Wellbe Snags $2.4M For Software to Guide Patients Through Treatment
Wellbe has now snagged about $4 million from investors since CEO James Dias co-founded the company in 2008. Investors in the latest round include Terrence Gibbons, former Pharmacy OneSource CEO; Greg Baldwin, former Baxa CEO; Mark Bakken, former CEO of Madison-based Nordic Consulting Partners and founder of new healthtech fund Madison HealthX Ventures; and Philip Seeger, Medcor CEO and president.
Wellbe creates cloud-based software that helps patients more easily follow the steps necessary to ensure a successful surgery or medical treatment. Say, for example, a patient schedules a hip replacement. Wellbe’s white-label software will guide the patient through the whole process, including filling out forms online, providing checklists and reminders about actions that must be taken before the surgery, and having the patient fill out pre- and post-surgery surveys that help doctors determine if it was a success.
Dias likened the software to a GPS for patients, providing “turn-by-turn instructions at the moment they need it.” That’s simpler and more convenient than having patients sit through a three-hour session that unloads a ton of information on them all at once, he said. “We take all that material and parse it out.”
The idea is to help doctors collaborate more closely and efficiently with patients. Ultimately, Wellbe execs believe its software can help hospitals provide better care at lower costs. So far, the company has signed up 10 hospitals nationwide, and early results from some of them show the software has helped lower patient readmission rates and the length of hospital stays, Dias said.
“Healthcare is still too fragmented and complex,” Dias (pictured above) said. “Visionary hospital leaders across the country transforming their organizations for value-driven care have determined that a navigated patient experience can deliver good results in reduced risk and improved efficiency.”
Wellbe is part of an explosion of startups nationwide that are trying to solve problems in healthcare with software and other new technologies. But those efforts are fraught with obstacles like government regulations and (at times) slow-moving hospitals—making healthcare an industry more difficult for tech companies to disrupt than, say, travel or shopping.
“This industry is not going to transform overnight,” Dias said. “Healthcare is a long game. You’ve got to be patient. You’ve got to invest time and energy educating the market about the role patients can play. … Sometimes it can feel very slow for companies, tech companies, used to moving things very fast.”
Wellbe originally targeted its software toward pediatrics, specifically helping children overcome obesity, Dias said. But the company decided it was too difficult to sell healthcare software directly to consumers. “The American consumer is not used to, as a matter of lifestyle, paying for healthcare products,” he said.
Wellbe shifted to selling its software to hospitals on a subscription basis, with caregivers offering the product to patients as a component of their treatment. About 3,000 patients have used the software, Dias said.
“People have really found this guided approach very valuable to [understanding] what they need to do and when they need to do it, and to get ready for these sometimes momentous medical procedures,” Dias said.
With new cash in hand, Wellbe intends to continue enhancing the software, increase its sales and marketing spending, and beef up its staff, Dias said. The company employs about 20 people, and plans to add another handful of employees.
“For a couple years, we’ve been grinding away at proving out the value proposition, proving out the business model, getting our processes right,” Dias said. “Now, it’s all about scaling across the country.”