Expanding our footprint: three new East Coast investments and a new office

| April 23, 2015|Tags: , , ,

Rock Health NYC officeThe new Rock Health office in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of NYC.

After eight wonderful years in the Bay Area, I recently moved to the East Coast to help broaden the footprint of Rock Health. We want to invest in great companies regardless of where they are located, and that’s just what we’re doing.

Today we’re announcing three investments we’ve made in East Coast companies.

Rock Weekly: Who really owns your medical records?

| April 20, 2015|Tags:

Rock Weekly

April 20, 2015

Who owns patient records? Patients do—in only one state. From grandpa’s prescription history to your whole town’s genetic code—your data fetches dollars, and locking the records up affects the delivery of care. It would be nice to know who is storing what, especially in an era when consumers are increasingly at the center of healthcare.

On the topic of siloed data—our portfolio company Benchling just raised $5M to make the $180B world of life sciences research reproducible, searchable, and cheaper with their beloved digital lab notebook. Meanwhile, our own Clinicastjoined Elekta to help doctors use big data to better care for oncology patients.


Healthcare reform puts consumers in charge

| April 15, 2015|Tags:

By Teresa Wang and Sarah Jacobson

Given the legislative landscape, it’s no surprise that healthcare consumer engagement, which we define as consumer tools for the purchasing or selection of healthcare services or health insurance, has consistently been in the top 6 categories for digital health funding. The underlying cost shift that is turning patients into savvy-consumers is especially noteworthy. Beginning on January 1, 2014, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act mandated individuals to maintain minimum essential coverage each month or pay a penalty. And thanks to the ACA, 16.4 million previously uninsured Americans now have coverage. The health insurance exchanges and expansion of Medicaid to people who earned up to 138% of the federal poverty level were essential drivers of this drop of uninsured Americans.

85% of enrollees from the individual marketplace selected a high deductible health plan
(Tweet this)

Being insured comes at a price—and it looks like individual consumers will be paying it. In 2013, out-of-pocket expenses grew 3.2% to account for 12% of national health spending, and this number is only expected to continue to rise with the abundance of high deductible health plans (HDHPs). Eighty-five percent of enrollees from the individual marketplace selected a HDHP. Individual plans with a deductible of at least $1,250 or a family policy with a deductible of at least $2,500 are considered HDHPs. This means an individual consumer is responsible for paying $1,250 out-of-pocket before insurance coverage kicks in. Given this cost sharing, there has been a significant change in purchasing behavior. Over 50% of the individuals who purchased insurance on this past year “shopped” around before purchasing their health insurance plan. Individuals are no longer passively receiving treatment and information from the healthcare system, and instead are incentivized to become actively engaged in decision-making processes. This may be a scary change for many patients, but the shift creates much needed tailwind to push healthcare up with the rest of the consumer-facing industries.

As individuals become accustomed to being responsible for out-of-pocket healthcare expenses, digital health companies can take advantage of the trend towards consumerism to educate and empower patients to make smarter purchasing decisions.


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.


Money pours into health insurance startups

| April 13, 2015|Tags:

Rock Weekly

April 13, 2015

What do patient data, EHRs, and health insurance as we know it have in common? They’re all in serious need of an overhaul and dominated the digital health Twitterverse last week. The feds called out EHR vendors for not playing nice in the sandbox when sharing patient records, while money is pouring into startups tackling the outdated world of health insurance—thanks in part to the explosion of health data.

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.


Digital health funding in Q1 2015 over $600M

| April 06, 2015|Tags:

In 2014, digital health saw a record year of funding with over $4B, more than doubling funding in 2013 and matching the total of the previous three years combined. The big question entering 2015 was whether or not this growth would continue and it’s still too early to tell. In the first quarter, digital health experienced a 80% TTM YoY growth as venture capitalists invested over $630M. This is 15% more than the average of the past 16 quarters, though the average deal size has returned to the historic mean of $10M. (Note: Our venture funding data only includes disclosed US deals over $2M. Companies that are sector-agnostic with a healthcare vertical are excluded.)

This past quarter, deals by stage were consistent with the past 4 years. Seed and Series A rounds accounted for 60% of deals. As the industry grows out of nascency, we expect digital health companies to mature as well and seek later stage funding. Twenty-one percent of funding went towards Series B rounds with ClassPass’ $40M and Collective Health’s $32M leading the pack.

Welcome Honor

| April 06, 2015|Tags: , ,

Gawande Quote

Being Mortal was my favorite health care book of 2014. It forced not only a national conversation about aging and how society will care for the elderly, but also a personal one that dredged up one of my deepest concerns—how my parents and my older sibling will live as they grow older. When I visited my family over Thanksgiving, everything suddenly appeared acute. I was closely eyeing their graying hair, listening intently as they ambled up and down the staircase, and raising my eyebrows over every dietary choice.

It is embarrassing to admit that the only thing I did was leave behind a digital copy of Being Mortal for my mother to read, hoping she would give it some thought and discuss it with my father. I want them to plan their own future, because, selfishly, I know that I will not be going to Kansas more than once a year or moving out there to live with them as they get older. As it turns out, I’m not alone. Many of the individuals from my generation live far from their parents. And we don’t know what to do as they get older.

When I first met Seth Sternberg, one of the co-founders of Honor, he began our conversation by recounting a visit to his mother in Connecticut in which he witnessed her declining driving ability. That single observation prompted Seth to think about options for his mother as she grew older. He didn’t like any of them.

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.


Want to build something useful? You should know about Stride Health

| April 01, 2015|Tags: ,

Stride Office-4

The Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate and the explosion of health data set the stage for a huge number of innovative digital health companies. Among them is Rock Health portfolio company Stride Health, which is building a fast, reliable, consumer-friendly product that allows more Americans to get covered and access their healthcare. (Health insurance in 5 minutes via my smartphone? Yes, please.) We stopped by their office in the Mission District in SF to get an inside look at how they’re building the first personalized health insurance recommendation engine (and an amazing team). Interested in digital health? Good news. They’re also hiring like crazy. Here’s what co-founders Matt Butner and Noah Lang had to say: