Tech Gets Healthy

In the last two decades, I’ve been an emergency physician, an academic, an inventor and a CEO. I’ve spent most of those years around Boston, but I probably should have moved to San Francisco in 2011. My medical practice requires the integration of smartphone technology with everyday clinical care, and that was the year the Bay Area captured the lion’s share—45 percent—of all money invested in early-stage healthcare companies.

Healthcare is the latest industry to be transformed by universal connectivity and computing power. The change includes things like personal health monitors that send data via a smartphone app-data link. For conditions like major hypertension, congestive heart failure and heart arrhythmias, these daily data points enable my team to manage the problem much more efficiently than in the past. Not surprisingly, we spend a lot of time looking at emerging technologies and whether they make sense for real-world medical practice.

Golden Gate locals aren’t afraid to fail. In Boston, failure is socially unacceptable; in the Bay Area, it’s a merit badge. Those failures signify a willingness to experiment, which leads to innovative solutions to health concerns.

With so much new technology being created, the healthcare industry is now at an inflection point. But healthcare professionals and consumers need to beware: There is a lot of overstatement, under-delivery and even outright hucksterism going on. This dynamic is sometimes tolerable in other industries, but in healthcare, the stakes are too high. So with that caveat in mind, here are a few Bay Area companies, and the medical technologies they have developed, that I believe will be significant players in the future.

01. AkibaH

Made by a startup of the same name, this smartphone case is actually a glucometer. It automatically sends to doctors like me the blood sugar readings we need to manage your diabetes.

Contact: Fathi Abdelsalam,,

02. Halo Neuroscience

This company has correctly concluded that your brain has not just an output (your health and behavior) but also an input (electromagnetic and light energies). Adjust the latter and you can modify the former. This is a powerful new insight, and Halo is working on a wearable device that will boost brain function.


03. Lift Labs

A group of scientists and engineers has created Liftware, an ingenious eating utensil that cancels out the disabling tremor of Parkinsonism so sufferers of that disease can feed themselves.


04. Ekso Bionics

Their “wearable bionic suit” is a powered exoskeleton that allows the paralyzed to walk upright without human assistance. It’s a huge win for physical independence.

Contact: Lauren Glaser, 646.378.2972,,

05. Unyq

This small San Francisco firm uses 3D printing to create striking, colorful covers for prosthetic legs—you can even have them customized. Who would have thought a prosthetic could be so beautiful? This is a major social win for everyone, including war veterans.

Contact: 866.286.9773,

06. Rock Health & AngelMD

I also must tip my hat to Rock Health, a stabilizing presence in the Bay Area healthcare scene providing startups with funding and support. A nod, too, to AngelMD, a platform that connects investors with entrepreneurs.

Contact: Rock Health,,; AngelMD,, 650.389.9595,

Note: Dan Carlin has no affiliation with any of the companies mentioned here.

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