but can come to workshops and receive advice. They are focused everywhere from preventing hospital readmissions, to drawing conclusions from large data sets, to helping people find doctors who will give discounts.

But Rock Health isn’t trying to boil the ocean of our broken health care system. Instead, it is trying to work around the intransigence of the existing old guard to empower patients. It doesn’t touch the areas of data integration or flirt with privacy laws no one understands. Realizing that mobile devices can be used for prevention, monitoring, and better communication, it is trying to encourage startups that can succeed in selling into this difficult market because they are not selling to hospitals, but rather selling WITH hospitals.

What I loved most about Rock Health, and why I plan to stay involved with it, is the energy of the founders, one of whom was recently diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and got a crash course in mismanagement herself while still in her mid-20s. She has blogged a bit about her colonoscopy prep here .

There’s nothing like being a patient in our health care system to fire you up for change.

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