The booming business of health information technology is benefiting more than just vendor companies these days.
Ascension Ventures, the venture capital arm of Ascension, has found that the rush to implement and use electronic health records has created investment opportunities and given its health care operation access to valued technology.
Ascension, which has been running its own venture capital operation since 2001, recently has been finding more opportunities in health IT than it has in previous years, says Matt Hermann, senior managing director and longtime head of Ascension Ventures.
The medical device category historically has been the bigger area of investment for Ascension, over health IT and health care services. But health IT may end up with a slightly larger allocation in its current $225 million fund, Hermann says.
From an investment and operational perspective, Ascension is looking way beyond the field’s current goal of creating interoperable health records. “In some ways, I view the trajectory we’re on as the industrial revolution in health care,” Hermann says.
In the industrial revolution, it was a huge leap forward to invent machines that could automate tasks, he says. Similarly, the adoption of EHRs thus far has been mainly about the equipment, he contends. Next should come the application of that equipment by achieving interoperability, then tapping into the data and eventually leading to predictive analytics, he says. At that point, Ascension would like to use that information to anticipate illness or conditions before they occur.
A health IT company in which Ascension Ventures and its six health system partners recently invested is Ingenious Med, a cloud-based system that automates workflow for care coordination, charge capture and analytics.
Richard Gundling, vice president for health care financial practices with the Healthcare Financial Management Association, says Ascension is not alone in trying to harness its internal clinical and operational expertise into better investment and the adoption of useful health care products and services, and the number doing so is growing.
“These health systems may not be IT companies, but [they know] processes and care redesign, the kinds of things that go into health IT, and how to make it really beneficial,” Gundling says.