Its byzan­tine reg­u­la­tions and painstaking approval processes make breaking into the health-​​care field incred­ibly dif­fi­cult for entre­pre­neurs. But for the few with the right mix of moti­va­tion, savvy and drive, it can be quite rewarding.

I talk to entre­pre­neurs in the life sci­ences and more than any­thing, they’re com­mitted,” said Richard Anders, the founder of Mass­a­chu­setts Med­ical Angels, a small firm that invests in health-​​care start-​​ups. “They say ‘My son has cystic fibrosis’ or ‘My friend has ALS.’ They have a per­sonal con­nec­tion and, some­times, they get amazing results.”

Pro­fessor Kristin Madison dis­cussed the impact of the Afford­able Care Act — and its pos­sible repeal by the Supreme Court — on the broader life sci­ences market. Photo by Erika Diaz.

Erika Diaz
Anders spoke on Thursday evening at a panel called “Entre­pre­neurial Evo­lu­tion of Health­care 2000–2020,” which was hosted by the Health Sci­ences Entre­pre­neurs, an alumni group ded­i­cated to fos­tering entre­pre­neur­ship in the rapidly evolving world of health care. Anders was joined on the panel by Joseph Kvedar, the founding director of the Part­ners HealthCare’s Center for Con­nected Health, and Kristin Madison, a North­eastern pro­fessor of law and health sci­ences.

Anders and Kvedar said the next wave of suc­cessful ven­tures in health sci­ences would be focused on improving patient care and quality of life while also cut­ting costs. According to Kvedar, the key to suc­cess lies in using tech­nology to mon­itor patients that would give doc­tors a chance to inter­vene before a major problem occurs.

He said another change would lie in using tech­nology to remove bar­riers between patients and their doc­tors, nurses or other caregivers.

You check your­self in at the air­port, you pump your own gas, you get your cash out of a machine. All of those used to be jobs done by a person, until tech­nology changed those indus­tries,” Kvedar said. “In health care, you see five dif­ferent people before you see your doctor. Sixty per­cent of this field’s costs are per­sonnel and that has got to change.”

Madison, an expert in health-​​care leg­is­la­tion, said the uncer­tain fate of Pres­i­dent Obama’s sig­na­ture health-​​care leg­is­la­tion — The Patient Pro­tec­tion and Afford­able Care Act — may pose chal­lenges for entre­pre­neurs. Many entre­pre­neurs are unsure how a repeal of either the entire bill or its indi­vidual man­date would affect the market.

The elim­i­na­tion of the indi­vidual man­date would likely cut demand for health care since fewer people would have access to insur­ance, Madison said, but some areas, such as the cre­ation and man­age­ment of dig­ital infor­ma­tion sys­tems, would nonethe­less con­tinue to thrive.

One thing to do as entre­pre­neurs is think about the demands on the health-​​care field and what kind of oppor­tu­ni­ties that might create,” Madison said.

Christo­pher Ford, BA’73, the chairman and co-​​founder of Amer­ican Renal Asso­ciates, Inc., and a member of the HSE steering com­mittee, co-​​moderated the event. He urged entre­pre­neurs to take advan­tage of the evolving health-​​care field to find busi­ness suc­cess that aids society at large.

Some people might call what we’re going through a rev­o­lu­tion, not an evo­lu­tion,” Ford said. “And those of us who have been around for a long time know that change of this mag­ni­tude pro­vides nothing but oppor­tu­nity for capable entrepreneurs.”