This is the fourth in a series exploring the telehealth sector and the Triangle-based companies behind its rise as a complement to traditional healthcare delivery. Check out previous articles and videos here.
While different in their expertise, scope and focus, North Carolina’s telehealth startups share a similar motivation. As Ed Barber, co-founder and CEO of Pattern Health puts it, “We (Pattern Health) can have an important impact on people’s lives (…) things we do here can help people be healthier.”
And we’ve explored North Carolina and the Triangle’s potential to lead the sector.
But like in many sectors, the true thought leaders and game changers are the innovators themselves.
Should North Carolina become a leader in this sector, it’s likely because of the companies, medical professionals and organizations supporting them. They’re the ones on the front lines, navigating the complex healthcare system as well as patient needs. They have the expertise to develop the applications and technology consumers and healthcare providers need to deliver healthcare services virtually.
The Triangle boasts a robust set of telehealth and digital health startups focused on a variety of areas of the healthcare industry. From physical therapy to emergency care, the Triangle’s telehealth companies help streamline healthcare for both patients and healthcare providers.
For now, companies focused on the video, mobile and remote patient monitoring facets of telehealth dominate the region while no companies specialized in store-and-forward (ex. doctors sending x-rays virtually to doctors) technologies could be found.
As follows is a list, albeit not comprehensive, of the telehealth companies to keep tabs on in coming months and years. In addition to these, a few local digital health companies that focus on simplifying healthcare through technology solutions are included.
The list rounds out with regional organizations that help telehealth and digital health companies grow and scale.
Leadership: Tim Horan, COO, Dov Cohn, SVP of Products
Funding: Raised $4 million Series A round in 2014 from Mosaic Health Solutions
This startup combines video, mobile health and remote patient monitoring into one signature product—Touchcare, an all inclusive telemedicine platform designed to help healthcare organizations conduct virtual health visits with patients. A provider can schedule appointments, set fees, conduct live video appointments and bill patients all from a mobile app. And patients can interact with doctors from their phones wherever they are. Only three years old, the startup already counts the urgent care chain, FastMed, and UNC-Chapel Hill Health Care’s Heart and Vascular practice as customers.
Co-Founders: Wake Emergency Physicians, P.A. (WEPPA)
Funding: No reported capital raised to date
The company focused on delivering emergency healthcare services via a secure, live video platform has had quite a year. Since we first profiled it in April, RelyMD has added 20 corporate clients (totaling 50 now), a partnership with a third hospital, Onslow Memorial, and is planning for future partnerships with nursing communities.
Remote Patient Monitoring focused Startups
Founded: 2014 Location: Durham
Founders: Vikram Sehuraman, Mahek Shah
Funding: No reported capital raised to date
This recent Groundwork Labs alum was co-founded by two UNC-Chapel Hill students to help physical therapists (PTs) monitor and motivate patients as they complete their prescribed at-home exercises. Through the platform and mobile app, PTs can design and assign customized therapy routines, track their usage and progress, and complete documentation. The app reminds the patients when to complete their exercises, communicate directly with the PT and access the exercises 24-7. The app isn’t available for download yet—it’s still in beta mode—but the team is receiving direction from Dan Ariely and the team at Duke’s Center for Advanced Hindsight as a member of the 2016-2017 Startup Lab cohort.
Founders: Steven LeBoeuf, Jesse Tucker, Michael Aumer
Funding: $25.4 million in four rounds, $11 million in 2016 Series D
Monitoring patients remotely via mobile apps or data aggregation can only help doctors to a certain degree. Past that point, sensors are needed to help better understand the patient’s true health status. Valencell designs and produces the sensors embedded in 17 products from wearables to wireless earbuds. This year, the company tripled its growth for the third consecutive year, and raised a $11 million Series D round in March. Below is a picture of the lab inside its Raleigh offices.
Mobile Health (M Health) focused Startups
Founders: Ed Barber, Ed Holzwarth, and Dr. Zubin Eapen of Duke University
Funding: No reported capital raised to date
Pattern Health’s co-founder and CEO Ed Barber helped some of the region’s most renowned tech companies—Motricity, Appia, Bandwidth, Fidelity Investments and Touchcare LL—succeed. Simultaneously, his lifelong and personal interest in healthcare grew—he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age five. So it’s not surprising that in 2013 Barber began applying his business and entrepreneurial expertise to solve the pain points he encountered in the healthcare sector.
The company has three products—HeartStar, GlucoStar and HealthStar—the first two are apps patients can use to manage and monitor glucose levels and blood pressure (respectively).
HealthStar is a remote patient monitoring platform designed for healthcare providers. Using behavioral economic principles from Dan Ariely’s Center for Advanced Hindsight (a partner to the startup), the platform allows providers to create personalized programs to track and manage their patients’ health remotely through an app. The plans adapt to the users preferences and behavior to motivate the patient to achieve their goals. And providers receive data on the back end that help them monitor their patients’ chronic conditions or other health concerns.
Founder: Dan Pollard
Funding: $115K in seed funding in 2011 (and debt financing later)
Founded in 2010, myDrugCosts is an app that helps employees of self-insured companies become “smarter consumers” of prescription drugs. Consumers can use the app to search for prescription drugs, see comparative prices from different places and learn about rewards and discounts. It syncs with the customer’s health plan and shows ways to save money when purchasing the drugs.
Founders: Ravi Ada, David Brooks, Lori Mehen
Funding: $250k in 2013 seed round
Medlio is an app through which patients can check in for their medical appointment, create and share medical data with their provider, see the costs for the visit up front, and submit payment. This past September, this startup won Allscripts’ patient engagement challenge and previously participated in several accelerators including Healthbox, MassChallenge and DreamIt Health. The app will be released in 2017.
Founders: Jared Pelo, Christopher McGuire
Funding: $300k in Dec 2014 Seed
iScribes provides orthopedic physicians with virtual medical scribes to complete notes and medical documentation on each patient the physician interacts with. The solution combines a HIPAA compliant mobile app that records sessions with patients with live scribes located off-site who type the notes and enter information into the electronic health records for the physicians and medical professionals. It frees up time for the doctors and allows them to focus on the patient during a doctor visit. The company has scaled rapidly, growing its customer base by 300% in 2016 and adding so many new staff members the team had to move from American Underground to a larger space.
Founders: Malcolm Benitz and Michael Rosenberg
Funding: $475,000 including $25K from the Raleigh Innovators Program
Medicom provides patients, radiologists and doctors a big convenience—it eliminates the need for X-rays, MRIs and other images to be burned on CDs and then transported between doctor’s offices. Using a patent-pending technology, Medicom allows these files to be transferred in real time by radiologists to doctors, and without storing the files on its own servers. Benitz started the company as a senior at NC State University and completed the Raleigh Innovators Program in late 2015, which helped propel him into his industry and grow organically to customers around the nation and a staff of eight (soon to be 12) in downtown Raleigh.
Other Digital Health Startups and Companies to Know
Founders: Joanne Rohde, John Casey, Mark Ragusa
Funding: $6.15 million in two rounds ($780k in debt financing is most recent)
Axial Exchange’s platform connects a patients healthcare providers and the data they input into electronic health records to each other. In addition to fostering collaboration between the different doctors and specialists who care for different aspects of a patient’s health, the platform allows the patient to manage their own health in between visits. The company acquired a similar technology from the Mayo Clinic, mRemedy, in 2012 and counts WakeMed and the Atlantic Health System as customers.
NC Leadership: Steve Malik, Founder and Executive Chairman of the Board; Kim Labow, CEO
Funding: $3 million in 2015
Medfusion’s products don’t fall into any of the telehealth categories, but this 20-year-old company is an established player in the Triangle’s healthtech community.The company’s path is non-traditional. The patient solutions portal provider was acquired by Intuit in 2011. But in 2015, founder Steve Malik raised $3 million from Bull City Venture Partners and Hatteras Venture Partners to buy back the company from Intuit. Since then, they’ve hired a new CEO, Kim Labow, and now boast over 100 employees, 13 million users and clients in all 50 US states.
Founders: Ryan Beckland (pictured below), Drew Schiller
Funding: $18.36 million in five rounds ($12.5 million in 2015 Series B is most recent)
This well-funded startup’s digital health platform acts as the connection between the many sources of a patient’s clinical and wellness data and the physicians or medical professionals. It aggregates and organizes data from over 375 sources—wearables, apps and sensors for example— into one platform that healthcare organizations can use to manage the care of their clients. Ever growing, the company racked up impressive recognitions in 2016 like the “Visionary Innovation Leadership Award” from Frost and Sullivan and was named one of the “50 Most Promising Healthcare Solution Providers of 2016” by CIOReview.
Founders: Michelle Harper, Jana Barile
Funding: $1.16 million in two 2016 seed rounds Savii Care is a software platform designed to simplify care for home healthcare agencies (think physical therapists, hospice and home nurses) and employees. The software automates and coordinates the paperwork for the providers and the patients. With funding from Cary’s Cofounders Capital and RTP Capital, the SoarTriangle and Citrix Innovators Program graduate and NC IDEA grant recipient, has tapped into the region’s entrepreneurial network to help build and scale the company.
Location: Chapel Hill
Founders: Stephen Dean, Javed Mostafa, Oakkar Oakkar, Jimmy Kaanapu
Funding: $2.59 million in 2014 Series A
This web-based triage solution helps increase nurses’ ability to efficiently triage patients as they call their doctor, hospital, or healthcare hotline by streamlining all facets of patient intake and discharge.
Founders: Nate O’Keefe, Judy Conaway
Funding: $275,000, Spring 2016 NC IDEA grant winner and investment from The Launch Place
This startup’s tool is educational information packaged in digital decision tools. The tools help guide seniors and their caregivers through the tough decisions necessary to address as loved ones age.
Founders: Jake Stauch
Funding: Undisclosed sum raised in 2014
This Duke-born startup helps children with ADHD manage their symptoms with specially designed games that help practice focus, calmness, and self control.
Founders: Melissa DeRosier
Funding: $165k in 2015 seed round
Although Personalized Learning Games falls outside the typical digital health scope, it’s games designed to assist children advance their social and emotional learning (SEL) skills address an important but often overlooked area of healthcare–mental health.
Founded: 2013 Location: Wake Forest
Founders: Rich Brancaccio
Funding: $300k in 2016 Seed round and ~$75,000 in prior grants
In 2015, Fokus Labs released the Revibe, an anti-distraction wearable device designed to keep ADHD children on task with gentle vibrating reminders and in 2016 the startup secured a seed round to help scale production.
Healthcare Innovation and Support Organizations
DIHI “promotes innovation in health and healthcare through high-impact innovation pilots, leadership development, and cultivation of a community of entrepreneurship.” The group, led by Bill Fulkerson, MD, Suresh Balu and Will ElLaissi “catalyze innovations” within the university and health system through their in-house innovation incubator. The team works with Duke faculty and physicians on projects like making sense of big data from wearables and other medical devices to enhance care.
Housed within UNC Rex Healthcare, this group manages a unique venture fund created by Rex Healthcare’s investment portfolio as a way to diversify and bring to life technologies that strategically complement the hospital system’s work. Anita Watkins and Bobby Helmedag operate the fund and manage the nine portfolio companies. The group hasn’t invested in a telehealth company, as an opportunity has yet to arise, but has invested in several digital health startups like Awarepoint, Veran Medical, and Baebies.
The organization that helped spearhead the digital health innovation sprint hosted at American Underground is funded by the UNC School of Medicine and charged to foster innovation within the hospital system’s healthcare delivery. In addition to the digital health sprint, the group offers pilot awards to internal innovators and partners with outside groups like Blue Cross Blue Shield on projects and pilots. Past projects include the study of whether mobile apps can assist those suffering from postpartum, the development of predictive models to forecast health for those with diabetes, and a study to measure the impact of having a cross-specialist team of doctors housed in one practice to provide more holistic care to patients.
Without Blue Door, the UNC-hosted digital health innovation sprint may not have happened. Founded in 2016 by Michael Levy and Leyan Phillips, Blue Door is an LLC that specializes in catalyzing innovation in digital health through focused, strategic collaborations and human centered design. The digital innovation sprint this organization facilitated for UNC is the first of many planned in the near future. With decades of experience in the healthcare sector and entrepreneurship, this group is uniquely positioned to advise and assist digital healthcare-focused startups succeed.
Medical Innovators Collaborative (MEDIC)
Housed at the Frontier, MEDIC is a UNC-Chapel Hill and NCSU collaboration designed to spark creative partnerships between doctors, students, faculty and medical tech entrepreneurs. As we reported in August, its primary purpose is to “help ideas become real products and fundable businesses.”