A Business Accelerator to Rethink 'How We Pay for Health Care'

Most business accelerator programs give entrepreneurs a bit of cash, connect them with mentors, and run boot camps to help turn their ideas into products. At the New York Digital Health Accelerator, tech startups get two other things to help them build software to improve health care: access to New York State’s many hospitals and their data.

Seven entrepreneurs in the year-old accelerator pitched their products to investors Wednesday at the program’s demo day to show off the software they’ve refined over the last nine months. They’re trying to solve some of the thorniest tech problems doctors and hospitals have: How do you keep patients who leave the hospital from returning? How do you keep track of treatments prescribed by different doctors and ensure they don’t conflict with each other? How do doctors securely communicate with each other and with patients once they leave the clinic?

The participating ventures are more mature than many startups that seek to join accelerators. Many already have outside investors and paying clients. (One of the startups, Remedy Systems, was already acquired.) In the last nine months, the startups have tested their products in 17 pilot programs with New York health-care providers.

The accelerator, backed by $4.2 million, is a project of the Partnership Fund for New York City and the New York City EHealth Collaborative, a state-backed nonprofit that has been trying to wire together New York’s health system so doctors can share information smoothly through a statewide network. The goal is for a doctor in a Brooklyn emergency room who is treating a patient from Albany to have access to that patient’s records, history, and lab tests to provide the best treatment.

That integration is a work-in-progress in New York. Ultimately, states and health-record software companies envision a network that will cross state borders.

Companies in the New York Digital Health Accelerator have access to the state health network’s application programming interface (API), so they don’t build their software in a vacuum. Beyond the startups in the accelerator, scores of companies have access to the API to build new apps or integrate existing software. Combining a wired health-care system with new tools from entrepreneurs to improve care will bring down costs and make people healthier, New York State Health Commissioner Nirav Shah said at the demo day: “Ultimately what this is going to allow us to do is to change the way we pay for health care.”

The accelerator is preparing to recruit its next class.