Columbia doctor mentors mobile medicine innovators

Friday, February 7, 2014 | 8:03 p.m. CST; updated 9:20 p.m. CST, Friday, February 7, 2014

COLUMBIA — Over the course of his career in medicine, Aaron Gray has seen ways that technology might improve the delivery of health care.

"Our nation spends too much money on health care, and many of our processes in medicine are inefficient," he said.

Gray, a family and sports physician at the Boone Hospital Center, is one of roughly 100 mentors taking part in the Sprint Accelerator in Kansas City, a project to help 10 teams develop mobile medicine products. Other mentors include representatives from Spotify, Facebook, HootSuite, Microsoft and various technology entrepreneurs.

"I'm from the generation that basically grew up with the Internet, so I often see solutions for problems in medicine from a technological perspective," Gray said.

Gray's role in the project began via Twitter when he happened to connect with Erik Wullschleger, who manages the accelerator and has years of experience in mobile technology. After Wullschleger interviewed Gray over the phone, Gray toured Sprint's Kansas City business park before agreeing to become a project mentor.

The accelerator — a joint effort of Sprint and Techstars, a company that specializes in business accelerator projects — will give 10 teams three months to develop their mobile medicine product before helping them seek investment funds.

The growing field of mobile medicine, which ranges from apps that assist in managing diabetes to programs that allow doctors to monitor their patients on their mobile devices, represents a shift in health care that Wullschleger said is well overdue.

"We're seeing a $3 trillion industry, about to be $4 trillion, still running on paper and clipboards," Wullschleger said. 

He wouldn't disclose exactly how many groups applied, saying only that it was "an overwhelming sum that took us longer than expected to review." All 10 teams that were accepted will receive $20,000 from Techstars and can also get $100,000 from Sprint as they continue developing their product.

The teams that were selected will be made public later this month, he said.

"The idea is to pour gasoline on a burning fire," Wullschleger said. "We see a lot of possibility in the groups we accepted."

The program will last three months, from March 11 to June 5, and will essentially be a "very programmed boot camp for entrepreneurs," Wullschleger said. During that time, the groups of between two and four people will have mentors who will help them improve their product and pitch their business plan to potential  investors. 

Gray and Wullschleger said they see the potential to change medicine through the accelerator. 

"(The teams) will come from all over the country, and maybe the world, to Kansas City and benefit from mentors in mobile technology, information technology and health care," Gray said. "I think that people are seeing that some simple solutions involving technology have a chance to go a long way."

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