We take a look at this week’s biggest developments, research and investment news from the world of Health Tech.
Pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer has announced the launch a new initiative designed to help healthcare and technology start-ups expand. The initiative comes as various technology are beginning to play an increasing role in helping deliver and improve healthcare. Start-ups will compete for a share of a grant of £56k and a year-long programme of support, helping them to navigate the UK’s health system, and giving them the opportunity to meet the people who can drive their ideas and businesses forward. Erik Nordkamp, Pfizer UK managing director said: “I’m delighted that we’ll be launching the Pfizer Healthcare Hub here in the UK. We live in a country that is already a centre for original thinking and innovation within healthcare and our goal is to accelerate the success of the brightest start-ups in this field and help them make a difference to patients.”
Why replacing pills with apps is allowing digital health to become pharma’s new competitor
Digital therapeutics could be making a run at the pharmaceutical industry’s entrenched role in healthcare, as they’re becoming equipped with more available data and less federal oversight. Digital health start-ups see an opportunity to replace prescription drugs with lower-cost and more effective tech-based solutions, or so-called “digiceuticals,” according to an article in the MIT Technology Review. “When I think of the hospital of the future, I think of a bunch of people sitting in a room full of screens and phones,” Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove told the magazine.
Drchrono, a mobile EHR, has raised $12 million in a new funding round led by Runa Capital. They will be using the money to be more competitive with other large EHRs whilst having plans to build more iOS apps and continue its work with Apple as a mobility partner. “Drchrono is at a pivotal stage in the company’s growth,” cofounder and CEO Michael Nusimow said in a statement. “Our platform is crossing a continuum of care as we expand our customer base from solo practices to midsize and now larger health organizations with an all-in-one EHR, practice management and RCM solution.”
Amazon Web Services and Merck, the pharmaceutical company, announced a developer competition that plans to support diabetics through artificial intelligence. Called the Alexa Diabetes Challenge, the contest aims to incentivise developers to create apps that harness Amazon’s Alexa voice-enabled technologies specifically targeting patients with Type 2 diabetes. Early entries have already been devised from Penn Medicine and Commonwealth Care Alliance, whilst running pilot programmes with the Alexa technology. The work will culminate with the finalists presenting their apps to judges in a pop-up AWS loft in New York City, where the winner will be awarded $125,000.
Spring, which offers clinical decision support for providers around behavioural health, has raised $1.5 million in seed funding from William K, Warren Foundation a philanthropic organisation associated with the St. Francis Health System, and serial entrepreneur Kevin Ryan. By using large data sets from EHR and health system partners, with its own depression screening, the company uses AI and machine learning to figure out what antidepressant will work best for the individual person. As clinicians have access to the support tool, they’ll be more likely to screen patients for depression in the first place, and according to CEO April Koh, the company increased depression screening rates to over 90 percent just two weeks after launch.
Proponents of technology and data analytics are quick to point out the possible cost-savings from a tech-based approach with patients, although only few hospitals are backing up those claims with real quantitative data. 10 hospital systems that were awarded funding by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services from Christus Health System to Emory University Healthcare, have successfully been able to cut millions in Medicare costs through integrating technology and data analytics.
Redox, launched by three Epic System engineers in 2013, has successfully received a $1 million add-on investment from the Intermountain Healthcare Innovation Fund, bringing the total raised from its Series B funding to $10 million. The investment will be used to work on further developing and marketing its API interoperability platform used by software developers and healthcare organisations. “Redox is quickly becoming a standard in application interoperability,” Vivek Reddy, chief health information officer at Intermountain Healthcare, said in a statement. “Their platform has evolved into the largest network of enterprise healthcare applications with the ability to scale innovations across large health systems like ours.”
Simple Contacts, an ocular telemedicine company based in New York, has snapped up $8 million in its second round of funding, led by Goodwater Capital with participation from existing investors Justin Kan, Notation Capital, and Autonomous Ventures. Combined with the company’s $2 million raise last year, it brings Simple Contacts’ total funding to $10 million. The company makes an app that guides users through a $10 vision test that they complete whilst wearing their contacts. They then choose their currently prescription and brand, and within 24 hours a licensed ophthalmologist will review the test results and prescription to verify and order a new prescription. The funding will include building an Android app (the company is currently iOS-only) and a web platform.
A new Healthcare IT News and HIMSS Analytics survey found population health and precision medicine are the initiatives where health IT professionals expect AI to have the greatest impact, with 35 percent of healthcare organisations planning to leverage AI within two years, and more than half within five. “If you look at those with plans to leverage AI in some way, shape or form, we’re going to see significant growth,” said Brendan FitzGerald, director of research at HIMSS Analytics. As 4.7 percent of the 85 survey respondents are already adapting with AI technologies, the future looks hopeful. However, like with most emerging technologies, there are concerns on adopting AI, with Chief among those feeling that AI technologies are still in early stages of development and so it is difficult to understand the immediate opportunities ahead.
New York City-based start-up Blink Health, which makes an app and online tool to help consumers find low price medications, has received $90 million in Series B funding in a round led by 8VC, bringing the company’s overall funding to date at $165 million. Blink Health will use the latest funding to focus its efforts on scaling up its technology to reach as much of the prescription drug market as possible, whilst hiring more engineers and strategise new partnerships. “Blink Health has quickly emerged as the first company equipped to dismantle the opacity of the prescription drug supply chain. Technology has brought transparency and lower prices to almost every other category of commerce and it is about time that technology shines a light on the unfair prescription drug market,” 8VC founder Joe Lonsdale said in a statement.
Simple Contacts, a New York City-based ocular telemedicine company, has raised $8 million in its second round of funding. The round was led by Goodwater Capital with participation from existing investors Justin Kan, Notation Capital, and Autonomous Ventures. Along with the company’s $2 million raise last fall, this brings Simple Contacts’ total funding to $10 million. Simple Contacts makes an app that guides users through a $10 vision test that they perform wearing their contacts. Then, they select their current prescription and brand, and within 24 hours a licensed ophthalmologist will review the test results and prescription to verify and order a new prescription.
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