CIO: Ten disruptive startups to watch in health IT

Innovative companies take on telehealth, insurance, and other challenges

As venture capital funding flows into health care—investors provided more than $6.5 billion in funds to digital health companies in 2014, Startup Health notes—a wave of new startups is seeking to disrupt the industry.

In a new post, CIO's Sarah White profiles 10 of the most eye-catching startups:

  • Project io has developed a 3D scanning app used to generate custom prosthetic limbs. The technology runs on a standard smartphone or tablet..
  • Oscar Health is a New York-based insurance startup that wants to make purchasing and using insurance as intuitive as possible. The company's smartphone app allows members to meet virtually with a doctor and check symptoms. Members also receive a free activity tracker that lets them earn cash rewards for meeting certain fitness goals.

The ailments that get the most venture capital funding

  • MediSafe is a smartphone app that helps people with medication adherence. It alerts patients when it is time to take a medication and asks them to confirm that they have. Users also can send an alert to another person if they don't check in.
  • Medwand wants to enable the "21st century digital house call." The company manufactures a portable "wand" equipped with sensors to track basic vitals, as well as Bluetooth connectivity to gather data from devices such as glucose monitors and activity trackers. The company wants to use its technology to enable doctors to provide more care via telehealth.

Why one hospital is renting 'innovation space'

  • AdhereTech sells a wireless medication bottle that learns a patient's typical medication schedule and then alerts a user if a dose has been missed. One trial using the technology found it increased medication adherence for patients taking a mix of drugs used to treat HIV.
  • Pager is a smartphone app that is trying to make seeing a doctor as easy as ordering a taxi. Currently only available in New York City, users of the app can request a doctor on their phone who will arrive within two hours. Patients can receive urgent care and physicals—all while avoiding the waiting room.
  • CrowdMed wants to harness the power of the internet to help patients crowdsource their diagnosis. Patients post details of their medical problems, and volunteer "medical detectives" seek to find similar cases. According to the company, medical detectives range from retired physicians to regular consumers with an interest in health care.

This two-minute test could boost patient satisfaction, Rx adherence

  • SkinVision is designed to harness a smartphone camera to help catch and treat skin cancer early. Taking a series of photos helps users track changes to skin lesions over time and the app uses an algorithm to determine if a photographed lesion may be cancerous. It also includes a database of local dermatologists so users can get treatment if needed.
  • PillPack is trying to be more than a typical online pharmacy. To improve medication adherence, the company ships medications to patients in small plastic pouches that are clearly labeled with the date and time a set of medications should be taken.
  • Sherpaa offers telemedicine services via doctors and other clinicians who work full-time for the company. Patients access care through their smartphone and can get help filing insurance claims just by snapping a picture of their bill (White, CIO, 5/26; Lorenzetti, Fortune, 2/19/15).

The takeaway: As the number of health care startups increases dramatically, CIO profiles 10 companies that are disrupting the industry in areas such as telehealth and insurance.

Why one CEO wants his staff to be disruptive


An excerpt from our interview with Rod Hochman, the President and CEO of Providence Health & Services.

Q: Disruptive innovations can overpower these seemingly too-big-to-fail organizations. How should hospital leadership tackle these innovations head on?

Hochman: One of the ways we're trying to drive that direction is finding folks that can help us disrupt the status quo. Our new head of strategy and innovation, Aaron Martin, comes from Amazon and was involved in creating the Kindle. So here's the company that upset the book business by becoming online booksellers, and then goes ahead and creates the Kindle, which disrupts their online physical book business. We think we can do some of that at Providence.


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