Blueprint Health’s Latest Class Tackles Drug Adherence, Other Issues

10/9/12Follow @jpruth

Graduating its second batch of startups to bring more innovation to healthcare, Blueprint Health in New York is rapidly cementing its place among the city’s accelerators. Nine healthcare technology companies from Blueprint’s summer session held a demo day last Thursday to impress investors and potential collaborators.

By specializing in health, which frankly affects everyone, these startups may attract a substantial clientele—if they can deliver on the technology they demoed. Brad Weinberg, co-founder of Blueprint Health, says his accelerator program looks for sustainable businesses with clear customer bases that are willing to pay to solve their pain points. “It’s not the Silicon Valley, build-it-quick, consumer app environment,” he says.

The demoing startups presented technology that ranged from ensuring patients stick to their medication regimens to a virtual pet that helps seniors stay mentally focused. Weinberg told Xconomy he believes the market understands that such healthcare startups may take a bit longer to realize their potential compared with the usual apps makers; however, they can be rather lucrative.

Blueprint launched its first three-month session back in January and graduated its first class in the spring. So far the inaugural class of nine companies has collectively raised some $4 million in funding since emerging from Blueprint.

Startups that participate in the accelerator program each receive $20,000 in funding plus use of Blueprint’s co-working space in SoHo for 12 weeks of mentorship in exchange for 6 percent equity. Weinberg says the startups come from across the country and overseas. At least seven from the first class put down roots in New York after completing the program.

Blueprint tries to give the startups in its program just enough guidance and support to take off on their own. “Good entrepreneurs do not need to be babied,” Weinberg says.

Amid the diverse technology developed by Blueprint’s summer class, a common problem in healthcare got extra attention: compliance. Far too often, patients skip doses of medication—perhaps to save money, out of disdain for side effects, or because they simply forget. The problem is they can wind up a lot worse off by skipping their meds.

AdhereTech, one of this summer’s startups, developed a pill bottle equipped with sensors that send out reminders to patients’ smartphones if they miss a scheduled dosage. CEO Josh Stein said during the demo that this can compound patients’ illnesses. “People simply don’t take their pills and stay sick,” he said. “Low adherence (to medication) is bad for everyone in healthcare.”

If patients remain sick or get sicker, costs for care can increase and pharmaceutical companies can lose revenue as prescriptions are not refilled, he said. AdhereTech’s bottle measures the volume of the contained medication, whether it’s in liquid or pill form. The sensor can detect when one pill or one liquid milliliter of medication is removed from the bottle. The company’s software also asks patients who skip doses why they got off schedule. AdhereTech aggregates this data anonymously to give a clearer picture of patient adherence. Stein said AdhereTech charges pharmaceutical companies to distribute certain medications through its bottles.

Meanwhile, analytics company AllazoHealth, another member of the Blueprint summer class, also gathers data on medication non-adherence. “We predict which patients are not going to take their medication,” said CEO Clifford Jones during his demo. AllazoHealth’s target clients include health insurers and pharmacy benefits management companies that want to anticipate noncompliance. The demographics and history of patients are compared to formulate such predictions. AllazoHealth also helps determine which method of intervention, such as phone calls or direct mailings, may be more effective and cost efficient to put patients back on track.

Other demoing startups included GeriJoy, a team from MIT which created a virtual pet that runs on tablets. The software is designed to help keep seniors focused by making them interact with a talkative digital animal. Blueprint is accepting applications now for its winter 2013 class.

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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