News 9/21/12

Startup Health, the academy for health and wellness entrepreneurs, announces its second batch of startups and founders. Startup Health is not an incubator and does not require a startup to be based in a certain location. This brings the total to 22 startups in 2012, and I think Startup Health is targeting 40 this year. This class has a lot of interesting companies, many of which you might not have heard about. The release does a good job of summarizing the companies, so I won’t repeat it here. The key Startup Health stats are below (Healthbox needs to get a company in to round out the incubator representation):

  • Total companies: 22
  • Total raised to date: $35 Million
  • East Coast companies: 11
  • West Coast companies: 11
  • Physician/practitioner founders: 10
  • Serial entrepreneurs: 11
  • Women founders: 6
  • Rock Health companies: 3
  • BluePrint Health companies: 1
  • Thiel fellows: 2

While we’re on programs for startups, Tigerlabs launches a new health incubator in Princeton, NJ. The incubator’s first class will begin in February 2013. Tigerlabs is using its location, which is very close to lots of big pharma companies, as a differentiator. On the list of technologies Tigerlabs is excited about, mobile health is at the top.

Pingmd raises $1.3 million to help parents and pediatricians connect over web and mobile. The idea is that parents can ask questions any time and access educational content while pediatricians can reduce the number of phone calls. Some things I’d like to see added would be canned visit summaries or advice based on patient age and a vaccine tracker. Pingmd not dissimilar from other mobile/web services in functionality, but focusing on the peds market is a great approach.

WebMD launches a condition-specific mobile app for patients with chronic pain. The app enables patients with chronic pain to log symptoms, browse and set goals, get daily tips, and of course access WebMD’s educational content. This move by WebMD makes a lot of sense. WebMD sees tons of traffic and tools like this will further engage consumers and make WebMD more integrated into health and wellness. Also, maybe WebMD will be on the lookout for some mobile health startups.

According to new Pew Internet data, smartphone ownership in the US is now at 45%, up from 35% in May 2011. Not surprisingly, smartphone owners have a higher income, are younger, and are more likely to be part of a minority group.

West Wireless announces its first startup spinoff, Sense4Baby. The new startup, which is also getting funding from the West Wireless Fund and will be a part of the West Wireless Incubator, will commercialize a wireless fetal monitor that is meant to be used by rural and higher risk OB patients. West Wireless has been testing the fetal monitor in Mexico for some time, but I’m not sure it’s been used in the US. Is that due to not having FDA clearance?


The results of a new Harris survey of “healthcare consumers” finds that the demand for online services far outweigh the supply. The table above shows the most desired services and the percent of patients that have access to them. The survey also found that consumers are receptive to using retail clinics.

This is an awesome story about the application of telepsych to deliver mental health services to rural India. India only has one psychiatrist for every 400,000 people and most of those psychiatrists are based in cities. A traveling bus/van enables rural people to connect over Skype with psychiatrists in a city.

An orthopedic surgeon in Illinois is using an FDA-approved iPod tool get in-surgery assessments and alignments during knee replacement surgery. The iPod, which is mounted and viewable by the surgeon while he’s operating, provides constant feedback on the surgery. I think the iPod is just a viewing tool that is linked to an infrared camera and computer that is recording and calculating various measurements.

MappyHealth wins an HHS contest to build a public health surveillance tool based on Tweets. I browsed the MappyHealth site, searched for various conditions in different locations, and thought it was pretty cool overall. I’m wondering when we’ll start seeing disease and public health forecasts in the newspaper. I think people might be curious to see the trends on a daily basis, especially if they are based on local activity.

When it comes to patient portals, if you build it, will they come? This is another article about what Stage 2 of Meaningful Use will mean for patient portals. Offering the data is a great start and hopefully some engaging and cheap online tools are created based on it.

Teledermatology is a field that is getting a lot of attention. Every incubator, and even Startup Health, has a telederm company (DermLink, NoviMedicine, Direct Dermatology, and more I can’t think of right now). The interesting thing is most of these companies have different models and are targeting different segments of the market. It makes a lot of sense to offer certain derm services virtually, either live or asynchronously, considering the cost and availability of most dermatologists and the visual nature of certain areas of practice. This article, however, touches on some of the risks associated with apps offering automated screening (i.e., no physician involved) for conditions like melanoma. From a liability perspective, I think virtual melanoma screening, even with a real doc reviewing images and clinical history, is a hard sell. Maybe if follow-up and access to biopsy is closely tied to the virtual service you could do it, but the risk seems too high.

As more people seek out support using online communities and social media, researchers are tapping into those communities and networks to gain insights and recruit trial subjects. This is especially valuable with rare conditions. I’m working on with several researchers currently to develop an adverse event reporting tool for peds patients with rare conditions and off-label treatments, using technology to get the patient numbers that we need.


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

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