The Boston Health 2.0 Cluster

For the better part of a decade, advocates of computing in healthcare have fixated on the dream of paperless medicine—a new era in which every patient’s medical records would be stored digitally and every hospital, physician’s practice, pharmacy, and insurer would have access to these records, reducing paperwork costs and medical errors. But for all of the time stakeholders have spent squabbling over standards for electronic medical records, and all of the money providers have spent rolling out costly and controversial proprietary medical-database systems, these dreams haven’t gotten very far. More than 80 percent of medical practices still keep paper records, according to a study published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Meanhile, the Internet has given birth to a totally new way of doing business and interacting with consumers: Web 2.0. And in a rush of Web-based health initiatives that has picked up significant steam just in the last few weeks, entrepreneurs and programmers are leapfrogging over the problem of electronic medical records to tackle much broader (and ultimately more important) issues such as how to use the Internet to track people’s health, how to use the power of social networking to improve standards of treatment, and how to deliver medical advice over the Web.

And it’s not surprising—given the Boston area’s dense concentration of high-tech hospitals, leading universities and medical schools, computing hardware and software companies, and Web startups—that much of this “Health 2.0” revolution is happening right here in the Bay State. Last week’s launch of Boston-based American Well is only the most recent local example, and it’s sure to be followed by more.

The area’s Health 2.0 cluster may not be quite as big as the New England clean energy cluster, but it’s larger and more varied than some other clusters we’ve covered, such as the music and technology cluster and the Internet video cluster. It’s also growing fast, with new companies being launched every month. And it has all the hallmarks of success, including buy-in from big outside players like Microsoft (which is partnering with American Well to roll out its HealthVault service) and Google (which recently signed up Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts as its first partners for its Google Health project in the hospital and insurance industries, respectively).

What qualifies a company as a Health 2.0 venture? In this list, we’re including any New England-based company that uses the Web or other digital media to deliver software or services intended to help people manage their own health or to help providers manage healthcare delivery. That means we’ve left out a number of local firms, such as Health Dialog, D2Hawkeye, MedAptus, MedVentive, and mTuitive, that could be classified as “e-health” companies, since they are in the business of collecting or analyzing data that’s used to improve patient health or healthcare administration. But if a company doesn’t tap into Web 2.0 technologies and/or use digital media to communicate with consumers, we didn’t include them here.

As always, we invite you to send comments and additions to

American Well
Boston, MA

A 24/7 online network that matches consumers seeking medical care with doctors for live consultations via Webcam, instant message, or telephone (profiled in Xconomy last week).

Watertown, MA

Subscription, Web-based software aimed at helping individual clinics and provider networks manage billing and electronic medical records. (Athena shelved plans for a secondary public offering in February 2008.)

Cambridge, MA

Creates online, interactive multimedia training courses for healthcare executives and clinicians as well as consumer-oriented, advertising-supported health information portals such as

Boston, MA

Online support groups and medical advice for people with rare diseases.

Dovetail Health
Needham, MA

Administers in-home medical telemonitoring for seniors using devices developed by Philips Electronics to monitor patients’ weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, and other health information

Beverly, MA

Designs, develops, and hosts speech-recognition software that allows patients to access health information over the phone and that deliver automated, personalized health reminders.

Enhanced Medical Decisions
Cambridge, MA

Runs, a natural-language search engine specialized for investigating drug interactions and adverse side effects

e-pill Medication Reminders
Wellesley, MA

Online store offering devices that help people remember to take their medications on schedule, such as alarm wristwatches and automated pill dispensers.

Northampton, MA

Provides physician-developed online educational materials through ad-supported websites such as; also offers medical website design services for doctors and online directories of doctors.

Burlington, MA

Makes a Web-based platform for sharing, reviewing, and managing clinical and administrative documents in large healthcare organizations.


Norwell, MA

Stealth-mode company working on personalized positive reinforcement methods for improving medication adherence (health industry jargon for getting patients to take their pills).

Newton, MA

Uses a 20-question assessment to tailor Web, e-mail, text messaging, and phone communications to motivate nonadherent patients to take their medications as prescribed.


Watertown, MA

Makes the Health URL Appliance, a secure Web server designed to store patient health records and diagnostic images such as CT and MRI scans; offers health-record storage directly to consumers.


Westwood, MA

Makes a variety of information systems for clinicians, Web-based educational information for patients, and online appointment scheduling systems.


Cambridge, MA

Makes Web-based systems that allow health plans to communicate directly with providers in their networks and lower the cost of administrative paperwork.

Outcome Sciences
Cambridge, MA

Makes Web-based interfaces for electronic data capture in clinical trials.

Newton, MA

Makes Web and mobile software for tracking electronic medical records, electronic prescriptions, and patient billing.

Cambridge, MA

An online community of people with diseases such as ALS, HIV, MS, mood disorders, and Parkinson’s, who use the site to track their conditions and exchange experiences about treatment; paid for by providers who use anonymized data from the site to drive treatment research and improve care.

PHT Corporation

Makes electronic diary software for Palm devices and other mobile computing platforms; used for capturing “patient reported outcomes” during research trials.

Wakefield, MA

Makes Web-based software for tracking patient charts in so-called “high-acuity” care situations—emergency rooms, operating rooms, and ICUs, where accuracy and speed are paramount.

Cambridge, MA

Makes semantic or natural-language search tools specialized for medical searches; maintains both a consumer health information search portal ( and a physician-oriented portal (CurbsideMD

Boston, MA

Offers online continuing medical education courses for physicians.

Waltham, MA

Makes Web-based data capture software for medical quality-control measurement programs such as the American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program.

Cambridge, MA

A physicians-only online community where more than 65,000 providers share informal insights about patient care, swap advice on difficult diagnoses, and rate one another’s posts.

Burlington, MA

Makes software used by healthcare enterprises for automated, interactive telephone calls with members, patients, or consumers.

Chestnut Hill, MA

Web-based diagnostic support software for doctors, structured as a “computational wiki.”

Tangerine Wellness
Boston, MA

Offers reward-based corporate weight management programs to keep employees healthier, including online tools for monitoring weight, vital signs, diet, and exercise.

Virgin HealthMiles
Beverly, MA

Administers an online system that rewards company employees for tracking daily exercise activity, uploading health measurements, and demonstrating fitness improvements; participants earn “HealthCash” that they can use to buy gift cards at major retailers.

WEGO Health
Cambridge, MA

An advertising-supported social networking site for health activists, including support group leaders, forum moderators, bloggers, book authors, coaches, and caregivers.

Cambridge, MA

Makes Web-services-based platforms for electronic medical records, clinical documentation, order entry, and medical image viewing.

Wade Roush is the producer and host of the podcast Soonish and a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @soonishpodcast

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