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rock health group

SAN FRANCISCO —  The health care industry is undergoing major surgery. At the center of these operations is Rock Health, a startup accelerator dedicated to the intersection of healthcare and technology. Today, at a demo event at the University of California San Francisco, 14 startups presented their ideas on how to transform and improve healthcare in the U.S..

Dr. Aenor Sawyer, an associate clinical professor at UCSF, said during her opening remarks that these companies are changing “how we take care of patients and how patients take care of themselves.” Whether it is managing secondary care, untangling the confusing labyrinth of insurance, or encouraging healthy lifestyle habits, these startups are holding the scalpels.

If the intersection of health and technology interests you, check out VentureBeat’s HealthBeat 2013 conference, which will focus on “Smart Hospitals” and “Smart Practices,” and how new technology can disrupt health care.


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Rock Health was founded in 2010 as the first accelerator program for health startups. It currently has 49 portfolio companies, which have collectively raised over $43 million in funding from a prestigious list of investors. According to AngelList, Rock Health companies have the third highest valuations of all incubators and accelerators, following Y Combinator and StartX.

Each of the founders at today’s event had a unique story and expertise that brought them to the stage. Some come from the startup world, but many experienced these problems in the field and came to entrepreneurship as a method of solving them. Rock Health provides them with mentorship, funding, and other resources to get them off and running.

Digital health is one of the hottest trends in the tech right now. Venture capital funding in this space grew dramatically in 2012, as investors, entrepreneurs, and health care organizations from across the spectrum jumped on emerging opportunities. However, the health care industry is so massive and built on such old practices and systems that some are skeptical of a startup’s capability to effect meaningful change from the outside. A few of the startups that presented today are consumer focused, but most are targeting the enterprise and the operations of large healthcare organizations. These young, lean and energetic startups are tackling the big guys, and telling the healthcare industry itself, it needs to adopt a more active lifestyle.

Read on for notes on each company’s presentation.

The first four companies to present are still in “stealth mode” and gave brief updates on their activity and progress.

Benefitter helps employers confidently navigate health care reform, save money, and improve their employees’ well being. CEO Brian Poger said that many employees would actually be better off if they did not receive employer-sponsored health insurance. Benefitter helps them understand the legislation, set strategy, and execute it “to make the Affordable Care Act more affordable.”

SuperBetter helps people solve their health challenges by turning goal achievement into a game. The company is currently awaiting the results of a research trial with the University of Pennsylvania about how the system can help people battling mild to medium levels of depression, and other potential applications include anxiety and stress disorders, smoking cessation, and weight control.

Moxe Health improves access to care for newly insured and underserved patients by helping them find the best providers for their needs. This not only benefits patients but also health care organizations and insurance providers who want to optimize their available resources.

Mango Health makes mobile applications that inspire consumers to follow their treatment regimens. CEO Jason Oberfest said that 1 in 5 Americans take prescription drugs or supplements, but up to 75 percent don’t do it properly. “Nonadherence” is a $350 billion a year problem, and something as simple as a mobile app that makes sure people take their medication correctly can significantly reduce the amount of return hospital trips and remission.

The CEOs of the remaining 10 companies then gave longer, five minute presentations.

The first company is tackling an issue many male entrepreneurs won’t touch, but which on some level effects everyone in America.

Wildflower Health makes pregnancy healthier, safer, and more cost-effective through a mobile platform and predictive analytics. CEO Leah Sparks said that pregnancy-related costs are the number one driver of hospital costs at $86 billion a year, and two-thirds of these costs are associated with pregnancy complications. This is an issue for patients and their families, hospitals, and insurance providers. As it stands, wildly ineffective phone-based programs are the main method of risk assessment and tracking. Wildflower’s first app, Due Date, helps pregnant women track milestones customized to their due date, be aware of risk factors, and take personalized actions. The sales pipeline for its enterprise platform covers 30 million people, and they charge a fee for each person enrolled.

Sparks closed by saying that 40 babies were born during her presentation.

Wellframe combines mobile technology and artificial intelligence to extend the provision of care from the hospital to the home. The first product targets cardiac patients, who can use the system instead of regularly going on inconvenient and/or expensive follow-up visits. A patient can use the app as a “digital concierge” to personalize a daily task list that simplifies what they need to do to overcome heart disease and minimize risk.

OpenPlacement offers tools to match seniors with appropriate housing and care providers after they have been discharged from a hospital. According to CEO Dominic Scotto, over six million seniors are transferred a year to the next level of their care, but the process is inefficient and frustrating across the board. Patients receive list of possible facilities that is often out of date and missing information. On OpenPlacement, clinicians can search for placements based on available beds, geography, budget, required services, and the level of care. So far, 500 paying care providers use the service.

Wello makes fitness more personal, accessible, and affordable by using live, two-way video to connect fitness trainers and clients. The platform makes it easy to work out anytime, anywhere, targeting the 89 percent of Americans who wish they were more fit. Wello also just launched a Group Workouts feature that lets users exercise with other people, whether it is a group of pregnant women, middle-aged men trying to lose weight, or someone in California that wants to exercise with her best friend in New York.

LabDoor tells you “what’s real” in consumer products, beginning with safety and efficacy ratings for the $36 billion supplements market. CEO Neil Thanedar said that this industry is mostly unregulated, and yet consumers have a right to know what is in the supplements they take and give to their children. LabDoor tests the products in chemistry labs to find quality and purity data and offers this to consumers. “The results are amazing and scary,” he said. “Over 70 percent of products being tested had inaccurate label data, and over 90 percent contain contaminants. We want to change the base of the industry from marketing hype to real facts and build consumer trust.” Their next milestone is to have full ratings and reviews for 1,000 products and to someday expand into other industries like cosmetics and organics.

Eligible streamlines insurance eligibility checks for doctors and patients. Founder Katelyn Gleason said that the systems used to transport health information between patients, hospitals, insurance companies, labs, and pharmacies costs $150 billion a year, and the transactions are done using “archaic processing” technology that take full IT teams to run. She wondered why, in the middle of Silicon Valley, no one was building a better, simpler, more efficient system. Using Eligible’s API, software engineers can integrate health exchange protocols using three lines of code and connect instantly with over 700 health insurance companies. Eligible runs in the cloud, in the background in real time, and takes $.05 from every transaction.

Beam Technologies makes the Beam Brush, a connected toothbrush to improve oral health. According to CEO Alex Frommeyer, tooth decay is the most common infectious disease for children in the U.S. Through a sensor, the Beam Brush collects dental data and displays it in an application, so kids and parents can stay on top of their oral hygiene and even be rewarded for achieving their “brushing goals.” The company has also partnered with major dental insurance provider Delta Dental to use this data to reduce the risks and costs of oral disease. Since Christmas, over 2,000 brushes have been sold, and Beam has dreams for connected plates, bathmats, and more.

CliniCast unlocks the potential of health data to maximize outcomes and minimize costs. Founder Jack Challis seeks to provide a FICO score to health care data to make sure that physicians are delivering the best care and outcomes at a reasonable price. The system has tools to assess risk, streamline workflow, measure performance, and exchange information, to measure the effectiveness of each interaction.  The goal is to improve the transparency of information in the marketplace and make health care as efficient as possible.

Zipongo provides healthy food incentives and personalized meal plans that engage employees, making it easier to eat well. “Food is medicine,” said  CEO Dr. Jason Langheier. “We have built a ‘grocery Rx’ to deliver descriptions for health living.” Employers and health plans pay a small member fee a month, and Zipongo provides deals on food items, insights into dietary patterns, and suggestions for how to buy and eat healthier, and even recipes. The company has relationships with major grocery chains across the US and can be active in every zip code. started

Kit Check‘s product reduces the time it takes hospitals to process medication kits from 20 minutes to 20 seconds. Founder Kevin MacDonald is an RFID expert. He said that every year, billions of medications flow through hospitals and pharmacies, but there is a tremendous amount of waste and medical errors associated with the mismanagement of these supplies. Kit Check has built a box that can “kit” and quickly figure out what is missing and what is expired as well as generating all the required regulatory paperwork. The business charges per tag and has multiple six-figure revenue clients.

Photo credit: Rock Health

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