Introducing Catalyst: A blog series exploring innovation from The Hive and beyond

Following is the first of a new series highlighting notable innovations, imaginative solutions and groundbreaking ideas in health and medicine. 

We’re kicking off our Catalyst series, bringing you updates from The Hive at 2013, our debut gathering in Washington, D.C., which featured 50 starts-ups with game-changing, entrepreneurial thinking.

The Hive introduced the TEDMED community to companies like Brain Sentry, which Wall Street Journal named a “startup of the year.” The Bethesda-based company makes a helmet-mounted sensor indicating when a young athlete has received a head blow strong enough to demand medical attention. It launched its product in September to considerable attention, including the nod from WSJ; the sensor is already used by hundreds of teams nationwide.

HealthifyBlueprintA group of graduates and students from Johns Hopkins University started Healthify,  an electronic questionnaire that patients complete to help providers assess social risk factors that might impact their treatment. The tool connects patients with resources and automatically texts them to follow their progress.

“Working with patients, we discovered underlying issues like social and behavioral needs; housing problems; substances abuse; domestic abuse. But there’s one [social work] case manager for every 5,000 patients. There was no technology solution,” says Healthify CEO Manik Bhat. Bhat reports that the company recently finished the Blueprint Health accelerator program in New York and has deployed its platform with an initial set of four customers, including Montefiore Medical Center and insurer Universal American, and is raising a first round of financing.

Helping connect patients and providers over time was a theme in a number of innovations. Brad Hammonds, co-founder of SenseHealth, which helps providers monitor and support patients between appointments, reports the company has “had a really great run since TEDMED,” including a $100K grant through the New York City Economic Development Corp. to work with Montefiore Medical Center’s care management group. SenseHealth was selected to join the Startup Health Academy’s three-year accelerator program, and was one of five finalists in Merck’s “Re-imagining Solutions for Care Plan Adherence” challenge, winning a $20K prize.

How can patients stay on top of managing their own care once they leave a hospital or rehab, when they’re not in peak health? Boston-based Wellframe developed a mobile app for people with chronic disease that delivers daily to-do lists. The app also enables HIPAA compliant two-way communication among patients and care managers. The company was recently named a semi-finalist in the Merck / Heritage Provider Network Innovation Challenge.

AdhereTech's smart pill bottle.
AdhereTech’s smart pill bottle.

AdhereTech‘s smart pill bottles help monitor medication adherence. “We’re building a cell phone into the bottle,” Josh Stein, CEO of AdhereTech, explained to FastCompany. The pill bottle incorporates wireless technology, sensors that measure weight and humidity, and a long-life battery. It snagged the Healthcare Innovation World Cup in May. Stein tells TEDMED, “Our Walter Reed pilot started a few weeks ago, and our Cornell pilot is scheduled to start in January. Patients love the bottles, and preliminary data is extremely promising. We are one of 15 companies from around the world that have been invited to join the GE & StartUp Health program.”

Hive companies were eager to answer clinician needs, too. Visual DX is an app and online platform developed by two dermatologists, Art Papier and Noah Craft, comprising some 100,000 peer-reviewed medical images. Based on the information entered, VisualDx delivers a list of potential diagnoses, a series of photographs against which to match the patient’s symptoms, and recommended treatments. Papier says only recently has clinician technology usage ramped up enough to allow a product like VisualDx to take off. More than half of the medical schools in the country teach with VisualDX now, and some 1,500 hospitals and large clinics use it.

Wello invented a water wheel that helps citizens in developing nations carry more potable water, farther. The project is now operating in four states in India, scaling production to meet demand and expanding to Kenya in January, 2014, says Cynthia Koenig, Founder and CEO. Wello was also awarded a Grand Challenges Canada “Stars in Global Health” grant.

The Wello WaterWheel
The Wello WaterWheel

The program seeks breakthrough and affordable innovations that could transform the way disease is treated in the developing world.

A number of Hive companies made appearances at the recent mHealth conference in Washington, D.C. Humetrix gave a demonstration of its ICEBlueButton mobile app that provides medical records  an automated data feed from online Blue Button health records  in an emergency.

Screen Shot 2013-12-09 at 3.57.01 PMOnline publisher WebMD purchased Avado, a patient relationship management portal,  for a reported $20-30M. “Dave Chase, Avado’s co-founder and CEO, has been one of the most vocal proponents of a business case for patient engagement…getting serious about between-visit care will be pivotal in bending the cost curve by managing the health care needs of an aging, and increasingly chronically ill population,” writes Chilmark Research.

QMedic‘s wearable medical alert service launched in beta in Massachusetts in October, 2013. That same month, it won the Future of Medicine Award from the Cleveland Clinic. Featuring a panic button and 24/7 emergency call center service, the wearable device passively detects abnormal events in the home and sends real-time text alerts to caregivers. This year, the company closed two contracts with the National Institutes of Health and National Cancer Institute totaling $2.4M, and launched a three-year clinical partnership with Northwestern University Hospital and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago to build passive early detection and intervention tools for cancer patients in functional decline.

Jen McLean, head of business development for Ovuline, writes that the company has launched a pregnancy tracker, Ovia Pregnancy, that helps pregnant women track their health, providing alerts if users report symptoms that may indicate a problem. “Our app is the next step in our mission to create a health data platform that helps people track and understand their entire health and medical history,” she says.

And that’s just the first group we’re profiling; stay tuned for our next blog feature on what the Hive 50 are up to now. And what will we see at the TEDMED Hive in 2014? If you would like to apply or nominate a start-up to the next class of go-getters, click here.  The deadline for applications is January 22, 2014.  Good luck!