Health IT gets a $100M boost from West Wireless founders

The billionaire couple that started the West Wireless Health Institute two years ago--to the tune of $90 million--has done it again.

This time they've launched the $100 million West Health Investment Fund to support cutting edge health technologies that can prove they will reduce healthcare costs.

Mobile technologies are clearly a top priority for the new fund: Two of the six initial companies supported through the fund are in-home monitoring firm Healthsense, and Sotera Wireless, creator of a vital-sign monitoring wristwatch.

"We see a void in investment funding focused specifically on lowering the cost of healthcare," Gary West said in a statement. "We are launching the West Health Investment Fund to help close that gap and to provide resources to companies who we believe are going to help drive down the cost of healthcare."

In an almost too-good-to-be-true scenario, the fund's creators say they will turn over all profits to the nonprofit West Wireless Health Institute, will charge no management fees, and will not carry over interest on participants. It also will pay its management team on salary, rather than a percentage of revenues or profits. The fund apparently is looking for very early stage technologies that haven't hit the commercial market, according to official statements.

Despite criticisms that more investment in technology will only exacerbate the problem, given the fragmentation in the U.S. healthcare system, Gary West tells the San Diego Union-Tribune that technology can be part of the solution. "At the end of the day, if we can come up with low-cost solutions that are equal or better outcomes for patients, then [insurance] payers will embrace that," he says.

Xconomy points out that the Wests are in part responding to growing concerns that health costs, which totaled 17.6 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product in 2009, are projected to rise to 25 percent by 2025.

To learn more:
- read the San Diego Union-Tribune story
- check out the West Health Investment Fund's press release
- get more detail from Xconomy