Ki Mae Heussner Apr 4, 2013 – 4:20 PM CST
Health care may be woefully behind the rest of the world in embracing information technology, but eleven startups graduating Thursday from New York-based startup accelerator Blueprint Health have some compelling ideas for moving it along.
After three months of training, the startups shared plans for everything from reducing hospital-acquired infections and improving patient education to deciphering confounding lab reports and simulating complicated surgeries.
While all of the companies made a strong case, here are the ones that most caught my attention:
Want to know the culprit behind $10 million in annual lost revenue for hospitals? It’s not medical errors or billing mistakes (although those can obviously be expensive problems too). It’s something far less technical: dirty hands.
According to startup IntelligentM, one in every wash handstwenty patients admitted to the hospital will get an infection while admitted, and 50 percent of those infections are related to poor hand hygiene on the part of health care workers. To keep their hands clean, the company has created a sensor-equipped SmartBand that tracks when, where and how well a doctor or nurse washes her hands. If a doctor washes her hands properly, the bracelet buzzes once; if her hand-washing fails to meet the compliance requirements, it buzzes three times. It also can sense when a health care worker is about to insert an IV and buzzes if’s been too long since she last washed her hands. In addition to letting hospitals track the aggregate behavior of their workers, it emails each health worker with a weekly hygiene report.
If you’ve ever received a copy of a lab report, you know they’re nearly impossible to decode. But Luminate Health plans to break into the $75 billion lab testing market with a digital platform that helps patients understand and access their lab results. Paid for by the lab testing companies, the dashboard displays lab results in colorful, intuitive graphs that give patients clear guidance on how to improve their health. It also enables doctors to add explanations and interpretations of the results. As part of the new health care legislation, labs will be required to provide patients with digital access to their reports. With Luminate’s dashboard, the company said they can not only be compliant with the new law but increase lab volume by strengthening the relationship between physicians and their patients.
touch surgeryLike a high-tech version of the board game Operation, Touch Surgery gives surgeons a virtual way to learn and practice medical procedures. Just by swiping their fingers, doctors can simulate any procedure from an appendectomy to cleft palate surgery to a carpal tunnel release. The founders’ pitch is that it gives surgeons a way to practice and learn faster, while collecting data on risk, education and other issues that could be valuable to hospitals, medical device companies and academic institutions. The app is free but the company makes money by charging medical device companies to place content in the app that trains surgeons to use their device. So far, it has signed contracts with two major medical device companies and is used by doctors at Duke, Stanford and other top institutions.
Each year, nurses at the average hospital spend 25,000 hours on the phone answering basic patient questions, said startup Keona Health. But by cutting the average triage call from 15 minutes to 60 seconds, the company said it can not only free up half of a hospitals’ nursing staff to meet with patients in person, it can help hospitals generate an additional $800,000 in revenue.
The key to its efficiency is an online service that guides patients through a set of questions based on standard triage protocol. A patient with a cough can describe his symptoms and ask whether or not he should come in to see a doctor, or a new mother could ask whether she can continue taking a certain medication while breast-feeding. Using natural language processing, machine learning and other algorithms, the platform analyzes the data and then provides nurses with a report. From there, nurses can reply via text message, email or phone call with the appropriate response.
HealthyOut is still in stealth mode, so there’s not too much I can share now. But if you’re a foodie who wants to stay healthy, this is a startup to keep in mind. It already offers a mobile app for iOS and Android that helps diners find dishes at local restaurants that match their diet and nutrition preferences. And, so far, has attracted investors including 500 Startups’ Dave McClure and former IAC CEO Peter Horan.