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One of my favorite and first digital health companies I came to know is Proteus Digital Health. When I discovered what they were working on some time ago, I was quickly both seduced and awestruck. “No way…a smart pill?...this has to be made up” was probably my first thought – like the fake Pied Piper landing page for the HBO series Silicon Valley – but unbelievably, the company was real, with FDA plus European Commission approval and all. And my mind was blown.I’ve spent the bulk of my career in healthcare (including healthcare services and medical devices) and love it for many reasons. But discovering Proteus was an aHA! that really got me thinking deeper about the power and possibility of health + technology and helped inspire me to expand my focus to startups in the digital health space. To this day, when someone asks me “what is digital health?”, I generally describe it by way of an example and frequently mention Proteus as that example. It normally is received with both ooouus and ahhhhs. Anyway, given my *arms-length crush, I was happy when Proteus recently gained mass “darling status” after completing the last piece of a $172M fundraising round at the end of July. This makes them one of the most well-funded private digital health companies out there at the moment and adds them to the speculative short-list of “who will be next to IPO in digital health?” No doubt very exciting for them...but I'm sure they'd be the first to say their work has just begun as they help to move digital medicine to the mainstream. *Note: I have no affiliation with the companyOk, ok, so what makes Proteus Digital Health so cool? What do they actually do?To first categorize, they are a digital medical device and remote care management company - with overlap in the internet of things sector - and they produce a 'digital [medicine] feedback system'. This is comprised of a tiny organic ingestible sensor that people swallow with (or in) their medication. This sensor contains trace amounts of copper and magnesium that react and send a wireless signal to a disposable battery powered patch (which they also produce) which sticks to one's abdomen. This patch reports data wirelessly to the cloud and provides information on if/when medications have been taken and also aggregates rest and activity patterns. Pretty cool, eh? It's the stuff out of science fiction - understanding your body from the inside out! There is a video on their website which summarizes this process nicely as well if you are more of a visual person.Overall, Proteus empowers caregivers to ensure patients are both taking medication and taking it properly. Medication non-adherence can lead to readmissions and chronic illness which both are key drivers of increased healthcare costs. Proteus' simple value proposition is that their products reduce the incidence of non-adherence, which ultimately saves healthcare providers and insurers LOTS OF MONEY. Cha-ching! Oh, and let's not forget it helps patients live healthier, happier lives too.The whole concept is quite brilliant in my opinion - anything that can promote quality outcomes and help to reduce costs in the soaring cost environment that is healthcare is a relatively frictionless sell (Note: Proteus is currently in private beta with a handful of US health systems and working with some prominent pharmaceuticals as well). A large volume of other digital health startups are attacking the US high cost / low quality healthcare epidemic from different angles. A few examples being: improving communication and clinical workflow, adopting teleHealth technologies and leveraging electronic health records.Thanks Proteus for the personal inspiration - onward and [email protected] - For all the deep clinical information you can handle on their ingestible sensor, check out this paper.Read More
Recently there has been a lot of media attention around the newest class of startups picked to participate in the New York Digital Health Accelerator’s (NYDHA) second class (announced July 22 2014). Before unraveling this, let’s first set the scene. 1) Digital Health is off to a record breaking start in 2014 with VC investment pouring in at a breakneck pace – $2.3B through June 30th – and 2) additionally, there has been a proliferation of Digital Health specific accelerator and incubator programs over the past few years – the stars being Rock Health and Blueprint Health (see expanded list of accelerators @ VentureScanner). It is safe to say there are A LOT of eyes on Digital Health and the ground for health tech entrepreneurs is the more fertile than ever. Resources are abundant.
This week I came across a very thought-provoking report recently released by the Vitality Institute that provides recommendations on the promotion of health and prevention of chronic disease for working-age Americans. There is a lot of insightful detail (I highly recommend having an extended peek), but in sum, the Commission developed evidence empirically linking the health of the US’ workforce to the long-term competitiveness of the US economy – the proposition: unhealthy workforce = unhealthy economy. Said another way, lower worker productivity and soaring US healthcare costs ($2.7T or 17.7% of US GDP in 2011 – the below graphic provides perspective on magnitude) impede innovation and reduce overall investment in education and R&D.
With the changing legislative and regulatory landscape in the US over the past many years, there has been a lot of talk around the emergence of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs - defined below) and the greater role they will play in the future. Hopes are high that these organizations can help to right some of the compounded wrongs in the industry. First things first, I think it is useful for us all to gain some greater clarity behind what an ACO is – a term that is still relatively new to most of us, having first been coined in 2006.
It’s no surprise - advances in health care and medical technology are extending life expectancies worldwide. Humans are simply living longer, and although this is generally good news for human kind, it increases macro pressure on health care systems and social programs. In challenge lies opportunity – enter digital health - but we’ll table that for now.
I currently am tracking 509 Digital Health companies across 21 categories, with combined funding of $7.05B. Digital Health is an extensive and evolving term, but simply stated, it is the application of digital technologies to enhance both personal health and the delivery of healthcare. These companies all focus on using emerging technologies to deploy solutions across the entire health ecosystem - from individual consumer to healthcare provider to employer to large hospital system, from biometric sensors to genomics to mobile connectivity to cloud computing.
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