Author Archive

We can land spaceships on comets. Why can’t we design prosthetics for Veterans?

| July 20, 2015

Andrea Ippolito, Presidential Innovation Fellow at Veterans Affairs

Army Veteran Lisa Marie Wiley is faced with the everyday reality of people staring at her below knee amputation caused by an injury inflicted by an IED in Afghanistan in November 2010. While strong-willed and resilient, Lisa can’t help but feel frustrated that only a handful of the 10,000 prosthetic legs available can meet her specific body type and needs to function and resume her quality of life. As Lisa stated, “if we can land spacecraft on comets, why can’t we build personalized devices for our Nation’s Veterans?” By leveraging the growing movement of 3D printing in healthcare exploding across the US and the world—we can.

While we often think of personalized and precision medicine related to providing the proper dosage of medications based on individual’s genetic information, personal predilections, and environmental context, additive manufacturing or fabrication (often more commonly referred to as 3D printing) offers a new paradigm to design devices based on individual needs and preferences. 3D printing is emerging across healthcare in surgery, patient education, prosthetics, and bioprinting tissue and organs. We’ve seen the power of 3D printing to inspire a global network of volunteers in the eNABLE community to build prosthetic 3D printed hands for over 1500 children missing their fingers or arms below the elbow.

Imagine losing your ability to use a utensil, use a video game controller or even continue a beloved hobby like photography.  The Department of Veterans Affairs is aiming to accelerate the development of technologies to improve the quality of life of Veterans and invites all designers, engineers, and problem solvers alike, to the first VA Innovation Creation Series: Prosthetics and Assistive Technology Challenge.

Key considerations for EHR integration and digital health

| June 11, 2015|Tags: , ,

Carolyn Bradner Jasik, MD, VP of Medical Outcomes at Mango Health

For every digital health company that produces clinically relevant data, the inevitable question at sales meetings is: “Can you integrate with our EHR system?” But the better question is not can we integrate, but should we?

The core domain of the EHR is to house the legal health record (LHR) in an electronic format.   When it comes to data integration from other systems, they come up short.  Digital health companies are pressured by clinical customers to “integrate” with the EHR.  API relief via FHIR and Meaningful Use Stage 3 may come. But for now, discrete data integration remains a costly and time-consuming endeavor that may not be worth the trouble.  The assumption is that customers need data exchange, when in fact what providers largely want is clinical workflow integration to deliver meaningful insights that are actionable at the right time.


Non-healthcare acquirers heating up digital health M&A activity

| May 14, 2015|Tags:


Stephanie Liu, Strategy Fellow, Rock Health

What does it mean for companies looking to get acquired?
With M&A heating up in the digital health space, it’s no wonder non-healthcare companies also want to get a piece of the action. In Q1 2015, we saw consumer athletic wear company Under Armour make a $475M acquisition of MyFitnessPal and $85M acquisition of Endomondo. Last year we also saw the largest disclosed acquisition by a non-healthcare acquirer: Outsourcing services company Cognizant bought payer administration company TriZetto for $2.7B.  Several non-healthcare companies have gone on to acquire a number of Rock Health portfolio companies—MyFitnessPal acquired Sessions, Weight Watchers bought Wello, and Google purchased Lift Labs—just to name a few.

Why so much activity from non-traditional players?
The trend of non-traditional players investing in digital health indicates that healthcare is no longer a silo as these players identify value of incorporating healthcare into their business model. The growth of consumers willing to pay out of pocket for healthcare-related expenses, whether that’s medical or wellness-oriented, is creating an attractive market for B2C models. Since Rock Health began tracking M&A deals in digital health in 2013, non-healthcare company acquisitions in digital health account for close to 20% of all M&A deals (compared to 23% by traditional healthcare companies) with a total of 33 deals and $5.2B in disclosed digital health acquisitions. Non-traditional players also invested more heavily in the consumer health space such as personal health tools and tracking.


3 things we discovered while making the Spire Apple Watch App

| April 13, 2015|Tags: , ,

Jonathan Palley, Co-founder, Spire


For the past few months we’ve been working on an App for Apple Watch. As a “wearable” that focused on tracking the 85% of your day when you are not moving and isn’t worn on the wrist, Spire is a perfect complement to the Apple Watch’s functionality.

Here are 4 things we discovered while making the Spire App:

1. It’s all about notifications. 
By putting notifications right on your wrist—and demanding short and quick interactions, the Apple Watch will change the conversation we have with technology. Users will not only demand higher value from notifications, but also expect the most helpful information to be immediately available to them.

And this is good for the health tracking industry because it’s no longer about “tracking”. Instead, designing for the Apple Watch means tracking serves the purpose of providing interventions or other types of interactions through notifications.

We know this works. Spire’s main form of interaction is through notifications (such as reminders sent to users when the device senses they are tense). We’ve seen that the more notifications Spire sends, and the more value they provide, the less interested people are in the “tracking” aspects of our product. We’ve also seen that the results are more impactful. For example, 75% of the time we’ll notice a distinct change in behavior immediately after sending a notification. Tracking rarely has that strong and direct of an impact.


How to hack diabetes: The open artificial pancreas project

| April 10, 2015

Artificial PancreasCredit: Tim Omer

Jeff Engler, Entrepreneur in Residence, Rock Health

Rock Health’s mission is to power the future of the digital health ecosystem, and we generally work to achieve this through supporting amazing startups, partnering with industry-leading companies, and organizing events like the annual Health Innovation Summit.  I recently came across an initiative that doesn’t fit into these buckets but has a similar opportunity to transform the future of digital health, and wanted to write about them here in the hopes that folks who are reading feel inspired to join their effort.


Three companies using technology to tackle nutrition

| April 02, 2015|Tags:


Lauren DeVos, Rock Health Strategy Fellow, MBA/MPH Candidate at UC Berkeley

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee released its latest set of recommendations last month. While the experts quabble over the fine print (no, we don’t recommend reading all 571 pages), more than 110 million Americans with lifestyle-related chronic disease struggle to make sense of what they should and should not eat. Most consumers fall short of meeting recommended nutrition goals, and public policy is only slowly addressing the issue. Fortunately, a number of innovative digital health companies have popped up to address the gap.

These digital health companies must not only incorporate the most up-to-date evidence-based guidelines into their programs—which is no easy feat since nutrition research is constantly advancing—but must also crack the code on how to get consumers to change their behavior for the better. This last point, I’d argue, is the hard part; it takes at the minimum a combination of evidence-driven interventions, tailored recommendations, and savvy insight into consumer behavior.


Radical consumer-first ideas are necessary to revolutionize healthcare

| March 25, 2015|Tags: , ,

Alejandro Foung, Co-founder and CEO, Lantern

With 14.1 Americans gaining coverage under Obamacare, more individuals than ever are getting access to healthcare. This is great. What’s not great is that healthcare still costs a fortune. Growing deductibles and out of pocket costs make great healthcare too expensive and inaccessible for many Americans. A few Americans can afford high-end services like concierge medicine and face to face therapy—premium services that a tailored to your needs.  Everyone else—from self-insured employers to individuals who need to find cheaper, better options—is driving demand for digital health products that are meaningful and easy to use.


The most important API you’ve never heard of

| March 11, 2015

Levin Brown is a MD/MPH candidate studying Health Policy and Management at Harvard School of Public Health.

Right now, one of the most important and exciting developments I’ve seen in health data is happening, and I really think you should be part of it.

Recently, a group of large EMR vendors and hospital stakeholders started exploring the new data exchange standard, HL7 FHIR. After many years of pressure, these vendors are sitting down together to discuss how to start exposing health data in a modern, consistent fashion. It’s taken a lot of work and leadership to get to this point and is going well so far—but now it’s time for the startup community to get involved.


What entrepreneurs need to know about health insurance tax penalties

| February 05, 2015

Noah Lang, Co-founder and CEO, Stride Health

your subsidy and your taxes.002

A significant portion of the American population will be influenced this spring new tax penalty regulations. It’s predicted that up to six million households will have to pay a penalty not buying health insurance last year. Others will be surprised with a penalty for under-estimating their income when applying for a government subsidy.

How Rock Health helps startups grow

| January 14, 2015|Tags: , ,

Kit Check co-founders Tim Kress-Spatz and Kevin MacDonald in their office in Washington D.C. last year

Kevin MacDonald, co-founder and CEO, Kit Check

Earlier this week, Kit Check announced our Series B funding of $12 million led by Kaiser Permanente Ventures. We successfully raised our Series A of $10.4 million in July 2013 after joining Rock Health’s portfolio. In the eighteen months between funding rounds we grew from seven to 144 hospital customers with over 5,000 users on our cloud-based system and 3.6 million medications tracked.

Kit Check represents the only successful Internet of Things success story for hospital consumables to date. We believe it is also the best example of successful cloud software adoption in hospital operations. We are helping hospitals reduce cost and increase patient safety related to medication dispensing and use, which is an important industry contribution. It’s a great story and far from over. One constant throughout has been strong support from Rock Health.