Zeel launched in early 2012 to bring the ZocDoc model to alternative healthcare providers. In other words, just as ZocDoc makes it easy to search for doctors based on specialty, proximity and insurance coverage and book appointments directly, Zeel aimed to do the same for the other half of the market: From massage therapists and personal trainers to nutritionists and acupuncturists.
Since then, Zeel has gone on to onboard thousands of wellness providers and book thousands of appointments for a wide range of practitioners. However, during the past 18 months, one vertical in particular emerged as the most active and the most significant source of traffic: Massage. The team discovered, co-founder Samer Hamadeh tells us, that about half of its appointment requests were for massage, many in-home and that over 55 percent of those requests were for same-day service.
Because the industry isn’t set up to capitalize on same-day requests, the co-founder says, the startup decided to abandon the horizontal approach and refocus its efforts on massage, specifically of the on-demand and in-home variety. Zeel soft-launched its on-demand massage service in December, but eager to become a mobile-first product in the same way Uber provides on-demand car services, Zeel began developing iPhone and Android apps.
Today, Zeel is officially announcing its new, massage-focused product and releasing its iOS app (with Android to follow next month), allowing anyone and everyone to book same-day, in-home massage appointments while on-the-go. Through its app, Zeel now enables users to select a 60 or 90-minute massage, specify whether they prefer a male or female massage therapist, decide between Swedish and deep tissue massage, and indicate their location and preferred appointment time or time window. When they hit “Book now,” the request goes out to nearby, available therapists one at a time, much like requests to Uber drivers, until one of the Zeel therapists accepts the request.
Hamadeh says that the over-arching motive behind its new product is to, simply put, make massage accessible to everyone. Furthermore, it aims to solve the hassle around booking a massage — having to call around and schedule in advance, for example. The startup has recruited over 100 licensed and vetted massage therapists who are available on-demand and will confirm appointments and be on their way within minutes of booking your appointment.
Zeel is also attempting to take some of the hassle out of the process by offering a set price (including tax and tip), which is charged directly to users’ credit cards. And, because in-home massage inherently has the potential for all kinds of creepiness, the co-founder assures us that all of its therapists are vetted (in person), licensed, certified, insured and own their own portable massage tables.
As to why Zeel decided to limit its potential market by focusing on massage, rather than the alternative? Hamadeh hopes that by focusing on one vertical and doing it really well Zeel will be able to build a more meaningful (and useful) service than trying to be everything to everyone. In turn, he tells us that there are currently over 290,000 licensed massage therapists in the U.S., 73 percent of whom are solo practitioners. Furthermore, 41 million Americans receive at least one massage each year, while the average customer books six appointments per year.
By standardizing the price and removing the friction around booking and payments, Zeel hopes to be able to increase the frequency with which we indulge ourselves in a little massage. Particularly because, in truth, 44 percent of massage appointments are booked for medical and health reasons, many of which are ongoing. Hamadeh says, in its experience thus far, Zeel has found that 55 percent of in-home requests are same-day, but only 25 to 35 percent of those are actually booked. As a result, that market opportunity could be double or triple the amount of current massages.
The other issue is that, when most people decide to book a massage, they want to be lying on the table within a few hours of booking. The reality is, the co-founder says, that appointments booked more than a day in advance on the old Zeel system tended to get cancelled or changed. And, on the therapist’s side, 30 to 40 percent of their day is free, and the average therapist has to work two or three jobs and doesn’t have health insurance — so even if an appointment means traveling far (and is inconvenient) most therapists will take it anyway.
By using the Uber model, Zeel is able to help therapists book more appointments and organize their day in a way that doesn’t require them to travel 50 miles to an appointment, while removing the hassle of phone calls, and back and forths over SMS with customers.
Of course, Zeel is hardly the only place or service to offer massage. There are a slew of options for people looking for a massage therapy solution, whether it be spas, health clubs, gyms and so on. There are in-home options, too, as people can turn to sites like Thumbtack and Craigslist to look for therapists. The problem is that most spas don’t offer on-demand, let alone in-home massage, and the marketplaces that do offer in-home service can be pretty sketchy or require you to submit a request to a therapist and hope he or she calls you at some point.
On the customer side, it’s hard to verify that the person about to come to your apartment isn’t a serial killer, but Hamadeh assures us that his vetting process is solid and that all of Zeel’s therapists have stellar educational credentials, current state licenses, and excellent prior and current employment.
Just as important, he says, is that the same safety issue applies for therapists, too. In response, when customers sign up for Zeel, the startup asks users to send a copy of their driver’s license and uses a “major identity verification agency” to confirm their legal name, birthday, location, legal home address and so on.
If things don’t check out, no massage for you. Only verified customers can book appointments, the co-founder tells us, in an attempt to provide extra security measures for therapists. And, on the customer side, Zeel vets and curates its roster of therapists itself with the goal of decreasing the creepiness factor on both sides of the equation.
Zeel is initially only available in the New York City area, where the base price of a massage in Manhattan will costs $130 (and $120 in the outer boroughs) before tax and tip. While this seems high, Hamadeh says that it prices Zeel’s service favorably compared to spas like Equinox, Bliss, Four Seasons, Exhale as well as other in-home solutions in NYC. In fact, the team debated launching in New York first because of the pricing factor (everything is more expensive in the Big Apple). But, the co-founder said that the price of a Zeel massage in Manhattan will likely be the most expensive in the country.
To that point, the startup plans to launch in a new city each quarter and will be coming to California in the fall. For readers in NYC looking to test out the new service, using the code “TECHCRUNCH” will get you a $25 discount on your first appointment.
Zeel.com has raised $1.5 million in outside capital to date from a number of investors, including Prolog Ventures, a life sciences and healthcare venture firm, former Midway Games chairman and LogMeIn board member Ken Cron, long-time healthcare investor Esther Dyson, Lightspeed Venture Partners’ Ravi Mhatre and former Facebook director of monetization and current CRO at Pinterest, Tim Kendall, among others.
The next time your doctor says, “I have an app for that,” try not to punch them in their stethoscope. Why? Because they just might be using AliveCor. For those unfamiliar, the San Francisco-based company is the maker of a low-cost, clinical-grade mobile heart monitor (fondly known as an electrocardiogram, or ECG, monitor) that fits over the back of your iPhone.
This is not the first we’ve heard of nifty mobile ECGs or heart monitors. (See our coverage of Mio, Cardiio and SmartHeart, for example.) AliveCor has been in development since 2008, but today it became part of an important step forward for mobile health (and heart health), as it received FDA approval — or 510(k) clearance — for its mobile heart monitor.
FDA approval is not something that comes easily, or happens quickly, and for that reason many startups avoid constructing (or pitching) their apps, services or software as “medical” devices, that prescribe advice or treatment and rather go for utility as a general health or wellness service. But, founders Dr. David Albert, and co-founders Bruce Satchwell and Kim Barnett said recently that their “aspirations are significant” and that they’re out “to make a difference,” and FDA clearance was the first step. (In fact, the founders were granted U.S. Patent No. 8,301,232 for the device and technology. An auspicious one-two punch for AliveCor.)
With FDA Class II clearance under its belt, AliveCor is now selling its ECG monitor on its website for $199. To receive one, doctors need to input the necessary information (and ID numbers) to prove that they’re in fact registered physicians and, within the next few months, AliveCor will begin more aggressively reaching out to doctors to encourage them to prescribe the monitor to their patients, likely at a lower price (around $99), according to MobiHealthNews. If the company receives its next order of 510(k) clearance from the FDA, it will then begin selling its device over the counter in drug stores and the like.
As to how it works: AliveCor’s ECG monitor comes with two electrodes embedded in casing that can be snapped onto the back of an iPhone 4 and 4S. The device is then launched via the startup’s corresponding iPhone apps, which allow patients to take ECG readings by either placing the sensors directly over their chest or on their fingers.
Once the reading is taken, the ECG data is transmitted wirelessly to the company’s cloud service from the heart monitor through the company’s proprietary communication protocol, which requires no pairing between the iPhone and the device. This allows patients to store their readings in AliveCor’s secure cloud database, where they can be accessed for later analysis, or shared and printed via its website.
Next up, the company wants to create a more universal casing that is compatible with the different generations of the iPhone, as well as with Android devices. In addition, according to MobiHealthNews, AliveCor also plans to launch a “pad version” of its heart monitor, which will allow patients to get ECG readings by placing the palm of their hand on the device. This could then be implemented in doctor’s offices or health kiosks. All of these will require additional FDA approval, so today’s clearance was just the first step in an on-going process that will take time.
But it’s getting easier to imagine a time when, a year or two from now, AliveCor (or a device like it) will be compatible with all of the major mobile form factors, available over the counter in major drug store chains and in doctor’s offices. While we all get plenty of mileage (and enjoyment) from the advances mobile technology has allowed in photo-sharing, social networking and finding restaurants, what mobile tech can do for health can be truly life-changing — and life-saving.
Soon, we’ll be able to detect heart abnormalities before they reach a critical point and, using data collected from our always-in-pocket devices, advance our understanding of correlations between behavior and risk, and so on. Technology still has most of its utility or application in what happens after a medical event or trauma, but the more it moves towards prevention, the more it can make a real difference.
Hey designers! You could build another app. Or you could save some lives by entering the White House’s Health Design Challenge to give the electronic medical record a much-needed redesign. Right now the thing’s an abomination — all courier font, hard to read. If you can do better, you could win $25K and get your design rolled out to 6 million VA patients and open sourced for all the world’s doctors.
The Health Design Challenge is being presented by Designer Fund, a new community of philanthropic angels and mentors who support and invest in designer-founders. Co-director Ben Blumenfeld, who was a designer at Facebook for five years, considers the contest to be perfectly aligned with Designer Fund’s mission. “There are so many meaningful problems in the world. Healthcare, clean energy, environmental issues, city design. We feel like we’d be able to make a much bigger dent in these problems if designers went at them.”
There’s plenty of design to be done here. Just look at this mess that’s currently used as an electronic medical record. This “Blue Button” design was meant to give veterans access to the text of their records. However, it’s way too hard to quickly read or find the important parts. That means it takes longer for doctors to give care, and they spend more of the time with patients staring at a screen instead of comforting the sick.
So go at it. Build a visual architecture that organizes the information by importance, that’s easy to scan, and that anyone can understand. You have 17 days to submit your designs. The government’s site has all the rules and required sections. Submissions will be judged by Blumenfeld and a panel of other designers, government figures, and healthtech entrepreneurs.
The best designs will compete for $50,000 in cash prizes. A hybrid of the best versions will be open sourced on GitHub and rolled out to the entire Veteran Affairs medical system, which supports more than 6 million people who’ve served the United States. With the White House’s support and financial incentives for doctors to go electronic, your design could reach even more patients. You might even end up working with big EMR startups like Practice Fusion.
Blumenfeld’s got a tip for those participating in the challenge. “You want to make sure the thing you’re designing works for the intended audience. This isn’t designers designing for each other. Put your design in front of your parents or grandparents and see if they understand it. Put it in front of someone with sight or comprehension difficulties. Don’t just test it on young people in tech.”
He’s fired up about the project and is asking his fund’s network of over 75 world-class designers to get behind it because the Health Design Challenge “skews towards action — it’s taking it to the next level. Let’s not just come up with ideas and celebrate ideation. Let’s choose one, implement it, and get it out to millions of people.”
Editor’s note: Dave Chase is the CEO of Avado.com, a patient portal and relationship management company that was a TechCrunch Disrupt finalist. Previously he was a management consultant for Accenture’s healthcare practice and founder of Microsoft’s $2 billion health platform business. You can follow him on Twitter @chasedave.
Healthcare has long been a technology paradox. There have been few places further out on the cutting edge of technology than biotech and medical devices. In contrast, healthIT has been in a time warp (see Why It’s Good News HealthIT is So Bad). Nearly 20 years after the advent of the web, the dominant healthIT vendors have thrived on a business model and technology architecture that harkens back to when Wang and Prodigy were cutting edge. That is, most healthIT still has the same company provide technology from the top to the bottom of the stack.
The widespread use of the web disconnected the front-end, user-experience technology supplier from the back-end. Whether it’s travel apps or package tracking, consumers are able to tap into back-end systems without knowledge of what mainframe or client-server system may be running those systems. The spike in digital health investment reported by Rock Health’s Q3 2012 Funding Report echoes what I heard from hospital executives at two recent healthtech-related conferences – Health 2.0 and the Digital Health Conference. That is, for the first time in my experience, these executives talked about how they recognize that they have a flood of new requirements and they have zero expectation that their legacy healthIT suppliers will meet those needs in the next 2-3 years.
This projection is due to legacy vendors being overloaded with their core business (e.g. installing electronic health records) and also having slow product cycles. Healthcare executives explicitly talk about how they want EHR-agnostic tools that will work with their EHRs. Increasingly, providers recognize that while they have complained about vendor lock-in strategy reminiscent of the Wang era, the risk of lock-in increases exponentially if they also adopt consumer/patient-facing tools from their legacy vendors. It’s one thing to disrupt your staff with switching EHRs, it’s quite another to ask patients to switch tools as well. Smart providers are disconnecting those two decisions like virtually every other industry already has. This dynamic is the core reason for the New York Digital Health Accelerator (NYDHA). See Rip Empson’s article here on why the NYDHA was formed and has 22 large healthcare providers engaging with startups at a level that is unprecedented in healthcare. [Disclosure: My company, Avado, is one of the eight companies selected for this program.]
The following slide deck from Rock Health highlights key findings such as an increase in dollars invested by VCs of 70 percent and 84 percent more deals over a year ago:
Growth in healthtech investment isn’t limited to the U.S. For example, noted investors/entrepreneurs Esther Dyson, Peter Frishauf (founder of Medscape) and Milena Adamian (founder of Life Sciences Angel Network – New York) recently invested in the Series A for VitaPortal in Russia. It’s also not limited to traditional VCs as we saw in a Community Hospital Joins Wave Of New Strategic Venture Funds To Drive Disruptive Innovation.
Already healthcare providers are realizing that what they thought was going to be their 100 percent solution is really best optimized for just 25 percent of where healthcare dollars are spent (hospital-based care). In reality, 75 percent of healthcare spend is directed toward chronic disease. Legacy healthIT has its strength in automating internal workflows of hospitals and other clinical settings. In those high-intensity settings, healthcare providers make the decisions that drive the patient health outcomes. However, with chronic disease, it’s an entirely different story. The decisions that individuals (or their families) make drive the health outcomes. For example, does the patient fill a prescription and take it properly? Or do they make the necessary lifestyle choices to optimize their health?
This dynamic isn’t lost on thought leaders in healthcare. One of the leading thinkers in healthIT, Shahid Shah (aka The Health IT Guy), laid out why legacy EHRs are ill-prepared for the era of accountability that is rapidly transforming healthcare.
The EHR systems and IT required for MU (Meaningful Use) is a quite different from what will be required for ACOs,” Shah continued. “It will be nowhere as easy for existing legacy EHRs to simply retool their current platforms, like they did for MU.”
With that said, Shah outlines nine ways future EHRs need to support ACOs.
1. Sophisticated patient relationship management (PRM). According to Shah, today’s EHRs are more document management systems, rather than sophisticated, customer/patient relationship management systems. “For them to be really useful in ACO environments, they will need to support outreach, communication, patient engagement, and similar features we’re more accustomed to seeing, from marketing automation systems than transactional systems.”
Read full article here.
Despite a clear recognition of the radical transformation that is happening, it is striking that the path many healthcare providers are taking parallels that of newspaper companies (another local oligopoly/monopoly that had barriers to entry that were no longer unassailable). See WWJD? The CEO Every Healthcare Leader Should Learn From for more. In contrast, providers such as those in the NYDHA are taking a different path.
In the above piece, newspaper executive John Paton had a three-point prescription for reinvention that led to a 5x revenue increase and halving of capital expenses. This resulted in his organization going from bankruptcy to $41 million in profit in two years. There were three keys to his approach that can be applied by healthcare leaders:
Unfortunately, most newspapers didn’t adhere to that prescription. It’s a cautionary tale for hospitals, in particular. In other countries when the shift happened from a reactive “sick care” system to a proactive health-focused system, over half of the hospitals closed. Naturally, forward-looking hospitals and health systems are making moves to not only survive, but also to thrive.
If you want to see the future of healthcare, New York is a great place to start. Nirav Shah, MD, MPH is the New York State Commissioner of Health for the State Department of Health. Dr. Shah talks about fundamentally rebuilding the healthcare system. The stakes are high to make that happen. Dr. Shah oversees a budget of over $50 billion that has 5 million Medicaid recipients. Like all states, they see healthcare’s hyperinflation is devastating state budgets and education budgets, in particular (see Bill Gates TED Talk for more). “The old system, acute care focused in the hospital. That was the past. Tomorrow is chronic disease focused in an outpatient setting. That is what the Health Home program promises and that is what the Medicaid program is investing in. That is what the NYDHA is all about.” The pace of decisions by NYDHA providers is dramatically faster than procurement models of the past. I’ve already seen one Health Home program (and the hospital that is running it) evaluate and make a selection in less than two months. For those of us familiar with the excruciating year-plus decision processes of the past that has crushed many a startup, this is exciting.
At the kick-off event for the NYDHA, Intel veteran and current Executive Director of the New York eHealth Collaborative (NYeC), David Whitlinger discussed that the health information exchange his organization operates (the State Health Information Network of New York – aka the “SHINY”) will allow software developers to facilitate the information exchange critical to reinventing healthcare delivery. The missing link has been having tools that sit on top of the SHINY. The NYDHA startups will get first access to their APIs and then it will be opened more broadly.
In order to achieve those goals, it’s critical to have the right resources and players at the table. Maria Gotsch, president and CEO for the Partnership for New York City Fund, is building off of the tremendous success of the FinTech Innovation Lab that her organization orchestrated for healthcare. The NYDHA is intended to foster innovation and economic development. In tandem with the NYeC, Gotsch’s organization got commitments from 22 large healthcare providers and seven investment funds to deeply engage with the program.
For a long time I said “healthcare is where tech startups go to die,” as the decision processes in healthcare favored 20-30 year old companies that could wait out excruciatingly convoluted decision processes. Those decision processes not only killed many startups, they doomed healthcare providers to outdated technology and price tags reminiscent of the mainframe era. But times have changed.
At a recent presentation given by Leonard Achan, RN, MA, ANP and chief communication officer for the prestigious NY-based Mount Sinai, described how they have changed how they worked in the past and contrasted to what they are doing now. He said that that they are far more open to working with startups. Rip Empson reported on one example of this. Just a year ago, who would have thought mainstream healthcare organizations would be releasing “app stores” of their own. This is why VCs are voting with their pocketbooks on healthcare’ reinvention fueled by breakthrough startups leaving the Wang/Prodigy era behind.
Today, Morgenthaler Ventures and Health 2.0 concluded its “DC to VC” startup showcase, a nationwide contest that aims to find the most promising and “fund-able” young businesses in health IT looking for funding. From hundreds of applicants, twelve finalists were chosen to pitch their ideas on stage at the Health 2.0 Conference in San Francisco in front of a crowd of 350+ VCs, angel investors and entrepreneurs.
The companies were then categorized according to whether they were seeking seed funding or looking to raise their series A ($2M to $5M). The seed stage presenters were hand-picked by the event’s accelerator partners — Rock Health, Blueprint Health, Healthbox and Startup Health — teeing up a panel of judges to select the winners from each category. The panel of judges included reps from Morgenthaler, Comcast Ventures, InterWest Partners, Venrock, Qualcomm Ventures and Silicon Valley Bank, to name a few.
After twelve on-stage presentations and some deliberation, the judges selected Beyond Lucid Technologies as the winner of the Series A category, while Aidin took home the Seed Stage prize. Each category also opened voting to the audience (those both at Health 2.0 and watching via the livestream) to select the “People’s Choice” winners. While Aidin won the audience vote for the seed category, CarePlanners captured the Series A hardware.
Because we love to talk about awesome healthtech startups here at TC, you’ll find a deep dive into the winners below. Check it out, and tell us your thoughts in the comment section.
A startup out of the Blueprint Health accelerator in NYC, at first glance, it may seem like Aidin is targeting a tiny use case, but first impressions can be misleading. If Aidin is successful, it can have a big impact on our health. Here’s why: Hospitals, depending on their location of course, can be crowded places, which puts a lot of stress on somewhat limited resources.
Although one might imagine that hospitals would want people to hang out as long as possible (racking up those hospital bills), in reality they are eager for people to avoid repeat visits. In the U.S., one in four Medicare patients get readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of leaving — and those readmissions come with a $17.4 billion price tag for hospitals.
Part of the reason readmissions are so high is the unreliable quality of the some-25K “post-acute care” facilities in the U.S. — the nursing homes, health agencies and rehab centers that provide care not only for elderly people but anyone recovering from an acute illness, injury or surgery after leaving the hospital.
To help patients find the right care facilities and help hospitals reduce readmissions, Aidin provides patients and their families with up-to-date ratings and reviews of local providers, along with sharing outcome data from those who have previously visited the particular facility.
Patients can filter the data based on their specific condition or need, meaning that, if you’re looking to rehab after knee surgery, you’ll see ratings for providers that specialize in orthopedic rehab, for example — not head trauma. Basically, on the consumer side of things, Aidin has set out to create a Yelp for continuing care.
On the hospital side, Aidin allows them to integrate their solution into existing infrastructure to allow hospital staff to create referrals, share ratings, etc. Aidin raised $600K in seed funding back in June, and you can read our coverage here — some of which is referenced here.
Founded in 2009, this California-based startup offers an electronic health record (EHR) system on steroids, built for those who arrive first on the scene when there’s an emergency: Fire, EMS and industrial-emergency response teams. The company’s cloud (and client) platform aims to make First Response more efficient and cost-effective for medics, hospitals and patients by providing those who respond to emergencies with digital care records, logistical decision support, real-time data for regional resource planning, GPS and telehealth tools. And the best part for them? There’s no integration engineering required.
Said another way, the startup’s value proposition is that it’s the first integrated, all-in-one solution for EMS providers that connects first responders with hospitals and continuing care facilities. According to Beyond Lucid, this is of critical importance because half of patient data is lost at hand-off (from facility to facility), so it works to solve this problem by eliminating the use of paper used in-transit, allowing virtual data entry, real-time data transfer to hospitals, embedded GPS for use on both sides, etc.
Because of the fractured, every-man-for-himself nature of the industry, hospitals, states and cities all tend to have bloated, incompatible software built specifically for its own use, without much attention paid to the macro picture around it. Sounds like the educational system, right? By providing software that brings each link in the chain together and bringing new, lightweight technology to an industry that survives on 20+ year-old IT systems, Beyond Lucid thinks it can help not only reduce costs but ultimately save lives.
It’s not an easy road to convince an entire industry to jump on board the Data Transparency Train, but it it can (prove it’s possible both systemically and economically), then Beyond Lucid is going to be around for quite awhile.
(The company also recently joined Startup Health, so check out Jordan’s post here.)
In 2005, CarePlanners Founder Alan Blaustein was diagnosed with thymic cancer. As he underwent treatment, Alan found that he and his family spent more time dealing with a complex and confusing healthcare system — coordinating physicians, insurance companies, medical billing agencies and hospitals — rather than concentrating on fighting the disease.
So Blaustein and team developed CarePlanners to be a platform that helps patients make better decisions about healthcare, providing a staff of experts and online tools that allow users to coordinate care services, create plans around diagnoses, resolve insurance and billing issues, etc.
The startup, which aims to become the “AAA for Healthcare,” employs consultants with a wide range of expertise, including registered nurses, social workers, medicare experts and healthcare advocates. Collectively, they create a marketplace for healthcare consulting that relies on personalized care from actual people, instead of simply creating a database of healthcare information.
CarePlanners offers a dashboard (called the CareCenter), through which users can organize their health information around their medical needs — and those of their loved ones. Based on the info users provide, the service offers tips, notifications and reminders and allows them to manage their plans and connect directly with consultants. These plans range in cost between $200 and $900.
As it stands today, the startup has a leg up over point-solutions, as it provides support for a variety of issues, with its one major drawback being that its plans are not covered by health insurance. Going forward, CarePlanners will expand the scope of its dashboard to become a place where people can store all of their personal and family health information, like medical records, histories, and so on. It also plans to add to its roster of 25-odd consultants and beef up its user base by partnering with employers.
There’s a lot left to do, but the mission to help channel the firehose and simplify an over-complicated healthcare system is an important one.
Go here to read the rest: Meet The Three Most Fund-able Health Companies From The DC To VC Showcase