CMS official sees potential for 'unicorns' in Medicaid IT innovation

Silicon Valley should be jumping at the chance to bring IT innovation to the Medicaid space, according to the Medicaid program's chief medical officer. Getty/zimmytws

The way Andrey Ostrovsky sees it, venture capitalists seeking the next big health IT investment opportunity should look in one place: Medicaid.

Ostrovsky, the chief medical officer of the Medicaid program, told CNBC that there are “unicorns” to be found in the healthcare system that serves low-income Americans, as its technology has hardly kept up with the times.

Already, the Affordable Care Act has helped states implement major technological upgrades to their Medicaid systems. For companies willing to continue that work, the reward could be quite lucrative, as the federal government has earmarked considerable funding to bring IT innovation to the Medicaid program.

However, many consumer-focused innovations in the health IT space, like wearable fitness trackers, aren’t of much help to low-income populations. Ostrovsky thinks many venture capitalists have been hesitant to offer innovations targeted at those served by Medicaid not only because this population is complex, but also because of a lack of empathy.

Thus, he has advocated on Twitter for investors to put themselves in the shoes of Americans who are struggling to get by:

Ostrovsky’s own experience growing up in a public housing project in Baltimore drives his desire to be an advocate for lower-income populations, the article adds.

At least one Silicon Valley startup has answered the call to invest in the Medicaid space. The company, called Nuna, secured a government contract to develop cloud-based software that will store data on 74 million Medicaid patients and provide aggregated information that can be used to identify trends among low-income individuals.