12 Entrepreneurs Reinventing Health Care
These 12 startups are working to make medical care more affordable and efficient — a change that could save billions of dollars and save lives.
A seed funding accelerator for healthcare startups, San Francisco-based Rock Health was launched in 2011 by Halle Tecco and Nate Gross, a medical student and former classmate of Tecco’s at Harvard Business School. For one of 13 spots in its first “class” of startups, the accelerator received more than 350 applications. Winning teams spent five months in workshops receiving mentoring, legal advice, design and marketing help and a $20,000 early seed grant.
“They used that five months to build a product and start trials, often with one of our partners, like The Mayo Clinic, Harvard Medical School and University of California San Francisco,” says Tecco, the company’s CEO.
Rock Health is unique in Silicon Valley’s increasingly crowded accelerator scene for its exclusive focus on healthcare startups. It has funding from corporate sponsors including Microsoft, Qualcomm, Quest Diagnostics and Genentech, among others, and its medical partners have agreements to help Rock Health’s pharmaceutical startups begin drug trials at an early stage. Two of Rock Health’s first graduates have drawn additional funding from investors. The next class of startups begins their five-month program in January.
Chatting by e-mail or text message can be tricky for physicians: The United States’ sweeping health care privacy law, HIPAA, requires that sensitive communications be made through secure channels. Enter Doximity, which is assembling a LinkedIn-style professional network just for doctors. Before doctors can use the app, the company verifies their background and credentials. All messages sent through the service are encrypted.
“Medicine is a team sport,” says cofounder and CEO Jeff Tangney. “Doctors need to be able to communicate quickly with each other and with their patients.” Doximity has around 32,000 doctors — roughly 5% all U.S. physicians, according to census estimates — on board so far. The company launched in March, has 20 employees and raised $10 million in venture capital.
Tangney is a serial health-care entrepreneur whose previous company, mobile drug reference tool Epocrates, went public earlier this year. Doximity’s service is free for users. The company is exploring various revenue ideas, such as charging market researchers for access to its members.
Most dental patients have no idea what various procedures cost, what percentage their insurance covers — if they have dental insurance– and why prices are so high, says Brighter.com CEO and founder Jake Winebaum. His company lets consumers compare dentists by price and reputation.
A survey of 1,000 people done by Brighter.com in June showed that a third of those without dental insurance have been to a dentist once or less in the last decade. In the dental care arena, says Winebaum, “there is no pricing transparency and no negotiating leverage.”
Brighter has raised $13 million in venture capital, has 20 employees at its Santa Monica headquarters, and includes 25,000 dentists in its network of providers. Users who take out a Brighter subscription — Winebaum likens the model to Costco’s — get access to its network of dentist at discounted prices, giving them the negotiating power of a group, with or without dental insurance. The company’s plans start at $79 per year.
This San Francisco startup aims to predict what your health will be like in the future, near or far. Cofounders Chris Hogg and Ryan Howard created 100Plus in October and have raised $1.25 million in seed funding, with $500,000 of that coming from Peter Thiel, the cofounder and former CEO of PayPal. The company currently has three employees but plans to grow to 10 in early 2012, when 100Plus launches to the public.
100Plus takes basic health information — weight, height, diet, activities, stress level — and creates a benchmark that is used to compare people to those with similar attributes. The key to the company’s ability to make health predictions is large amounts of information culled from sources just beginning to make their data publicly available, like the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control. Cofounder Howard’s company Practice Fusion, which runs an electronic medical records system, gives 100Plus access to about 26 million patient records.
“It’s all de-identified,” says Hogg, the company’s CEO. “We know basic body information, medications taken, how often they go to the doctor, what disease they have, but we don’t know who they are.”
The goal of 100Plus is to help people change their health trajectory. At 65, will you be a diabetic with heart disease? Will you have mildly high blood pressure but be active and healthy? “It’s not like you wake up one day with Type 2 diabetes,” Hogg says. “It’s a 30-year process.”
Tom Lee went to medical school to be a family practice physician and came out disillusioned with the profession’s focus on quantity over quality. He pivoted, heading to Stanford for an MBA, and in 2005, Lee launched One Medical Group in San Francisco. The company aims to make the benefits of “concierge” medicine — same-day appointments, responsive doctors and a holistic medical approach — available to the mass market.
One Medical takes most major insurance but is also member supported. Patents patients pay an annual fee of $150 or $200 (it varies by region regionally). The company has modern technology baked into every aspect of its operations, from online appointment-scheduling tools to doctors that are happy to field questions by e-mail. That helps patients avoid coming into the office to deal with minor issues.
“This system is actually much more traditional in nature,” Lee says. “Healthcare isn’t about the transaction, it’s about the relationship. You can’t know a patient by looking at a page full of numbers and having a three-minute visit.”
Investors are bullish on the idea. One Medical has raised almost $47 million from venture capitalists and has 13 office locations — seven in San Francisco, four in New York and two in Washington D.C. It plans to open a dozen more in 2012.
If you’ve ever had someone you care about fall seriously ill and wished there was something you could do, now there is: GiveForward, an online fundraising platform that helps patients handle out-of-pocket medical expenses through crowd funding.
GiveForward provides personalized fundraising webpages to users, the majority of whom are looking for help for themselves or someone close to them for expenses like co-pays, travel to treatment and making ends meet in the face of devastating illness. “Our users like that they know exactly where their money is going and that it will directly impact a friend or family member,” says CEO and cofounder Desiree Vargas Wrigley. In one instance, a woman raising money to donate a kidney to her older sister received $30,000 in donations in 30 days.
GiveForward funds its service by deducting a 7% fee from donations, which covers credit-card processing fees and the company’s own expenses. The Chicago venture launched in 2009, has eight employees, and projects that its fee-based revenue this year will be between $300,000 to $350,000. A round of fundraising that closed in February brought in $500,000 in seed capital, and the company is looking to raise another $2 million to $3 million in 2012.
Health care for chronic or serious conditions is rarely a challenge faced alone. Saturing, which publicly launched this month, is a care-coordination hub. The site’s concept is that every patient is a planet; the network of support around that planet is represented by Saturn-like rings.
The primary caregiver, such as a child helping a parent, invites individuals into a private network. They can log in from work or home to see how mom or dad’s care is going that day, if they received their medication on time, and if there is anything coming up — such as a doctor’s appointment or lab test — that needs coordinating with other family members or friends. The application also has a medication management tool that allows users to track, in one place, the medications someone takes, even flagging prescriptions needing refills. The entire suite costs $14.99 a month, but depending on the variety of functions needed, access to the network starts at $3.99 a month.
Based in Merrillville, Ind., Saturing began operating in 2008 and has 15 employees. It’s part of a group of companies that fall under the umbrella of Interlink, a management and finance services firm founded by Rich Metzger 12 years ago. He funded Saturing himself, to the tune of $2.5 million.
Most consumers don’t make decisions about healthcare — such as where to get a mammogram, colonoscopy or annual physical — by comparing prices or looking at doctor reviews, because the information isn’t easily available.Castlight Health, a San Francisco-based startup, allows patients to plug in their zip code, the service or procedure they need, and see a list of area doctors, as well as well as a breakdown of what they charge for their services.
“Most of us go to the doctor and have no idea what we are paying for or when we will have to pay for it, until we get the bill six months later,” says cofounder Giovanni Colella, a psychiatrist and serial entrepreneur. “If you have a $5,000 deductible, you should go to the doctor that will give you the highest quality at the lowest price.” Castlight doesn’t make it services available directly to consumers. Instead, it sells to insurers and employers, who in turn offer Castlight to their plan participants. The service is available through 15 employers nationwide right now, with hundreds more in the pipeline.
Investors are enthusiastic about Castlight’s vision: The company has 115 employees and has raised $81 million.
Pharmaceutical researchers, doctors and others in the healthcare field rely heavily on collaboration, but as costs rise and budgets shrink, professionals can’t always be where information-sharing is taking place. In ProtoSphere, they can attend classes, watch lectures and participate in brainstorming sessions in a virtual, real-time environment.
ProtoSphere is the creation of Lansdale, Penn.-basedProton Media. The company started in 1998 as a custom e-learning shop for life sciences companies, but in 2005 began evolving into the company it is today, providing SecondLife-like online spaces for collaboration. Proton Media was bootstrapped by its two founding partners, including the current CEO, Ron Burns. Since 2007 the company has raised $7 million in venture capital. The company is profitable and its revenue has doubled in the last two years, Burns says.
Several healthcare companies, including Merck, SciMed and Johnson & Johnson, are using the virtual environment. SciMed recently opened the industry’s first Virtual Diabetes Institute in ProtoSphere, with classrooms, conference rooms, a lecture hall and a large auditorium. Physicians visit spaces within the ProtoSphere as well-dressed avatars and do things like sit in a simulation of a new piece of expensive equipment or walk around a rotating molecule.
Simplee, which bills itself as “the Mint.com of healthcare expenses,” launched in beta in late May and became available to everyone in June.
Simplee is a free Web app that lets users track and pay all their medical bills from one website. Patients can instantly see how much they are spending on healthcare, including what they pay versus what their insurance company pays, says CEO Tomer Shoval, one of three founders. A family’s healthcare spending data is aggregated into one user-friendly dashboard, with information broken down by family member. The company’s revenue comes from employers, brokers, HSA administrators and other corporate entities that sign up for its service, although it isn’t yet profitable.
Users receive an email notifying them the minute a doctor’s bill has been processed and can scan an explanation of benefits rewritten from their statement, only in lay language. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., the company has 15 employees and has raised $1.8 million from investors.
The healthcare industry wastes billions of dollars each year thanks to inefficient processes. “They use old programming languages and databases with really antiquated software,” says CareCloud founder and CEO Albert Santalo. “There is a lot of paperwork flowing between people and redundant testing because information like blood work or X-rays isn’t shared.”
CareCloud’s Web-based software lets doctors to manage their practice online, tracking scheduling, billing and collections, medical records, lab and prescription orders. Like other cloud systems, the service is subscription-based and can be accessed from anywhere in the world. CareCloud has about 1,000 doctors subscribing and plans to roll out a mobile version in early 2012. Founded in 2009, the company has raised $24 million, has 100 employees and is growing fast — sales rose 500% this past year.
Peter Hudson (left) and Wayne Geurra
ITriage is a free app for iOS and Android users that answers two common medical questions: “What is wrong with me?” and “Where should I go for treatment?” The Denver-based company behind it launched as Healthagen in 2009 (but recently changed its name to iTriage). In late December, Aetna acquired the company for an undisclosed amount, as part of its customer retention and acquisition strategy.
ITriage was started with $20,000 by two ER doctors from Denver. Peter Hudson, the company’s CEO and a serial entrepreneur, and his cofounder Wayne Guerra estimate that they’ve seen 50,000 patients between them over the course of 20 years. Hudson says those patients continually struggled “to understand what information is needed to make an intelligent decision about what could be causing their problem, where to go and what kind of care is most appropriate.”
ITriage connects symptoms to potential conditions and offers real-time features like wait times at nearby emergency rooms and urgent care clinics. Although the app is free to consumers, facilities can purchase a “premiere” annual listing with enhanced features like pre-registration or appointment scheduling through the app. Users can also look up medications and see potential side effects, find information about diseases, and investigate the details of various medical procedures.
ITriage has been downloaded more than 3 million times so far, Hudson says.