Healthcare organizations have often been criticized for being slow to adapt to changes in the marketplace. A recent accelerator program spearheaded by Independence Blue Cross (IBC), Penn Medicine and DreamIt Ventures hopes to change that by backing 10 innovative healthcare startups. And while none of these startups are likely to revolutionize medicine, they do suggest that there are many entrepreneurs with promising solutions that may reduce the cost of care while maintaining its quality.
The search for startups began in December 2012 and the 10 startups chosen by the sponsors entered a four-month boot camp on April 8 to help them more fully develop their products and services.
Each startup has received a stipend of up to $50,000, access to critical healthcare-specific resources to develop and test products, work space in Philadelphia and an opportunity to validate its business model with potential customers.
Among the potentially cost-effective ventures are Medlio, a mobile app that serves as a virtual health insurance card; Grand Round Table, an application that helps clinicians pinpoint the right diagnosis for complex cases; and Stat, a web and mobile application that helps providers and payers speed up patient transport and lower costs by matching and dispatching idle transportation resources.
David S. Brooks, founder and CEO at Medlio, believes his virtual healthcare insurance card can be used "as a leverage point to solve some really big problems."
During a phone interview, he pointed out that many patients don't really know the details of their insurance plan, including deductibles and co-pays.
The Medlio app, said Brooks, offers patients the ability to fill out medical forms before walking into the doctor's office and provides up-to-date information about their insurance plan. Similarly, the app allows clinicians to estimate the cost of a patient visit before they see each patient.
The goal of Grand Round Table, according to founder and CEO Eric King, is to find the right treatment for the right patients at the right time. Its aim is to reduce the need for patients to go from doctor to doctor searching for a correct diagnosis, in some cases undergoing needless and expensive tests. While King admits there are many clinical decision support tools to facilitate cost-effective differential diagnosis, "We're focused on medical complexity," he said.
Initially the company will concentrate on patients who have multiple chronic conditions, matching the patient's electronic record against millions of other cases drawn from around the world. "The technology we have put in place is attempting to offer treatment for the whole patient," said King.
These sorts of ideas are just what IBC has been looking for.
"At IBC, we believe that innovation is the key to bringing fresh ideas into health care, and are working to transform the Philadelphia region into a national magnet for health care innovation, investment, and employment," said Daniel J. Hilferty, president and CEO of IBC in a recent statement. "We must continue pushing the envelope and providing opportunities for the brightest minds to create solutions for unmet health care needs." said Daniel J. Hilferty, president and CEO of IBC in a recent statement.
The problems in the U.S. healthcare system "are bigger than anything we can solve within our own four walls or the four walls of any organization," Mike Vennera, vice president of strategy and innovation at IBC told Healthcare Finance News. With that admission in mind, IBC in the last year has embraced the entrepreneurial community "as another avenue for game-changing ideas in healthcare that are going to help improve cost and quality in our region and add to our bottom line."