AirStrip Expands Mobile EMR Development with Wellcome Trust Funding

10/23/12Follow @bvbigelow

AirStrip Technologies is based in San Antonio, TX, but the startup has been expanding its ties in San Diego since Alan Portela stepped in as CEO almost two years ago.

Portela, who was previously a longtime health IT executive with San Diego-based CliniComp International, says AirStrip has been moving from its origins in technology that enables mobile monitoring of patient vital signs to developing cloud-based technology that can provide patient data to caregivers anywhere. AirStrip recently closed on a substantial investment by the Wellcome Trust to advance technology that will enable caregivers to use their smartphones and other mobile devices to access patients’ electronic medical records (EHR) anywhere.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. But Portela told me in a recent phone interview the Wellcome investment amounted to more than $10 million.

"Alan Portela," AirStrip Technologies, CliniComp

Alan Portela

AirStrip was founded in San Antonio by W. Cameron Powell, an obstetrician, and Trey Moore, a software developer, to remotely track the vital signs of pregnant women and their near-term babies. The system has enabled doctors and other caregivers to track their patients’ vital signs on their smartphones and tablets while they’re away from the labor and delivery suites.

AirStrip certified its technology for use as a class II medical device in 2005, and the company subsequently developed additional monitoring capabilities for tracking the vital signs of heart patients and others, including acute care patients headed for a hospital emergency room. The company says its remote monitoring apps have also been designated with the CE mark for use in Europe.

“We are definitely making a huge impact in healthcare,” says Portela, explaining that AirStrip’s technology has enabled doctors to get electrocardiogram data before a heart attack patient arrives at a hospital. When every minute counts, Portela says the technology has reduced the time needed to diagnose an arterial blockage by nearly two-thirds. He says, “We are today a leader in remote medical monitoring on mobile devices.”

Before the Wellcome Trust funding, AirStrip had raised an estimated $40 million from Sequoia Capital, the Qualcomm Life Fund, and HCA Health Insight Capital. (Earlier this year, AirStrip said it had formed a partnership with Qualcomm Life, the San Diego wireless giant’s wireless health business, to develop health monitoring services that can help patients manage their chronic diseases at home.)

“The Wellcome Trust group gave us the funding we needed to integrate both medical device mobility with EMRs throughout the continuum,” Portela says. Caregivers couldn’t previously see patient records, “so we’re going to solve that problem” in a way that is intended to let a doctor use any medical device to access any EMR anywhere. While development of AirStrip’s mobile EMR platform is based in San Diego, Portela says the company also has established offices in Chicago and Nashville. Portela, who has an office in La Jolla, says AirStrip’s payroll has grown from 20 or 30 people to 110 employees since he joined the company in late 2010.

AirStrip plans to integrate its FDA-cleared software for monitoring patient vital signs with a mobile medical platform that was initially developed by Palomar Health, a healthcare district near San Diego. In a statement issued four months ago, AirStrip says it holds exclusive global rights to expand and market the cloud-based application, known as MIAA (Medical Information Anytime Anywhere).

In a related development, the Qualcomm Foundation recently provided $3.75 million in funding to San Diego-based Scripps Health and the affiliated Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI) to help advance the development of diagnostic tests, wireless devices, sensors, and other digital health technologies. Among other things, the Qualcomm grant is intended to fund a long-range clinical research study of AirStrip’s MIAA platform. The study will be led by Eric Topol, Scripps’ chief academic officer and director of STSI, determine how mobile monitoring of patients by physicians could improve clinical workflow, patient recovery, and overall patient care.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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