Guest Post – Rock Health Boston 8/29/12

After a week in Boston hearing about MITA 3.0, “Modularity,” and the Seven Conditions and Standards at the annual MES conference (formerly known as MMIS), I was glad to wrap up the trip with some of the newest entrants into the world of HIT.

The inaugural Boston class of Rock Health, a San Francisco based accelerator, held their Demo Day Friday afternoon on MIT’s campus in Cambridge.

The event started with a short introduction from Sarah Pollet, COO of Rock Health and director of the Boston Program. She framed the event for the packed auditorium, speaking of the “pioneering efforts” of the teams that are embracing the health care challenge head on. She stressed the Rock Health approach of “innovating and disrupting” from within the system, as opposed to working at odds to the establishment. Regardless of the context, I really dislike the word “disrupt.”

The keynote was provided by John Halamka, CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and a practicing ED doc. Dr. Halamka is engaging and incredibly upbeat. He provided a short overview of HIEs and Meaningful Use that was encouraging, if not overly optimistic. Mention was made that the Massachusetts HIE would be live in 60 days and will bring interoperability with it. My understanding is that the first phase of the HIE is limited to secure physician messaging, so at least faxing will be a thing of the past.

On to the companies.

First up was NoviMedicine, a platform for telehealth. Founded by two brothers (a dermatologist and a developer), NoviMedicine was built over a 10-month period in a shared apartment. Launching with a very narrow focus on treating acne, the brothers estimate that dermatologists could bring in $800 per hour using the platform. They plan to charge patients $59 per visit and avoid navigating payer hurdles. Sounds like they’re banking on the rise in high-deductible plans to drive business. Nice guys entering a very crowded landscape.

Home Team Therapy is using videos and Kinect to address the challenge of getting patients to complete their physical therapy treatments at home. I’m not sure if they plan to be the content creators, but the platform allows providers to assign patients videos of exercises instead of those terrible line drawing handouts you see today. As you’d expect, the Kinect is used to monitor adherence to the assigned exercises. The team estimates a $440 million annual market from families that already own a Kinect. They’re playing with using that forward-facing camera on your computer in future iterations and are piloting in New York today. Seems like a cool concept, but I suspect it will be difficult to scale, especially if they don’t embed the video assignment and patient tracking directly into the EMR. I’ve heard of a few others in the space, including a company that emerged from the Microsoft Kinect Accelerator earlier this year.

RX Apps entered the program as PrescribeableApps and emerged as a care management platform tackling chronic disease. Similar to others on the market, they are looking to improve patient compliance through increased communication and targeted interventions. They are using text messaging and draw parallels to established players like WellDoc. They’re also planning to incorporate social networking around disease states. There are a lot of companies playing in this space right now and I like the concept. As all health companies using text messaging know, there are inherent compliance challenges with using the technology. I’ll be interested to see how these guys develop.

Neumitra framed its focus with a story about soldiers returning home suffering from PTSD. The team grew from three to eight during the three-month program. They have created a wrist monitor to continually track stress levels and will release an SDK so application developers can embed stress triggers into their apps. Getting stressed? Your phone will buzz and recommend that you call Mom or play Angry Birds. I’m already thinking about a great Foursquare mash up that directs me to ice cream. It is a device and they haven’t started manufacturing or sought FDA approval, so they’ve got a journey ahead.

Neuro Track was developed over four years at Emory as part of an NIH study. They have a star-studded group of researchers involved. They attribute 20 years of work leading to a product that screens patients for Alzheimer’s up to three years before symptoms show. It’s an elegant solution that shows patients a picture for 10 seconds before moving to a blank screen and then introducing a new picture alongside the original. It turns out that eye movement differs drastically for those developing the disease, and tracking it allows Neuro Track to screen patients for the 20,000 patients needed annually for Alzheimer’s clinical research. Seems like a small market opportunity today, but if a preventative treatment is discovered, they will be sitting pretty as a method for early diagnostic screening. They have a worldwide license to the patented technology.

Introduced as “the youngest team” of the bunch, Reify Health is a nine-month-old venture started by a handful of Johns Hopkins engineering and medical students. They’ve created a framework that allows clinicians and researchers to design evidence-based protocols for specific conditions. The plans are then sold to payers and self-insured employers for use with their members, with the clinicians getting a cut along the way. It’s a nice business strategy and they’re already profitable with more organizations coming online this fall. It’s a crowded space, but they have a unique approach, good focus, and are hungry. I’ll be interested to see how they integrate with the EMR and manage protocols for patients on multiple plans.

I’m not sure when Podimetrics entered the program — they weren’t mentioned in the original announcement. They took first place in the Life Sciences track in the MIT Business Plan competition back in June, so I suspect that has something to do with the late addition to the program. Either way, they have an impressive answer for detecting foot ulcers in diabetic populations. Using a bathroom mat with embedded sensors, they can detect pre-ulcer sores while an at-risk patient is brushing their teeth. The readings are transmitted remotely to a monitoring station, where nurses can review up to 80 patients per hour. These guys are ambitious and going after Medicare Advantage plans to lock up reimbursement for a large swath of affected people. I really like that they’re planning to tie revenue directly to outcomes. More companies in health care need to have that kind of chutzpah.

Rock Health just opened applications for their next San Francisco session. If you think you have what it takes, they are due September 16.

8-29-2012 1-06-19 PM

Dan Wilson is the co-founder of Moxe Health.

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