Themes of Successful Digital Health Startups — TMCx06 Demo Day
As a TMC biodesign fellow, I was at the Demo Day for TMCx06 Digital Health startups with an audience of over 800. This day wraps up a 4 month long accelerator for 21 digital health startups from Texas, San Francisco, New York City, and around the world.
Recently, CEO Bill McKeon illustrated the Texas Medical Center’s grand vision and major investment in TMC3, which is the next 50 year vision for building an innovation ecosystem to Houston. This leverages the 60+ research, provider, and healthcare member organizations in this 2 square mile medical complex. It’s scheduled to open in 2022 where the goal is to bring biotech commercialization.
Prior to the TMCx06 startup pitches, director of the TMC Innovation Institute, Erik Halvorsen, announced the biodesign founded startups who pitched:
- Ictero Medical — CholeSafe System is a minimally invasive gall bladder surgery that eliminates anesthesia.
- VastBiome — Computational biology machine learning analysis for immune diseases such as cancer (for whom I am one of the founding members).
Through these few months, I’ve gotten to know a few of these outstanding digital health startups. I wanted to highlight a handful of these that really stood out to me during TMCx06 startup pitches:
- b.well — Integrated consumer health platform management application — clinical, genetic, wearable, pharma, and etc. This includes PHR, journey, personal health services, Health Tribe, which allows users to choose who to share their health activities, and digital health wallet. Launched in 2017 with 200 customers including payers and providers with over 74% activation. Go to market includes self-insured employers, health plans, health systems, and pharma. CEO Kristen Valdes background includes CMS and UnitedHealthcare. Single location to manage healthcare.
- Deep6 AI — Accelerated clinical trial matching using AI. CEO Wout Brusselaers says the data is unified and matched to clinical trial eligibility. Clinical trial patient recruitment efforts that take months now take minutes which slows down innovation in healthcare. AI looks at both structured and unstructured data from genomic to EHR. Previously part of Techstars before pivoting into healthcare. I find Deep6 very interesting since it would be within the category of applying machine learning AI into improving health outcomes.
- Gain Life — Evidence-based approach to improve engagement for chronic conditions to improve wellness. Previously with J&J and P&G, CEO Sean Eldridge founded Gain Life to build programs that shift mindsets — assessing, personalizing engagement, and increasing improvements (e.g., weight loss and productivity going back to work). Segments include wellness/prevention, return to work, and type 2 diabetes. Team is made of behavioral scientists. Changing behaviors to improve outcomes is what everyone wants whether personally or corporately. How to do that is the hard part, and believe it starts with looking at engagement and behavioral science.
- Luminaire Medical — Sepsis is the top cause of mortality in hospitals. The anti-sepsis SaaS is an automated checklist that works with the EHR in real time. CEO Sarma Velamuri says this is a win-win for providers, patients, and payers.
- Trayt — Diagnosis and treatment with brain-based disorders. This comorbid analytics engine provides improved outcomes. CEO Malekeh Amini says the platform allows families a 360 view of the patient and measures/tracks key symptoms for clinicians.
- ORIntel — Think of a control tower in the operating room and driving data based decisions through advanced metrics and analytics. For providers, driving volume and safety. The software addresses inefficiencies in the surgical suite and optimization. CEO Marc Garbey and team have roots out of Methodist Hospital in Houston.
- NarrativeDx — Patient feedback management collects and understands patient insights for providers. This helps to improve patient satisfaction and increases referrals to address savings and revenue. CEO Kyle Robertson has launched pilots with UTMB Health and TIRR Memorial Hermann.
While these are only 7 of the great companies I met at TMCx, there are many others that I met through the fellowship and elsewhere. There are certain themes that I think resonate with me:
- Tackling big problems that will resonate through the value chain (e.g., even clinical trials) and through society (e.g., mental health)
- Making it measurable for investors, operations, customers, and users
- Having pilots that demonstrate traction with providers and payers
- Leveraging technologies (e.g., AI/ML) in realistic and clearly articulated use cases, not just leaving it on the buzzword level
- Defining a discrete problem to solve rather than solving everything (e.g., anti-sepsis)
- Understanding levers that impact customers (e.g., satisfaction scores via HEDIS, etc) and reducing the pain for segments of customers