Almost everyone has heard of names like Jawbone, FitBit, MyFitnessPal, and RunKeeper. But health startups go far beyond the fitness-tracking apps and devices that have become household names. Developers and entrepreneurs are building apps, wearables, devices, software, and platforms that are poised to do great things in 2015 and change the way we manage and regard health and medicine. We want to be your guide to the most exciting health and medical startups you haven’t yet heard of — but will likely hear great things about in the future.
As VentureBeat reports, digital health companies received more than $4.1 billion in venture funding in 2014, which made last year a record-breaker, with more funding than the previous three years combined. The future of health-care tech includes wearables that monitor a patient’s vitals, apps that facilitate better care, systems that help physicians build better relationships with patients, and innovations that enable better research and more efficient clinical trials.
But building apps and technology for health care comes with many challenges on top of what developers and entrepreneurs must normally face. To succeed, they need to create software, tools, and other technology that simplify health-care providers’ workflows, enable providers to diagnose and treat patients more cost effectively, and produce better clinical results.
Many companies are striving toward exactly those goals. Some are building tools for consumers, while others are creating platforms and software for health-care providers; still others are developing tools that enable more developers to innovate in digital health. Read on for your cheat sheet to the underrated health startups to watch in the exciting year ahead.
Enabling better medical research and smarter uses of data
The explosion in the amount of data available reaches almost every corner of our daily lives, and our health is no exception. Data is coming into prominence in the field of medical research, where startups make possible new options like genetic testing, personalized medical research, and more efficient clinical trials. Health-care providers can not only collect more data about their patients but can now leverage that data into better insights into an individual’s health or disease, or use the data to improve the quality of care and the clinical decisions made.
1. MetaMed connects patients with serious medical conditions with the world’s best researchers to conduct personalized medical research. An organized effort by a team of researchers finds all of the information relevant to the individual based on his or her medical history, genetics, situation, and values with concise, unbiased reports.
2. Flatiron provides the first cloud-based data platform for the oncology industry. Flatiron’s OncologyCloud platform aggregates clinical and financial data in real time. The data platform provides a comprehensive view of a patient’s experience and helps organizations leverage their data with a platform designed specifically for oncology.
3. Ginger.io provides an app that uses sensor data collected through smartphones and self-reported information to improve mental health care and identify people who may need help. The platform is currently being used for patient support at partnering institutions and research into conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, and chronic pain.
4. Recombine is a clinical genome testing company that enables both patients and providers to make informed decisions based on the results of genetic testing. The startup aims to improve patient outcomes with personalized genetic testing and comprehensive genetic counseling.
5. Transcriptic provides researchers with a remote, on-demand robotic life science research lab powered by advanced robotic automation. Users can work in the lab through Transcriptic’s secure Web interface, or write their own code to connect directly with its lab systems.
6. Syapse helps health-care providers, laboratories, and registries use molecular profiling and clinical data to diagnose and treat patients. Using molecular profiling techniques like genome sequencing, Syapse enables providers to practice “precision medicine,” access genomic knowledge, and provide care based on an evolving knowledge base.
7. GoBalto offers software to help make running clinical trials faster and easier. The software accelerates the startup of a study, helps to stay on top of documents, collaborate and exchange documents in real time, get insight into the status of documents and submissions, and keeps everyone informed on the study status.
Finding a doctor or getting a diagnosis
The first step in accessing health care is often locating a doctor who can offer a consultation, diagnosis, and treatment. Entrepreneurs are working to make health care more accessible with a range of options, including virtual consultations with doctors, online platforms to find and book a physician, and even tools that improve the health plans that companies offer their employees.
8. Medicast enables users to request a house call from a doctor on demand. A doctor will go to the user’s home, office, or hotel within two hours and spend a minimum of 30 minutes with the patient. All doctors are screened and certified, and the service is currently available in Miami, Los Angeles, and San Diego.
9. Zipnosis provides a desktop and mobile platform for users to get a diagnosis and treatment for minor health problems. The 24/7 service enables users to get a diagnosis between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. seven days a week. An automated online “interview” costs just $25 — payable by a credit card or health savings card — and any prescriptions are sent instantly.
10. Sherpaa provides smarter company health care with immediate access to doctors via virtual consultations, resulting in quicker treatment. Sherpaa enables employees to make fewer office visits and pay fewer out-of-pocket costs. Companies benefit from lower costs, higher average employee usage, and lower year-over-year premium increases.
11. Better Doctor helps users find and book a doctor through its Web or mobile app. Users can look for the top primary care doctors or top doctors in a given specialty — such as dentists, eye doctors, OBGYNs, pediatricians, dermatologists, allergists, cardiologists, geneticists, and more — in their area.
12. Breakthrough, recently acquired by MDLIVE, provides online mental health care. The site helps users find the right therapist from among its community of in-state licensed and screened therapists, and offers patients the benefits not only of convenience but of privacy and cost savings.
13. Neurotrack is developing technology to diagnose the onset of Alzheimer’s disease three to six years before the first symptoms occur. Its computer-based visual cognitive tests act as a predictive tool based on behavioral biomarkers, and Neurotrack’s analysis can uncover perturbations in the hippocampus years before behavioral symptoms appear.
Improving treatments and rehabilitation
A wide variety of technology-enabled tools and software are aimed at improving the treatments and rehab that patients undergo. Some gamify the process of physical therapy, others make it easier for patients to manage the medications they need to take, and others help to reduce the risk of chronic disease among at-risk patients before symptoms start.
14. Mira provides a software program that uses medically approved games to accelerate rehab for patients recovering from an injury or surgery. The system transforms existing physical therapy exercises into video games and uses a sensor to track and assess patient compliance.
15. PillPack is a full-service pharmacy that simplifies the process of managing medications. The patient’s medications come in individual packs, organized by the date and time of date they should be taken. They are automatically delivered every two weeks. PillPack’s pharmacists contact the patient’s doctors and insurance to manage his or her refills.
16. Proteus Digital Health makes an ingestible biomedical sensor which, paired with a patch and a smartphone, relays the body’s physiological responses and behaviors. Proteus’s platform enables the development of products to capture and analyze physiological and behavioral data for patient monitoring, wellness, fitness tools, clinical trials, and more.
17. Abiogenix provides the uBox, a smart pillbox that reminds users to take their medications. The device is portable, flexible, can keep family or a doctor informed, and records what medications users take in order to monitor how the user is doing. When it’s time to take a medicine, the box will first flash, then beep, then text the user.
18. Omada Health is pioneering “digital therapeutics” to deliver clinically-validated behavioral medicine that tackles chronic disease. Its programs help people change the habits that put them at risk for serious but preventable diseases, and collaborates with both employers and health plans to focus on high-risk populations.
Managing health and chronic conditions or diseases
Once a doctor makes a diagnosis or a consumer decides that he or she wants to improve his or her health, technology-enabled tools can help manage the path toward better health or facilitate more efficient management of a chronic condition. Some tools help health-care providers stay connected with their patients, while others help users make better day-to-day decisions about their health. Still others enable users to track their health and fitness over time or keep an informed eye on their symptoms.
19. Propeller Health helps manage asthma and COPD. The Propeller inhaler sensor and app track the patient’s medication use, and the app gives personalized feedback and education on ways to improve on the user’s asthma control of COPD status. Propeller also enables physicians to monitor symptoms and determine when a change in therapy is needed.
20. TidePool develops open-source apps that reduce the burden of managing type 1 diabetes. Blip, which will act as a hub for a patient’s diabetes data, is in a pilot study at UCSF. Nutshell, which uses data to enable smarter food choices and better bolusing decisions, is in a closed usability trial with a pilot study coming soon.
21. Neumitra is developing technology to measure and manage brain health. Its biosensing watches help monitor the autonomic nervous system, and its algorithms use physiological and statistical models to track acute and chronic stress. Its apps generate insights by contextualizing watch data with events, locations, and relaxation tools.
22. Rip Road enables health-care providers and health plans to engage patients on their mobile devices, helping them become more educated with personalized programs that enable them to actively manage their own health. Rip Road helps providers improve patient outcomes, encourage adherence, and help improve patient behavior.
23. Kurbo provides a research-backed program to enable children ages 8 to 18 develop healthier habits, maintain a healthy weight, and improve their self esteem. Kurbo’s program is designed specifically for children and incorporates a traffic light system to aid food choices, an app that helps track food and exercise, and health coaches for support.
24. Misfit Wearables creates fitness and sleep-tracking wearable devices — the Shine fitness and sleep monitor, the Flash fitness and sleep monitor, the Beddit sleep monitor, and a companion app that enables users to track food, activity, sleep, and weight. Users work toward goals and share with friends.
25. PicnicHealth helps users to manage their health records. PicnicHealth collects and updates users’ records and keeps doctors informed and updated. When users sign up, Picnic collects and digitizes all existing records, and continues to update them. The app shows health information with clickable timelines and graphics, and stores medical images.
26. Wellframe uses builds systems to “re-engineer” patient care. Using a platform that integrates with existing systems, Wellframe improves the efficiency of care management, converts care protocols into mobile checklists for patients, enables patients and providers to stay connected, and gives providers real-time alerts using predictive algorithms.
27. SkinVision is an app that enables users to check and track their moles over time in order to detect and prevent skin cancer. With the app, users can take a photo of a mole and get a recommendation from SkinVision — to keep tracking at an easy pace, to keep tracking but check more frequently, or to go to a doctor. The app also offers UV exposure advice.
Behind the scenes for developers
One of the most underrated categories of all health and medical startups is the companies who make it possible for many others to build technology poised to change how we regard health and health care by making it easier for developers to build apps compliant with government regulations about handling sensitive medical data.
As VentureBeat recently reported, the Office of Civil Rights acknowledged that it could have done a better job of publicizing what it wanted to see in the privacy controls of health devices and apps, and has pledged to be more active in providing guidelines. Developers creating health-care apps want to build appropriate privacy controls and data-handling policies, but they currently don’t get the guidance they need to create apps that comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), especially because the developer guidelines that are provided are outdated.
In the meantime, several startups are simplifying the process of building HIPAA compliant apps for developers.
28. TrueVault offers a secure API to enable developers to store and handle health data, and it handles all of the technical requirements mandated by HIPAA. TrueVault says that integration takes days and typically saves months of development time for software, mobile apps, Web apps, and wearable devices.
29. Accountable provides compliance management software with a secure, cloud-based platform. Accountable helps startups identify potential risks and vulnerabilities within their company, manage agreements with partnering organizations, manage compliance policies and procedures, and train employees on HIPAA compliance.
30. Aptible is an application deployment platform that automates HIPAA compliance for Web and mobile technology. Startups using Aptible run the applications and databases of their choice and Aptible manages servers, security, encryption, etc. Aptible generates documentation, audit logs, and other materials needed to demonstrate compliance.