Partners HealthCare to Spin Off Startup Offering Web-based Health-Monitoring Services, Seeks CEO and Investors
Partners HealthCare System, the largest hospital group in Boston, is launching a startup that will commercialize a health self-monitoring system developed by Partners’ Center for Connected Health, Xconomy has learned. The planned launch of the company follows a successful pilot trial of its initial Web-based service, called SmartBeat, which allows workers to report and track their blood pressure online to improve their health.
The startup—which is expected be incorporated in the near future and is temporarily being called Connected Health—is on the hunt for a CEO to lead the nascent operation and rally support from investors, says Joseph Kvedar, a dermatologist who serves as director of the Center for Connected Health. When Kvedar last spoke to us in February, he said that Partners was considering ways to spin off SmartBeat as a for-profit service to enable its adoption nationwide. The self-monitoring system proved to be effective at helping patients control their blood pressure in a 2007 pilot trial conducted with Hopkinton, MA-based data storage and management giant EMC (NYSE:EMC), which tested the system with some 400 of its employees.
Kvedar has led efforts to commercialize SmartBeat with Doug McClure, corporate manager of technology and operations at the Center for Connected Health. “The power of connected health is starting to be more mainstream,” says Kvedar, a leading voice in efforts to enable the delivery of healthcare outside of traditional clinical settings such as hospitals and doctors offices. “We at the center are doing our best to be agile and opportunistic to respond to what could be our day in the sun—and if we don’t respond we could be very disappointed with ourselves.”
To use the self-monitoring system, people measure their blood pressure using cuffs linked their computers, which upload their readings to a server. Users can view changes in their blood pressure online, and the system provides automated messages with, say, tips on ways to keep their blood pressure down or warnings that their blood pressure is too high. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the leading reasons for doctor visits, accounting for about 35.7 million visits in the U.S. annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It costs billions of dollars per year to care for hypertension patients, who are at high risk of having heart attacks, strokes, and vision loss.
Connected Health would aim to tap into a fast-growing U.S. disease-management market, which has jumped from $1 billion in 2005 to an expected $2 billion this year, according to market research firm Frost & Sullivan. The Center for Connected Health is already pitching the SmartBeat service to self-insured companies and health plans, both of which would use it to improve the health of their employees or insured members and to reduce medical expenses from doctors’ visits and hospitalizations. EMC and Partners HealthCare have already signed on as paying customers.
To be clear, Partners has not yet pulled the trigger on launching and funding the health-monitoring business as a for-profit entity. But Kvedar says that his group has made the decision to pursue the spin-off and he plans to meet with his colleagues and business advisors in the coming weeks to work out the details of the launch. He and his staff are now working with Partners Innovation Fund, the venture arm of Partners HealthCare, to find investors and build an executive team to lead the planned startup. Partners Innovation Fund is also in the process of evaluating the business to decide whether to invest in it, Kvedar says. For his own part, Kvedar plans to keep his job at Partners after the spin-off of the businesses and continue to support the firm as an advisor and board member.