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BRINGING INNOVATION TO MARKET
17 Game-Changing Health Start-ups
Healthcare in the U.S. is largely a mess thanks to unfit citizens, underinformed doctors, and confounding and inefficient processes. Here's a slew of innovative companies working to change all that.
By Christina Desmarais
Christina DesMarais is an Inc.com contributor who writes about the tech startup community, covering innovative ideas, news, and trends. On Google+, add her to one of your circles. Have a tip? Email her at christinadesmarais (at) live (dot) com.
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17 Game-Changing Health Start-ups
Health tech is blazing hot right now and there’s no shortage of companies working on innovative products designed to change the face of healthcare as we know it. That’s a good thing, considering Americans are as unfit as ever and bureaucracy continues to muck things up for physicians and patients alike. As technology evolves, it could upend some of these problems. One thing that's certain: Consumer-driven healthcare is coming. And these companies are helping make it happen.
Healthcare is the largest industry in the U.S. but its complexity often intimidates smart entrepreneurs.
, a TechStars Network accelerator based in New York City, is looking to help talented entrepreneurs create successful companies that improve the healthcare industry. Two times a year, the program invites 20 to 30 entrepreneurs to their 12,000 square foot Soho loft for three months to be mentored by some of the most experienced healthcare entrepreneurs in the U.S. Each company also receives $20,000 in capital. Want to see your healthcare start-up accepted into a Blueprint Health program?
Applications for the Summer 2012 program
must be received by June 8.
If you’ve ever thought you could benefit from talking with a licensed mental health professional but didn’t want to bother with setting up an appointment, driving there and getting sucked into a commitment, iCouch is for you. It’s a Web app that pairs users with therapists who typically charge between $65 and $90 for 50 minutes of video chat time. The app, at
, can be used via the Web on your webcam-enabled desktop or laptop. iCouch is in the process of creating partnerships with companies, hospitals, and insurance companies to provide mental health services for their employees, patients, and customers. It has more than 5,000 paid users, is adding about 15 therapists per week to its database of several hundred of them from all over the world.
Imagine you’re on vacation and your child gets sick or hurt and you need to take him to a doctor who doesn’t immediately have access to his medical records. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to pull up your child’s medical history right from any Web browser or on your iPhone whenever you need it? Or how about sharing your child’s immunization records with her school nurse without having to get a form completed from your doctor?
lets you do these things and works by collecting your children’s medical records from any medical provider and converting the data into a slick mobile health record. All parents have to do is sign an electronic release. MotherKnows is $9.95 a month or $98 a year for one child with discounts for additional children. The company says the number of people using the site is doubling every six weeks.
Paper medical records are quickly becoming relics of the past and while some healthcare organizations are employing costly enterprise systems to get with the times and use Electronic Medical Records (EMR),
is a different kind of solution because it’s cloud based and can be set up in minutes. It's also ad-supported, which allows for the system to be completely free so even the smallest medical practices can use the technology. As a result, Practice Fusion is the fastest growing EMR community in the U.S. with over 150,000 medical users who have access to the health records of 33 million patients.
IMAGE: Photo: VP of Engineering Matthew Douglass (left) and CEO and co-founder Ryan Howard (right).
drchrono iPad Patient Care Platform
If some people could use their mobile devices to do all their work, they would and physicians are no exception. The
drchrono iPad Patient Care Platform
lets doctors manage their practices with an iPad, iPhone, Android device, or laptop and do things such as maintain electronic medical records using speech-to-text and attach photos and videos to them, perform electronic prescribing, paperlessly bill any U.S. insurance company, and allow patients to check in using a tablet computer. Over the last year the company has seen exponential growth, going from a small user base of hundreds to more than 15,000 registered healthcare providers and more than 400,000 patients.
IMAGE: Michael Nusimow, co-founder (left), Aneesh Chopra, CTO of the United States (center) and co-founder Daniel Kivatinos (right).
Hate automated calls?
does them differently; its technology uses speech recognition and data analytics to make reaching out to consumers about their healthcare decisions personal and interactive. For example, on behalf of a health insurer Eliza may place a phone call to a member who is overdue for a mammogram. Based on a person’s spoken responses, Eliza probes her about any motivations or barriers she may have to getting the test and perhaps even transfers her to an appointment line. Eliza Corporation was angel funded and profitable as a start-up before taking on a significant growth investment last year from Parthenon Capital Partners.
IMAGE: Eliza Corporation co-founder Alexandra Drane gives a TEDMed talk in 2010.
SwiftPayMD, Iconic Data's new iPhone and iPad app, lets doctors use voice recording to dictate diagnoses and billing codes immediately after examining a patient. Rather than waiting to hand over to a billing department a stack of paper billing cards for processing, physicians can now submit a patient's billing information immediately. Dictating at the point of care prevents delays, locks in charges, and eliminates lost, damaged and incorrect billing cards. It also speeds up the process—doctors get paid as much as 14 days sooner than when using a paper process.
is $99 per month. Founded in 2010, Iconic Data recently came out of Healthbox, a business accelerator for healthcare startups launched by Chicago-based VC firm Sandbox Industries.
IMAGE: David LaBorde, CEO and co-founder of Iconic Data using SwiftPayMD.
Self-described as the Mint.com of healthcare,
helps people manage their out-of-pocket healthcare costs which, on average, run about $3,600 a year for a family of four. The platform shows you how much money you’ve spent on healthcare, the status of your insurance deductible, your health savings account balance and transactions, and where there may be errors in your bill—an important feature considering some sources say about
80% of bills contain them
. The company is also building an insurance plan recommendation engine and a medical cost comparison tool customized to each consumer. Since launching in 2011 Simplee has tracked hundreds of thousands of doctors visits worth $200 million in claims.
IMAGE: Some members of the Simplee team.
Like LinkedIn, but only for doctors,
lets physicians consult and collaborate with peers who may have expertise they need to treat difficult cases. On their profiles physicians include their training, insurance they accept, languages they speak, papers they’ve written, clinical trials they’ve conducted and more—all of which is searchable. And it’s no wonder about 1,000 doctors a week are joining the network—they can get paid for being there. That’s because Doximity also connects its users with market research firms that need expert input on questions about things like new medical devices that are in development. Doximity members can get paid $250-$500 an hour to hand over their opinions on such matters.
Pharmaceutical companies use a myriad of IT systems to manage their clinical data, but that data is often locked in silos.
is an analytical tool that connects all those systems so researchers can analyze data across the enterprise in seemingly endless ways. For instance, a clinical operations director can use Comprehend to look across all his or her trials, splicing and dicing it by trial phase, therapeutic category, or other operational metric to see how trials are moving along and where bottlenecks may exist. Comprehend sells its platform to pharmaceutical companies, contract research organizations (CROs), and electronic data capture (EDC) companies.
IMAGE: CEO Rick Morrison (seated) with software engineers Matthew Saffer (background) and Hari Seshadri.
Patients Know Best
Ever had the feeling you know more about your health history than your doctor?
Patients Know Best
gets at this problem by letting physicians easily access medical records that would typically be trapped in other hospital or clinic IT systems. It also gives patients anytime access to all their medical records and lets them get care from doctors who may be located across the world but can read things like blood test results remotely. So far PKB has been doing well in the U.K. where several top hospitals have been promoting it with patients. The start-up has landed one large U.S. hospital as a customer and claims that more deals like it are in the works. It also has launched a smartphone API that allows developers to create new HIPAA and DPA-compliant apps.
IMAGE: Dr. Mohammad Al-Ubaydli, CEO of Patients Know Best, giving a Do Lecture last year in Wales, U.K.
Eighty percent of Americans suffer from back pain at some point during their lives, a problem that collectively costs $50 billion a year for medical care, workers compensation, and time lost from work. That’s according to
, a start-up that couples a sensor you place on your lower back with your iPhone or iPad to train you to improve your posture—one important element that can affect how your back feels. When you slouch, the sensor vibrates gently to remind you to straighten up. LumoBack says it plans to launch its device and application in September.
This ultra high-tech start-up has a cool factor like no other.
makes robotic exoskeletons (wearable robots) that allow paralyzed people to walk. It works by way of electrical motors that move the frame’s joints, replicating the actions of muscles. CEO Eythor Bender says someday the exoskeletons will have a far wider use. Already the company has licensed its technology to Lockheed Martin for use by soldiers. “We’re starting with soldiers and paralyzed people because their needs are great and the opportunity for funding is better. But you can imagine exoskeletons for workers using tools too heavy to hold for more than a few minutes. And a consumer version for people who want to run a marathon or climb Mount Kilimanjaro,” Bender recently told Inc.’s sister publication
IMAGE: Amanda Boxtel was paralyzed 20 years ago in a ski accident. Photo courtesty of Ekso Bionics.
is a social network that turns exercise into a game. It lets you log your workouts and compete with others to progress higher up on the platform’s leaderboard. It also rewards you for exercising with points you can use to get to a higher level in the game, as well as analyzes your progress and makes suggestions on how you can improve. Co-founder Dick Talens says he and co-founder Brian Wang are former out-of-shape video game nerds turned bodybuilders and their story has garnered a cult-like following from early Fitocracy members. Even though the company hasn’t spent a dime on marketing or user adoption, the platform has grown virally in the year it’s been in an invitation-only closed beta; it now has more than 250,000 users who have logged more than two million workouts. Fitocracy's mobile app for iOS recently launched and an Android app is in the works.
IMAGE: Co-founder Richard Talens building the Fitocracy platform.
is an iPhone and Web app that lets you quickly create custom, pro-quality workouts to do at home or the gym. The app instructs you on how to perform each exercise and how many sets and reps to do for each, depending on your goals and fitness level. The app also quantifies your performance using an in-built tracking and analytics system. The app works seamlessly with your phone's music player, and has audio coaching that will fade in and out with music to allow for optional instruction. Within the past year, the Web version has received more than 800,000 unique visitors and the iOS app has conducted more than a million mobile sessions with the majority of users accessing custom GAIN workouts using an iPhone or iPod Touch.—
This start-up, which was co-founded by several Ph.Ds from the Boston-based healthcare VC fund Longwood Fund and Harvard Medical School, launched in 2011 and is using patented technology to increase the success rate of in vitro fertilization by improving the quality of eggs with the help of a woman’s own cellular energy.
is keeping the lid on how the technology works, but will be launching a “pivotal” clinical study this year at leading IVF centers. In the U.S. infertility affects more than 7.3 million women or one in eight couples of childbearing age.
There’s no doubt America is suffering from an obesity epidemic and some of the hottest start-ups are trying to do something about it.
, for example, is opening up the personal training industry to more people by making certified trainers available via a Web platform that’s only about $10 a week, versus the premium trainers get per session in the gym. There are about 200 trainers to choose from and you can pick one that would fit your personality, whether you need a drill sergeant who will push you to your limit or someone who can empathize with your challenges and gently coax you into meeting your fitness and health goals. After you choose a personal trainer he or she will create a weekly workout and meal plan based on your lifestyle and preferences. Each exercise comes with detailed instructions and photos and videos.
IMAGE: Tech Cocktail's Frank Gruber (left) presented FitOrbit SVP Amir Hosseinpour (right) with an award at SXSW.
Last updated: Mar 27, 2012
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