ORLANDO — Troves of investors are ready and waiting to invest billions in the health care sector. We just have to get our acts together, first, to pave the way for those dollars.
That was one of the messages Thursday afternoon delivered by two influential business men from ABC’s Shark Tank during the closing keynote at HIMSS17. If you’re unfamiliar with show, the concept is that entrepreneurs are invited to pitch their big-money ideas to investors in the hopes that they will get funded.
One of those investors, Canadian Kevin O’Leary, told HIMSS attendees that he believes the amount of financial interest in the health care space is unprecedented. Health care has been one of the slowest fields to adopt technology for various reasons, some of them valid, but the potential is limitless if we can do so properly, O'Leary said.
In the faster-moving financial sector, O’Leary says he can transfer capital across the globe in just seconds, and yet, in health care, he recently was unable to send MRI images from Los Angeles to his physician in Boston.
“That’s the downside. Can you imagine the potential that will be unleashed in this sector if we could get our act together and turn this thing into a digital freeform of information?" O'Leary said. "Yes, securely. The productivity potential is huge. It’s unbelievable, the amount of money that wants to come into this sector is unprecedented.”
O’Leary pointed to three particular priorities in which venture capitalists might want to put dollars — (1) the digitization of personal health records; (2) the gathering of real-time health care data from the human body; and (3) testing (just because startup Theranos is falling apart doesn’t mean the idea behind it wasn’t sound, he believes).
“If we truly digitize the medical records in this country, the productivity enhancements would be double digits annually for the majority of companies that participate. That makes investors drool because there is no other sector that can provide that. Given the demographics of our society, it’s the number one destination [for capital]. I can’t say how excited investors are about this.”
Of course, there is also dark side of all of this as pointed out on stage by fellow shark and investor Robert Herjavec, who is founder and CEO of global cybersecurity firm Herjavec Group. All this potential also makes health care the biggest target for nefarious hackers who want to get their hands on people’s personal health records. We’ve all heard that oft-quoted number — your medical information is 10 times more valuable than your credit card on the black market.
Herjavec predicts that these attacks will increasingly become about much more than money. Often, hackers are seeking that information for political gain or to build their influence. These aren’t common cyber crooks, but foreign governments or terrorists. “The fundamental difference in health care is that it’s not just about money, it’s about lives,” he said. “When you’re doing an operation, you can’t just say, ‘hang on a minute, I’m going to reboot my systems.’”
Health care is a prime target, too, according to Herjavec, for two big reasons — hospitals and other providers often deploy old, antiquated systems that are easy to infiltrate. Plus, the burgeoning “internet of things” means that every little gadget is connected, and if you find your way into one data point, you’ve got everything, he said. Former hacker Kevin Mitnick demonstrated the dangers on-stage earlier in the conference.
“If you’re a criminal or a bad guy online, this is the perfect business for you. It is one of the few things that I can effect change, steal your money, shut down critical systems and I don’t physically have to be there, and my odds of being prosecuted are basically zero. The government is not going to go to Russia or China and prosecute somebody for taking your health records. They’re just not going to do that.”