Silicon Valley Presents High-Tech Solutions to Healthcare Problems
In a segment called “Hacking your Health” at the Forbes Healthcare Summit last Thursday, four Silicon Valley tech companies presented on the potential of high-tech solutions to ameliorate entrenched healthcare problems.
At the 2017 Forbes Healthcare Summit, executives from startups Color, Virta Health, Honor and Collective Health gather to discuss how they apply the hallmarks of their industry — user-friendliness, big data, virtual communication — to everything from caring for elderly parents to managing your employees’ health insurance plans.
Seth Sternberg, cofounder of homecare company Honor, was inspired to found the company when he started to look into non-medical homecare options to assist his mother as she aged.
As it stands, if a person loses the ability to perform a few necessary tasks — such as cooking, bathing or getting groceries — they will no longer be able to live independently in their homes. Sternberg started to look into non-medical homecare for seniors — services that provide caretakers who help with daily activities — and found an extremely fragmented industry that has over 30,000 players but no one owning more than 0.5% of the market.
The serial entrepreneur, who cofounded web messenger Meebo before selling the app to Google in 2012, decided to start Honor. Unlike traditional homecare services that require advance booking and minimum number of hours per visit, care professionals booked through Honor’s app can show up in as little as two hours, and stay for only an hour. Some people use it for just a couple weeks — say, right after a knee surgery — while others use it to find long term, around-the-clock care. The app is easy to navigate and allows caretakers to quickly view allergies, favorite activities, medications and more, while children can see who’s coming to the house and when they arrive and depart.
Rajaie Batniji of insurance manager Collective Health was also inspired through his personal experiences, co-founding the company when, after years of talking to family and acquaintances who were unable to interpret their medical bills, co-founder Ali Diab was left with a surgery bill his insurer refused to pay.
The duo decided to start Collective Health, which provides a platform for companies that manage their own health care plans. Many large firms administer health insurance themselves instead of outsourcing the tasks to traditional insurers like Anthem or Aetna, but uses outdated tools such as spreadsheets to keep track of benefits and claims. Instead, Collective Health provides an all-in-one portal that allows companies to pull up data on their spending and peruse available medical and dental services, including new-age options like telemedicine. Employees access easy-to-read bills and benefits statements online, and get concierge support that answers questions in seconds via live chat. The platform makes it easy to track expenses and payments, and reminds employees of plan benefits that may be especially useful for them.
Genetic testing company Color also seeks to improve access to healthcare by utilizing tech to lower overhead on tasks like collecting patient data in order to provide low-cost genetic testing. By providing access to testing that can increase early-detection of cancer and other conditions, the company believes that they can increase health outcomes and lower the overall cost of illness.
Color differentiates itself by providing affordable genetic testing — a hereditary cancer test only costs $249 [traditional genetic tests can cost $5000 or more] — then giving patients personalized screening guidelines and free genetic counselors. The approach allows patients to turn results into actionable insights, whether it be more frequent mammograms or informing family members of potential risks. “If you move detection of cancer just one stage earlier, survival rates go up by 50%, and actual cost of treatment drops by 30-50%,” says [C.O.O. Tony] Wang
Virta Health seeks to provide a tech-based solution for nutrition-based diabetes therapy. By providing continued feedback and support, the platform has shown success in treatments patients with type II diabetes.
Founded in 2014 by Sami Inkinen, the company treats diabetes by managing carbohydrate intake of patients, instead of relying on medication. Patients can get their treatment plans and talk to doctors remotely, and so far, the results have been encouraging. Clinical trials by Virta shows that after just 10 weeks, 56% of the patients’ blood sugar level drops below the diabetes threshold, while 87% have stopped or reduced using insulin.