Going from Point Solution to Platform

I’ve really come to like Asthmapolis. It has a very cool model combining personal health management, adherence, and public health. It’s brilliant in that it supports and improves care, but requires very little behavior change on the part of the user. In an industry with patients who aren’t always the most motivated users, making it simple and passive is huge.

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The big new this week from Asthmapolis is that it isn’t Asthmapolis anymore. The company has changed its name to Propeller Health in preparation for its planned expansion into other respiratory conditions. It’s now more of a respiratory management platform with support for COPD as the second condition beyond asthma.

Chronic respiratory conditions represent a huge burden in health systems. As the blog post announcing the name change makes clear, Propeller will be well positioned to help with readmission prevention. Of note, CareInSync (which offers a technology-enabled service to help prevent readmissions) and Propeller share the California Health Care Foundation as an investor. I’m not sure there’s anything to be read into that, but Propeller would seem to provide provide the sort of information that CareInSync could use.

This platform shift for Propeller fits well with the model and the technology it uses for asthma management and care. Asthmapolis started small and targeted. It picked a very good condition in asthma and created a technology that fit with most inhalers. Even beyond COPD, there are other chronic respiratory diseases that Propeller can target in time.

I’ve written about starting small and defined before, most recently in regard to patient engagement. It’s so much easier to tell a story to both investors and customers if you have a simple and well-defined approach and target specific users and markets. I’ve personally dealt with the challenge of selling a platform that is powerful or awesome but  not tangible and immediate in offering customer benefit and ROI.

To overcome that, platform companies will often develop individual solutions on the platform – specific apps or specific services — to help organizations quickly realize its power. Just last week I wrote about AirStrip doing this with its expansion into a unified, mobile plus desktop, front-end platform for clinical data. Another example is Intelligent Insites, which is having success with its operational intelligence platform.

There are probably lots of good, defined areas to target, prove out the value of the approach and platform, and then look towards expanding. In patient care, they are readmissions, pediatric conditions (a big bucket), and pregnancy (including fertility, pre-conception, and postpartum). At least those are the ones that come to mind for me. Others might be migraines, inflammatory bowel disease, lupus and auto-immune conditions that affect women, and maybe epilepsy. What conditions can you think of as good initial targets?

Companies have had success in several of these areas. What will be interesting is if we start to see additional, organ system management platforms: Propeller for respiratory, Telcare for diabetes, Chronology for inflammatory bowel, Alt12 and Ovuline for fertility and pregnancy, and pingmd for pediatrics (though this one is very early). What holds probably the most interesting potential is if companies like CareInSync can begin with a platform for tracking discharged patients, looking at the first 30 days for a care plan, and then expand the window to 60 days and 360 days and then ongoing visibility.

If we move beyond simple penalties like 30-day readmissions, and use payment models that reward admission prevention, some of these point systems could grow to meet that need, becoming patient relationship management (PRM) systems. PRM was a buzzword from a couple years of ago that I don’t see as much today.

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I’m in Wisconsin and Propeller is based here, so I hear more about them than the national press. This post was triggered by a flyer (pictured above) for a startup and innovation event next week in Madison being put on by Madison Health Tech. it has both names, Propeller and Asthmapolis, because the company is one of the sponsors and showcase startups. The event intentionally coincides with the Epic UGM next week in Verona. If you’re in Madison next week and are interested in meeting some exciting local startups and innovators, please register here and drop by to say hi to us.

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

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