Keas, Founded by Former Google and Bit9 Execs, Tries to Make Online Care Plans Pay
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be a great business model,'” Bosworth said. “This happens to startups, it’s not a cause for instant panic.”
Keas hasn’t changed its core technology or its focus on providing patients with online care plans that are personalized to their condition. (For example, the system is capable of providing color-coded feedback like a red button on a patient’s online dashboard that warns her that her cholesterol is too high and she should see a doctor.) But the company has changed its view on where to market its services. Two target markets for the firm today, Bosworth said, are major employers and healthcare products companies like drug-makers.
Employers, especially large self-insured ones, would pay for online care plans from Keas to improve the health and productivity of their work forces, said Kassabgi, the chief operation officer of the firm. The idea would also be to reduce the companies’ healthcare costs. Kassabgi, who is the former CEO of the security software firm Bit9 in Waltham, MA, said that the firm plans to make some major announcements about its progress in the employer market in the coming months.
The company has already disclosed a big win in the pharmaceutical industry, which has an interest in using Keas’s technology to provide patients with reminders to take their medicines and to boost awareness of products, Bosworth said. The drug giant Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) announced a partnership with Keas in February. Though Bosworth declined to discuss the specific ways the New York-based drug company will use his firm’s technology, he did say that his firm has added a text-messaging capability that could remind people to take their meds or to schedule a visit with their doctor.
Jeff Fagnan, a partner at Atlas Venture in Waltham and an early investor in Keas, said that he wasn’t surprised by the change in strategy at the company. “We view this as a more scalable way to get early revenue,” he said.
On both the pharma and employer fronts, Keas has some plucky competitors offering ways to help patients manage their health online. Cambridge, MA-based PatientsLikeMe, which provides social networks for patients, has attracted partnerships with such drug-makers as Switzerland-based Novartis and Brussels-based UCB. And in recent weeks, the Boston area’s Healthrageous launched with plans to provide its own interactive online system to promote healthy behavior for employees of EMC, the Hopkinton, MA-based data storage giant, and other large employers.
A key difference between Keas and its competition, Bosworth said, is that the firm’s technology was built as an open platform that enables people outside the company to develop care plans on their own. Bosworth has spent much of his career developing software that makes technology more accessible to people. During his stint at Microsoft, he helped develop the database software Access and Internet Explorer, Microsoft’s Web browser. Later, at Google, he helped create the Internet giant’s Blogger, Calendar, and Spreadsheets applications.
Keas has also figured out ways to give its users greater access to their personal health data that lives online or in electronic form. Its users can download their personal health data from their Google Health or Microsoft HealthVault accounts to Keas. People can also move electronic data on their lab tests from Quest Diagnostics, one of the world’s largest providers of medical tests, to their Keas accounts.
In the meantime, Bosworth has joined forces with the likes of Jamie Heywood, co-founder and chairman of PatientsLikeMe, Google Health, Microsoft, and many others to advocate for a Patients Bill of Rights, which demands that patients have greater access to their own health information. The group made its campaign public last year with the launch of a website, HealthDataRights.org.
Keas might still realize its initial vision of a consumer-driven online marketplace for care plans. But at least for now, the firm is counting on big businesses—and not consumers—to pay its bills.
Atlas’s Fagnan said that his firm would invest in Keas again to support its revamped strategy. The venture investor said: “I’m really impressed with these guys going through the analysis of where their early revenue is going to come from and what partners are going to be early revenue sources.”
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