“The brain is an electrical organ,” says Dr. Daniel Chao, founder and CEO of Halo Neuroscience. “Why don’t we speak its language to treat disease?”
Chao was one of many entrepreneurs and investors in attendance at the afternoon roundtable called Global Health: Better, Faster, Stronger at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech, underway now in Aspen, Colo.
With investor cash pouring into the health care and life sciences fields, entrepreneurs are finding myriad ways to build innovative businesses in a sprawling industry known more for its regulations and resistance to change than Valley-style optimism.
Adrian Aoun, a former Googler who is now the CEO of Forward, a monthly membership service that connects subscribers with doctors who use technology to create individualized wellness plans, says that the romantic notion of the family doctor belies a business model that doesn’t work for either provider or patient. “In a labor based business, which is what medical services have always been, rates go up when people want to make more money,” said Aoun.
Forward plans to use better and emerging tech to replace many “labor-based” costs of health care. “If I go to my engineers and say ‘build me the website,’ I hand them a laptop,” he says. “Why would I go up to a doctor and say, ‘save my life,’ and hand them a stethoscope?”
Where Aoun has done an end-run around frustratingly slow insurance and reimbursement systems by simply charging the consumer directly, Lisa Maki, the founding CEO of PokitDok, wants to improve the health care system at its financial core.
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PokitDok is a cloud-based platform that lets computers in doctor’s offices, hospitals, and pharmacies share patient data for better management and claims processing. While acknowledging that the adoption of electronic medical records have brought about neither better health outcomes nor health care breakthroughs, Maki still thinks technology can solve the logjams. “EMR [companies] are for profit entities, and it’s not in their best interest to share data,” she said.
But a new, secure, blockchain product PokitDok offers with Intel (intc) is improving the health care experience, while inspiring other companies like Amazon (amzn) and Capital One (cof) to enter the health care field in some capacity, she says. Promising almost instantaneous claims processing, “Dokchain” ensures patient privacy and has broad implications for medical supplies management. “It’s a way to invite innovators into the industry,” says Maki.
But sometimes, tech is just about saving an actual life. In an earlier project, Chao had helped to create brain implants to treat epilepsy. “The vast majority of people improved dramatically,” he said. “Drugs don’t work on the brain but electricity does.”
Chou describes a new world of wearables that not only treat disease but can revive a flagging brain. “People actually get better,” he says. “It’s incredibly satisfying.”