Acquires Rock Health Startup Pipette 3/14/12

It’s hardly a Nuance or Passport Health acquisition, but in the mobile and startup health world it is certainly news. The acquisition is the marriage of mobile and analytics. Since neither company has made any revenue, I’m betting it wasn’t a massive financial transaction.

First, some context. Both Pipette and Ginger are startups. Ginger comes out of MIT and Pipette was formed by a couple of Microsoft guys. Ginger has raised a couple of rounds of financing with the biggest one being $1.7 million last fall. I’m not sure if Pipette has raised any money beyond the very small amount from Rock Health, the incubator in which it participated.

My understanding is that Pipette was formed to apply an existing, intuitive mobile data collection platform to health. Pipette, through Rock Health, was able to get connected with clinical names like Mayo and Harvard as it went about targeting readmission prevention. Pipette uses short questionnaires, distributed to mobile devices, to collect data on patients. This data is used to trigger alerts as certain events or patterns are deemed high risk for readmission.

With a service like this (or anything that claims to be "big data") a decent amount of data is needed to gain intelligence. Being new and limited to very few patients or academic centers, I’m betting Pipette hasn’t even collected much data or intelligence. Also, to my knowledge, there hasn’t been any evidence generated by Pipette to show that it works. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have evidence, just that it isn’t available. Sometimes academic centers are pretty restrictive on when and how data gets released.

Ginger, like Pipette, is trying to do analytics from data collected from mobile phones. Ginger’s approach is slightly different in that it collects data passively based on phone usage patterns. Patterns are used to learn normal behavior and then identify changes and trigger alerts for potential adverse events. Ginger is going to offer the service to research organizations as well as to healthcare providers.

I think the acquisition is less about Pipette’s understanding of discharge and readmission patterns, as Ginger states on its website, and more about Ginger wanting to extend its platform beyond Android to the targeted and hot space of readmissions. It also signals Ginger’s broader push towards data analytics beyond its own mobile data collection offering. It probably doesn’t hurt to get the Mayo and Harvard associations. Oh, and the founders of Pipette are talented guys, so they make a nice addition to the Ginger team.

Ginger is a company we are going to hear a lot more about in the coming years. They have a clear focus on learning about patient behavior and proactively trying to address potentially costly events. The main question will be how much money can Ginger make quickly from pharma research or how much money can it raise to sustain itself until the healthcare industry is ready to pay for services like this. Either way, this acquisition is good for mobile health startups and Rock Health.

Just out of curiosity, have readers heard of either of these companies?

Travis Good is an MD/MBA involved with health IT startups. More about me.

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