6 Hot Healthcare Companies: From Smart Pill Bottles to Smart Diapers, What's Driving Innovation in Medical Tech?
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Technology has revolutionized the way doctors treat, diagnose and perform surgeries. But experts say it has yet to improve the daily workflow of physicians – or the daily behavior of patients. It's time to check the vital signs of medical innovation.
To say technology has profoundly impacted the world of surgery and clinical testing is an understatement. But experts say technology has yet to disrupt the way physicians communicate, read data and manage their workload.
“Medicine is probably the last industry that benefits from computer assistance,” says Dr. Eyal Ephrat, founder of MedCPU. “Sure there’s imaging and MRIs, but when it comes to physicians’ decision-making alone, health care is completely not computerized.” Other panelists at a healthcare-focused Northside Innovation Meetup also noted that basic IT systems for doctors are severely antiquated.
Meanwhile, other innovators are already deploying technology to promote a healthier lifestyle. There’s the onrush of wearable fitness trackers, as well as an endless array of diet and fitness apps (i.e. Fitbit, Noom, MyFitnessPal, etc).
But what about helpful gadgets for patients at acute phases of medical care?
We made the rounds and identified new platforms that are revolutionizing healthcare services. Also, from smart pill bottles to smart diapers, new home medical devices are detecting symptoms earlier, and monitoring conditions more frequently. Here's a look at the three tech platforms and three gadgets:
1) Eyal Ephrat, M.D.: Founder and CEO, MedCPU
Vital signs show: The MedCPU platform (which “reads” the doctor’s narrative notes on patients and transforms the scribble into discrete, structured data) is live at a dozen hospitals across the U.S.
Dr. Ephrat is an obstetrician. But he also spent the past 20 years revolutionizing the way clinics capture and communicate patient information. He founded PeriGen (then E&C Medical Intelligence) in 1995 after learning that up to 40 percent of a hospital’s malpractice payouts occur in the obstetrics (OB) department. PeriGen is a bed-side fetal surveillance system that allows clinicians to better communicate information between OB clinics and hospital labor units.
More recently, he founded MedCPU to address communication errors that occur across all practices, most notably in the emergency room. “About 60-70 percent of information resides in narrative dictations, summaries and notes,” says Dr. Ephrat. “That’s how physicians communicate.” He developed the MedCPU platform so that doctors could read all the messy free-text as structured entries.
The system also detects in real-time if the doctor deviates from clinical guidelines or the patient’s recommended care history. “Think about an ER situation,” says Dr. Ephrat. “The doctor has zero time to learn everything about the patient, who may have dozens of medical records. So when the time comes for decision or diagnosis, that alert can guide them without disrupting the doctor’s traditional workflow.”
Platforms like MedCPU can end the over-utilization of imaging. According to the JAMA Internal Medicine: people who suffer from headaches in the US result in nearly a $1 billion a year on brain scans — and the vast majority of them are probably unnecessary.
2) Josh Stein: Co-Founder and CEO, AdhereTech
Vital signs show: Walter Reed National military Medical Center, Weill Cornell Medical College and Boehringer Ingelheim are currently testing AdhereTech’s patented smart pill bottle.
Stein entered Wharton Business School in 2010 with a plan: start a business, test it in B-school, and squeeze every drop of value from the MBA program’s entrepreneurial labs. During an annual innovation tournament, he pitched an idea: a prescription medicine bottle with integrated cell phone technology.
He incepted the idea when his parents, both medical professionals, discussed a widespread lack of medical adherence (or, patients not taking their meds) as a $300 billion problem. According to Prescriptions for Healthy America, it causes:
- At least 125,000 Americans deaths annually.
- Results in 33% to 69% of medication-related hospital admissions in the United States, at a cost of roughly $100 billion per year.
- NEHI estimates that total potential savings from adherence and related disease management could be $290 billion annually — 13% of health spending.
After some industry analysis and studying the flaws of existing solutions, he realized that many products trying to solve medical adherence were complicated tools that required setup and behavioral changes. “There’s a disconnect because many ill patients don’t have this capacity,” says Stein.
The patented bottle has built-in cell phone technology that sends data to AdhereTech. The company’s servers detect when the bottle was last opened and closed, and the amount of medicine remaining in it. If the patient forgets to take pills, the bottle lights up blue during the optimal dosage time. When that period passes, it begins to flash red and beep. Then the patient receives a text message or call as a final reminder.
Stein says his team is currently working with a design firm in New York City to decrease the cost of manufacturing the bottle.
3) Jennie Rubinshteyn and Yaroslav Faybishenko, Co-Founders, Pixie Scientific
Vital signs show: Working with the FDA on approval of its disposable Smart Diaper. It contains a front patch, when scanned daily, helps you monitor a child’s health. They recently unveiled their new product: the Pixie Brief.
The wife and husband team realized that they were throwing away valuable health data about their children whenever they put wet diapers into the trash.
Parents simply scan the barcode on the Smart Diaper patch. Pixie Scentific developed algorithms that instantly analyze urinal data, to detect UTIs, dehydration and signs of kidney problems.
Now Pixie is applying this technology to elder care. It recently designed the Pixie Brief to track whether seniors are dehydrated or developing a UTI. This is a game-changer for caregivers of seniors with dementia or Alzheimer's, who may have difficulty communicating symptoms.
4) Chris Bradley: Co-founder and CEO, Mana Health
Vital signs show: The New York eHealth Collaborative voted to release this patient portal of easy-to-read health records to every patient in the state. The pilot program will roll out over the next few months.
HealthIT.gov defines an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) as a digital version of a paper chart that contains all of a patient’s medical history from one practice. Meanwhile, it defines an Electronic Health Record (EHR) to go beyond standard clinical data collected in a provider’s office and can be inclusive of a broader view of a patient’s care.
Bradley says his parents – both doctors – would complain about the droning task of going through EMRs. “What impressed me was the massive amount of data generated in the healthcare system, but now it was time to capture the information and transform it into insights,” Bradley says.
The data portal would be more unique than EHRs because it was designed to significantly lower healthcare costs. Also, its interface isn’t just for physicians to decode. They mimicked interfaces from Google, Facebook and Mint.com to make the experience more intuitive for the everyday consumer. Easy-to-read graphical tiles allow patients to view their personal health information, right on their desktops.
5) Hamish Patel, CEO & Co-Founder, Azoi
Vital signs show: It developed Wello, a health tracker that multi-functions as a phone case. One grip of the sensors can test your vitals, anywhere. It expects FDA approval this year.
The $199 case contains an embedded chip, with two sensors that sync to your phone. Within seconds, your iPhone or Android displays test results on the basic heart functions, including your blood pressure, blood oxygen level, heart rate and temperature.
Users can turn on the device remotely, which allows caregivers to track the health of loved ones.
Azoi’s next step is rolling out a revamped Wello case that also tests lung functions. The new feature does not disclose its price on the website. But if you already own the original version, you can order the lung-tester attachment for free.
Or, you can just quit smoking.
6) Joseph Mayer, M.D., Founder & CEO, CUREATR
Founded: January 2012
Vital signs show: The Mount Sinai Medical Center and DaVita have adopted the secure group messaging system for healthcare providers.
It takes one to know one, or how busy one can be.
“If you look at what a healthcare provider does day-in and day-out, he meets with an average of 30 patients a day,” says Dr. Mayer. “The doctor then has to spend time communicating with the patient’s other healthcare providers. This takes away time from caring for those patients.”
Throughout 2011, he and other physicians from Mount Sinai and Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons teamed up with computer scientists from Stanford, PayPal, and 23andMe Ancestry DNA Test to develop Cureatr. The mobile messaging platform’s mission is to make the challenging jobs of doctors, nurses, medical staff, and social workers less challenging.
“There are very few technological innovations that are non-clinical that have made these jobs more effective,” says Dr. Mayer. “Now all providers – from the physician’s office, to the ambulatory clinic to the hospital acute center – can build a secure network of information about a patient.”
Take a look at the Cureatr infographic below to learn about the criticality of effective communication in health care.