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The health tech startups which emerged through a pandemic

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COVID-19 crushed some health tech businesses, and undoubtedly stopped some from ever getting off the ground. Here are some of the inspirational startups which emerged from, and in spite of, the global pandemic.

In the words of Reid Hoffman, “the entrepreneurial journey starts with jumping off a cliff and assembling an airplane on the way down”. 

Those words ring a little louder for anyone who has emerged, or tried to emerge, a business out of the global pandemic. 

For the health tech sector, the challenge has been a complex one. Especially for those with expertise in medicine and medtech, AI innovation or anything else that has the ability to “lean into” the COVID climate in some way. 

Regardless of which channel of health technology we are talking about, the fact remains that health tech startups emerging from the pandemic are worth taking note of. We’ve rounded up some of the most impressive stories from health tech startups – who themselves “made the airplane” on the way down. 

CardMedic

  • Founded by: Dr Rachael Grimaldi and Tim Grimaldi
  • CEO: Dr Rachael Grimaldi

CardMedic, now an award winning healthcare communications app, was launched in the height of the pandemic. 

Reading an article about a critically ill patient who was terrified about having an operation but couldn’t understand their doctor through PPE, Dr Grimaldi realised there have always been major communication barriers in healthcare, which had been exacerbated by the pandemic. 

Desperate to help, she and her husband Tim conceptualised and launched CardMedic in 72 hours. The app is now in use in 120 countries by 55,000 users and has been downloaded more than 22,000 times. 

Since then, the company has executed a number of successful pilot projects at NHS trusts, including University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust, and Bolton NHS Foundation Trust. 

The company now has contracts with 12 healthcare organisations across the world, including Integrated Care Systems such as Mid and South Essex Health and Care Partnership and Norfolk and Waveney ICS and US healthcare providers such as Brigham and Women’s Hospital, which is a founding member of the Mass General Brigham healthcare system and teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School

The core mission for CardMedic has been to reduce health inequality by improving access to healthcare information. 

At University Hospitals Sussex, the maternity department has become the first in the country to deliver Alternative Language Antenatal Classes (ALAC) by using the CardMedic app.

This enabled pregnant people and their families to have better access to antenatal care services, reducing health inequalities.

More about CardMedic

Vispa

  • Founded by: Lamar and Geneva Schlabach
  • CEO: Geneva Schlabach

Before the pandemic, a group of veteran healthcare experts, technologists, and business leaders sat in a boardroom and agreed “there has to be a better way” for organisations to follow up on insurance claims. Vispa was about to emerge. 

By March 2020, organisations were beginning to send employees to work from home due to the global health crisis. 

Looking for a fast solution to maintain contact with those at-home workers was Kimberly Scaccia, VP of Revenue Management at Mercyhealth. 

She reached out to Vispa Co-Founder and CEO Geneva Schlabach to vet possibilities. 

Since implementing their beta solution once before, Vispa’s state of the art development team continued to refine and perfect the solution. 

With little to no healthcare experience, the technical team paved new and innovative solutions yet to be seen by healthcare revenue cycle – notably giving work queues the boot. 

Creating a user-friendly interface with intuitive prompts and easy to find information continues to give organisations a leg up in the never-ending staffing crisis which began during Covid-19. 

Whether it be from desperate times or the entrepreneurial spirit, the Vispa team resolved to take on the challenge. 

Despite all odds, the Vispa solution was implemented successfully in the matter of only a few weeks juxtaposed with a standard six-month implementation seen with competitor solutions. 

Mercyhealth management was not only able to maintain daily connection with their team members, but actually improve their revenue cycle in the process. 

Within 60 days, they beat their June 2020 cash goal by over $20M and decreased their A/R by 17 days amidst the height of the pandemic. 

A long-standing partner, Mercyhealth continues to bust industry norms and set a new standard. Through the pandemic which caused unprecedented trials, a small team that nobody heard of emerged victorious. 

This huge win continues to fuel the team to push innovation both internally and externally. A champion of self-improvement and partnership,  CEO Geneva Schlabach’s trademark statement is “nobody does anything of significance alone.” 

The pandemic forced this statement into reality, and it continues to be a hallmark of the Vispa team. 

More about Vispa

P3FORM

  • Founded by: Jake Keeling
  • CEO: Jake Keeling

Health & fitness tech company P3RFORM knew the pandemic could be both a blessing and a curse. 

But ultimately, COVID-19 was an ideal opportunity for them to be launched – coinciding with the boom in digital and tech fitness. 

By offering a hybrid solution that enables clients to engage with their coaches via the app and via video, the company provides a very unique service within today’s hybrid world. 

Having solidified success in the pandemic, the next evolution for the company will be to broaden into wider patient populations such as public health and the NHS. 

The need for better proactive health & fitness services and digital solutions to support will only grow over the coming years as the shift towards preventative health continues to grow.   

More about P3RFORM

interlude 

  • Founded by: Caitlin Rozario and Will Webster
  • CEO: The founders

Like many people, the early months of the pandemic were very difficult for the co-founders of interlude – and everyone was feeling rather unproductive.

They also realised that this was cyclical: because they weren’t feeling good, they weren’t doing good work, and because they weren’t doing good work, they felt worse. 

The company is their response to the huge twin problems of unproductivity and poor worker wellbeing (a dual issue that no one seemed to be recognising).

Backed up by a robust (and ever-growing) body of science that supports break-taking as a key way to improve both productivity and wellbeing, interlude is today a web-based library of over 100 breaks (and growing every month), with breaks created by experts in eight categories: workouts, stretching, yoga, meditation, affirmations, writing, art and cooking. 

As well as having an option for consumers to buy interlude for themselves, interlude also works with businesses to give their employees on-demand access to its wide range of high-quality work breaks.

The pandemic was the impetus for interlude, but it was also a hindrance: lockdowns caused major delays, as filming had to be paused every time.

That said, the huge shifts in how we work mean that the time is now right for us to change how we work – for the better. Productivity is underpinned by wellbeing, and wellbeing is underpinned by breaks.  

More about interlude 

Lenus Health

  • Founded by: Paul McGinness & Craig Turpie
  • CEO: Paul McGinness

Digital health platform Lenus Health was launched in 2021, when the pandemic was in full swing across the world. 

The company was spun out to focus on digital health in 2020 and began trading in 2021 with a clear need for digital to support social distancing.

The Lenus Health platform was secured by Scottish Government to run the Covid national notification and digital contact tracing under Scotland’s Test and Protect initiative.

Despite hardships, the company won a 2021 HSJ Award under the Digitising Patient Services category for ‘Digital Dermatology Assessment – An alternative to Face-to-Face Consultations: Development, Expansion and Spread During Covid-19’.

COVID had made digital transformation a priority for healthcare where it was lagging behind other industries, but, as the founder states, it “must be careful to select technology that does not create new health data silos but rather joins up data for more effective and efficient care.”

More about Lenus

Frog Systems

  • Founded by: Calum Dunan
  • CEO: Phil Worms

Originally founded as a hyperlocal directory service platform to support the embryonic social prescribing model, Frog Systems had started a pivot towards developing a self-support platform for employees in early 2020.

The pandemic accelerated the opportunity for the company to fully launch the digital mental health and wellbeing platform it had been developing.

As an emotional tsunami of anxiety and isolation hit the population, with access to physical exercise restricted and lockdowns preventing personal contact, the team realised that online support to help people get through could be vital.

The team was expanded and, working remotely and quickly, the company fast-tracked its content delivery using virtual recording software to interview more citizens about their experiences as well as experts who could provide advice.

Towards the end of 2020, the first commercial platform was launched for a global technology company and other clients quickly followed as the pandemic forced organisations to re-evaluate how they supported their people.

More about Frog systems

Blüm Health

  • Founded by: clinicians and engineers
  • CEO: Michael Watts

Blüm Health started out as a baby app during the early pandemic, and as the healthcare industry looked to critically manage covid patients, unfortunately the app fell to the bottom of the ‘needs’ list.

As a result, the core team turned their focus to supporting organisations that required digital optimisation, by developing bespoke software solutions for them.

They got lucky and won a contract within their first few months. By focusing this organic growth on internal R&D and creating a high performing team, they were then able to support multiple organisations by delivering a unique software architecture that was scalable, patient-centric but also compliant to regulatory standards.

They continued to explore regulation, in particular DTAC and FDA, and then realised there was a gap in the industry to build what they call ‘NHS-ready Software as a Service’ – that is – a combination of technical excellence, guided by internal clinical expertise.

Through the pandemic Blüm went on to build a further 6 solutions, some in partnership with NHS Trusts or universities, and the rest in Industry. 

The pandemic gave Blüm the opportunity to have conversations that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to pre-pandemic. Video meetings lowered the threshold of who they could get to meet, industry became more open to collaborating with startups, and more grant funding meant that innovation was better supported.

The organisation now uses it’s lessons learned from the pandemic to operate more efficiently, support other clinical entrepreneurs embark on their journey, but the organisation now uses it’s remote existence to instil its services and products into organisations regardless of location or needs.

More about Blüm Health

 

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