Epion Health Receives $4.5M Series A Funding from Deerfield Management

ROSELAND, N.J.July 18, 2014 /PRNewswire/ – Epion Health announced the closing of a $4.5M Series A financing round with Deerfield Management Company, a New York City based investment firm. The funding will be used to scale Epion’s rapidly growing, iPad based, digital check-in and patient engagement platform used in healthcare facilities around the country.

This news comes on the heels of Epion’s recent announcement of a partnership and successful integration with athenahealth. Epion’s solution is now live and available to Athena’s network of 52,000 plus providers.

At the announcement, Epion’s CEO, Joe Blewitt said, “This additional capital comes into the company at an exciting time. We now have the necessary resources for the foreseeable future to capitalize on a very large market opportunity. In addition to growing our sales and operations teams, a portion of the funding will be used to continue to enhance our product for our rapidly growing network of providers. Our focus is on helping our providers increase revenues, decrease costs and improve patient satisfaction and patient outcomes. We’re excited to be partnering with Deerfield Management. In addition to deep pockets, Deerfield brings strong healthcare industry expertise and an extremely robust research arm to the table.”

Deerfield is committed to supporting innovative healthcare technology solutions and is excited about Epion’s ability to both improve practice level economics as well as enhance clinical care and patient experience,” remarked Leslie Henshaw, a Partner at Deerfield Management.

About Epion Health

Epion Health is a Healthbox Accelerator alumni company and offers a software as a service, patient engagement platform at the point of care, beginning with the patient check-in process. By replacing clipboards and paper forms with iPads, Epion improves efficiencies and engages patients to improve outcomes. The service fully integrates with Electronic Health Record and Practice Management systems.

About Deerfield Management Company 

Deerfield is an investment management firm committed to advancing healthcare through investment, information and philanthropy. For more information about Deerfield, please visit www.deerfield.com

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Tute Genomics Biomarker Discovery Platform to Support Brigham Young University’s Alzheimer’s Disease Genetics Research

Provo, Utah (July 22, 2014)  — Tute Genomics today announced that its genome annotation and discovery platform will support Brigham Young University’s (BYU) efforts to advance Alzheimer’s disease genetics research. This collaboration involves analysis and interpretation of next-generation sequencing data from more than 1,000 exomes and genomes to identify new genetic variants associated with the disease.

“Collaboration is the key to discovering novel variants in genomics research, and Tute Genomics is honored to play a role in supporting this important work,” said Dr. Kai Wang, President of Tute Genomics, “This is an example of how our platform significantly enhances the ability for researchers to identify disease genes and variants from thousands of genomes.”

Dr. John “Keoni” Kauwe is leading a group of scientists from the BYU College of Life Sciences that is leveraging Tute Genomics in a large-scale effort to better understand the genetic basis of Alzheimer’s disease. The causes of this brain disease are still not fully understood and traditional treatments have so far proven unsuccessful. Dr. Kauwe’s group is looking to utilize Tute Genomics’ biomarker discovery platform to identify novel targets that may be used for therapeutic interventions.

“We have been extremely impressed with the Tute platform thus far, and we already have a number of research findings we are evaluating. We are excited to utilize Tute’s technology to support our novel approaches to finding genetic variants associated with Alzheimer’s disease using exome and whole genome sequence data,” said Dr. Kauwe.

The Alzheimer’s Genetic Analysis Group is a collaborative effort led by Dr. John Hardy at University College London. Other Principal Investigators in this group include Dr. Kauwe from BYU, Drs. Alison Goate and Carlos Cruchaga at the Washington University School of Medicine, and Dr. Andrew Singleton at the National Institutes of Health. Late last year this group discovered a novel genetic variant that doubles a person’s risk of developing the disease later in life. The study included families that had several members with Alzheimer’s. The scientists sequenced and compared genes of those individuals affected by the disease and those who were not. They were then able to identify variations in a gene that appeared in affected family members. [1]

Another of their recent studies has helped lift the veil on some of the mystery surrounding the causes of Alzheimer’s. The research team analyzed data from more than 25,000 people and reported that a rare genetic mutation in TREM2, a gene with function in the immune and inflammatory response, increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. [2]

“Dr. Kauwe and the Alzheimer’s Genetic Analysis Group are making exciting progress towards understanding the genetic underpinnings of Alzheimer’s disease. The first step towards effective treatments and an eventual cure is to fully understand the genetics and neurobiology of the disorder,” said Dr. Reid Robison, co-founder and CEO of Tute Genomics.

About Tute Genomics

Tute Genomics is a Utah-based company developing innovative cloud-based solutions to accelerate genetic discovery and enable precision medicine. Tute developed a clinical genome interpretation platform that assists researchers in identifying disease genes and biomarkers, and assists clinicians/labs in performing genetic diagnosis. Given sequencing data on a genome or a panel of genes, Tute can return over 125 annotations on variants and genes, perform family-based, case/control or tumor sample analyses to identify causal disease genes, and generate clinical reports for clinicians to focus on clinically relevant and actionable findings. Tute is built on the expertise that developed ANNOVAR, the most widely used genome annotation & interpretation technology with over 750 scientific citations. To learn more please visit www.tutegenomics.com.

[1] “Rare coding variants in the phospholipase D3 gene confer risk for Alzheimer’s disease.” Nature. 2014 Jan 23;505(7484):550-4. doi: 10.1038/nature12825.

[2] “TREM2 variants in Alzheimer’s disease.” New England Journal of Medicine. 2013 Jan 10;368(2):117-27. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1211851.

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Do Hospital Leadership Pay Attention to Healthcare Startups?

Today I got the press release announcing the 2014 class of startup companies that will be participating in the New York Digital Health Accelerator (NYDHA) program. I’ll put the list of companies in the 2014 class at the bottom of this post for those that are interested.

While I find all of the various healthcare IT incubator/accelerator programs quite interesting, I wonder how many hospital executives are really paying attention to what’s happening with these companies. My gut feeling tells me that very few of them are watching it at all. The reality is that most of them are so busy with the operational aspects of their business that they don’t have time to look at the latest batch of healthcare IT startup companies. Although, I think this is a mistake since they could learn a lot about trends in the industry by looking at these companies.

However, I think there’s a deeper issue here than them just making the time to look at these companies. The larger issue is that most of these health systems write off the idea of working with these “startup” companies without even taking a look at what they’re doing. I think that this is part of the industrialized thinking that we need to change in healthcare to really improve.

Let’s also not confuse what I’m describing with being wreckless. We have a special duty in healthcare to take care of patients in the best way possible. I think working with healthcare IT startup companies helps us fulfill that duty. Sadly, I think many executives don’t see it that way.

What I think could help these executives is to have a forum where they could easily sort through the latest and greatest of what’s happening. Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone’s created that forum yet.

2014 NYDHA Healthcare Startup Companies
AllazoHealth addresses the problem of medication non-adherence by leveraging existing member data to anticipate which patients will not take their medications to predict how best to effectively influence each patient to take their medication.  (www.allazohealth.com)

Clinigence’s solution—built around clinical data analytics, sematic data aggregation, and predictive modeling—provides real-time clinically-based reports about care gaps which help healthcare providers improve outcomes to proactively address the shift to value-based models and the growing demand for quality patient care. (www.clinigence.com)

Covertix helps healthcare organizations protect and control confidential data shared between patients, healthcare professionals, hospital networks and third party vendors to improve their coordination of care.  (www.covertix.com)

iQuartic’s technology merges, structures and mines EHR, PBM, claims and mHealth data for analytics that inform and benchmark care based on outcomes/best practices and adjusted population.  (www.iquartic.com)

Noom makes software to help people live healthier.  For consumers, the Noom Weight Loss Coach, with over 11 million downloads, coaches users on nutrition and exercise. Noom’s different patient engagement apps are based on its consumer-facing app. (www.noom.com).

Quality Reviews empowers patients through their flagship product, RateMyHospital.com, a real-time, mobile patient feedback tool.  (www.q-reviews.com) 

Sense Health uses mobile technology to build personal connections between providers and high-risk Medicaid patients to improve outcomes and the quality of care.  (www.sensehealth.com)

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Reporting EHR Medical Errors

Tom Hubbard brings up some interesting points about EHR medical errors. He suggests that nobody routinely reports EHR medical errors. I would ask if anyone reports EHR medical errors. Where would they report the EHR medical errors? There’s no real governing body for EHR medical errors. Sure, we could make up some places.

A number of years ago I remember some organization stood itself up to be a place where doctors could report errors they found in an EHR software. Of course, this brings up an interesting question. When is the error a user error and when is the error an EHR system error? That gets pretty complex and I’m sure some expert witnesses are going to make a killing testifying for and against the EHR companies. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it), I’m not interested in that kind of work. I prefer building and supporting cool things as opposed to tearing things down.

What do you think of EHR medical errors? Who should have oversight of these problems? Where and how should something be reported? Is this much ado about nothing? Or should we be making a bigger deal out of this since it’s currently just being swept under the rug and ignored?

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Colbert pokes fun at Fitbit and other digital trackers

“We live in a golden era of digital toys,” noted comedian Stephen Colbert on “The Colbert Report” last Monday.

Indeed, some of the digital health and fitness products out there are rather ridiculous, even the popular ones, and we’re hearing just that at some actual health IT events. At last month’s WTN Media Digital Healthcare Conference in Madison, Wis., Adam Pellegrini, vice president of digital health at Walgreens, poked fun at programs that reward people for allegedly exercising. “You could put a pedometer on your dog and get 10,000 steps while watching TV,” Pellegrini joked.

Colbert, who certainly was not present at that Madison meeting, got the same idea about the Fitbit activity tracker. “Last week, I wanted to run a marathon, so I strapped this bad boy to a paint shaker for about 20 minutes,” he said.

Colbert then addressed the Vessyl digital cup, which records data on the beverages each user consumes. “That level of information was previously available only on the can you just poured it out of,” he said. He then pointed out that Vessyl only tracks half of the hydration equation, the input, so he announced the pre-release of his own “product,” Toylyt.

Watch the clip below.



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Patient Flow in Hospitals

I’ll admit that I still feel relatively new to many of the technologies that are being used in the hospital. I’ve learned a lot over the years, but I came from an ambulatory background and so I still have plenty to learn about the hospital IT environment. Luckily in the world of EHR, there’s a lot of cross over between hospital and ambulatory.

An example of a place I have a lot to learn is around Patient Flow in hospitals. This was highlighted for me really well when someone from CentralLogic pointed me to a great new hospital patient flow resource they created. Basically, it’s a simple way to access their inventory of videos from the Patient Flow Summit they held in Las Vegas.

They also have a YouTube channel with various Patient Flow videos. For example, here’s one video from Dr. Eugene Litvak, PhD, Institute for Healthcare Optimization, JCAHO Patient Flow Editor, Harvard Adjunct Professor sharing ideas on where to get started with improving patient flow at your hospital.

I love this amazing world we live in where you can go online and learn about pretty much any topic. Plus, it’s just going to get better and better.

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Surpassing Expectations

Ever since last season I’ve been addicted to the TV show America Ninja Warrior. The TV show was brought over from Japan and features insane obstacle courses that show off the amazing talent and strength of so many people. While pretty much everyone involved on the show is amazing, I can’t help but be impressed with 5 foot 100 lbs Kacy Catanzaro who was the first woman to finish the city finals course. In case you missed it, here was her run.

There’s a reason that the clip already has 3.6 million views on YouTube. Americans love an underdog that surpasses people’s expectations. I watched the show live and I couldn’t believe that someone who was 5 foot nothing could complete the course where height really made a big difference. However, Kacy used the talents she had, improvised a solution, and completed the course. She absolutely exceeded the expectations of those watching the show. Amazing!

What type of person are you in your organization? Are you someone who surpasses expectations like Kacy or are you someone just treading along with no desire to be better than expected? We all know the people in our organizations who are just treading along trying to get through the day. That stands in stark contrast to someone who’s working to be a high achiever.

The same could be said for your hospital. Is your hospital one that surpasses expectations and competes with the big boys who have more resources and muscle than you? There are plenty of 5 foot nothing 100 lb Kacy Catanzaro hospitals in healthcare. This could also apply to an undersized hospital IT organization.

Hopefully your undersized hospital or undersized IT organization will take inspiration from Kacy and use your grit, creativity, and determination to find ways to perform as well as the big boys. That’s what a great hospital leader does.

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Vinod Khosla Challenges The Jobs Of Medical Doctors

Silicon Valley venture capitalist and billionaire, Vinod Khosla, stirred up some controversy at several medical related conferences, where he compared current medical practices to voodoo and predicted that machines will replace 80% of doctors in the field.

Khosla believes that the mass volume of data analyzed by computers can replace traditional medical practices and “data science will do more for medicine than all the biological sciences combined.”

These thoughts are typical of the misconceptions regarding what big data can and cannot accomplish:

  • Correlation is not causation: strong correlations found in large data  analysis is not an indication of causation, a crucial factor in diagnosis;
  • It takes mass volume to compensate quality: accuracy is proportional to the square root of N, so you must have exponentially more data to compensate for loses in quality, defeating the cost argument for lots of cheaply generated data;
  • Consolidation and standardization is not easy it but can have quick results: consolidating information about patients and standardizing processes is a way that big data tech can have huge impacts – by reducing the death rate caused by hospital errors, which kills an estimated 210,000 to 440,000 Americans each year;

“It shows how deeply engrained misconceptions about big data is when a titan in the tech industry holds such flawed views,” said Kally Pan, account manager at Leftronic. “Big data is not magic, but is a tool. And like any tool, its usefulness depends on the wielder.”

The biggest complication to implementing big data solutions is not technical, but social. Government regulation and public opinion are two large gauntlets to pass for any innovation in the industry. Those in the technology world will have to re-learn what mission critical means again when human lives are at stake.

Leftronic is a tech company based in San Francisco that offers metric monitoring, data aggregation and data visualization in real-time. The firm is run by Caltech grads with about 20 years’ experience in the tech industry.

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Smart Contact Lens with Health Sensors

We’ve written about Google Glass before, but now Google has partnered with a Swiss company to bring their Google Eye technology to the market. Here’s a short description from this Venture Beat article:

Google and Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis announced this morning that they will be collaborating on bringing Google’s smart contact lens technology, which contains sensors for tracking things like blood glucose levels for diabetics, to consumers.

Specifically, Novartis says it’s interested in the tech’s glucose-sensing capabilities for diabetics, as well as its potential for helping people with presbyopia, who can’t read without glasses. The smart lens technology could eventually help to fix the eye’s autofocus capabilities for nearby objects, potentially by implanting it directly into the eye.

Let’s make sure that you don’t think this contact lens is going to replace Google Glass. We’re not there yet, but don’t be surprised if it gets there some day. These new smart contact lens are more like the variety of health sensors that are hitting the market than they are a Google Glass replacement. For purposes of this site, that’s just as cool.

I’ve often argued that we need to prepare ourselves for a wave of health sensors that are coming. This smart contact lens is another great example of this wave.

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Health eVillages, Qualcomm ‘move the needle’ on global health

I’m back from an extended break, though hardly a vacation. I spent 11 days this month cycling from Chicago to Washington to raise awareness of multiple system atrophy, the rare neurodegenerative disease that killed my father in 2012. For my first post in more than two weeks, I’ll keep it simple but important, namely with an update on Health eVillages, the program I sit on the advisory board of, as well as some vaguely related news from Qualcomm.

First off, Health eVillages this week officially welcomed five new board members: Brad Fluegel, Spencer Warden, Mike Hamilton, Lorri L. Jean and Ulya Khan. Here’s the press release in full:


Health eVillages Welcomes Five Renowned Executives to Advisory Board
Will Provide Strategic Guidance to Bring Quality Healthcare to People in Underserved Areas

READING, MA – (July 16, 2014) -Health eVillages , a program founded by Donato Tramuto andPhysicians Interactive in partnership with the not-for-profit Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights (RFK Center), has appointed five new members to its Advisory Board.

Health eVillages provides iPod®, iPad® and other handheld devices equipped with specialized reference and clinical decision support tools to improve primary and preventive healthcare in underserved areas around the world.

“We are proud to announce the addition of these five fantastic non-profit and corporate executives to our Advisory Board,” said Donato Tramuto, the Founder of Health eVillages. “As HealtheVillages continues to grow its presence across the globe, we are excited to be able to mine the breadth and depth of experience that Brad Fluegel, Spencer Warden, Mike Hamilton, Lorri L. Jean and Ulya Khan bring to the table. We look forward to using their guidance to help shape innovative, strategic approaches to bringing quality healthcare to people in some of the most underserved areas around the world.”

Since its inception in 2011, Health eVillages has made a significant impact in improving access to critical, live-saving medical information worldwide, launching programs in Africa, Central America, Pacific nations, the Caribbean and areas of Louisiana affected by the Gulf oil spill.

The most recent additions to the Health eVillages Advisory Board include:

Brad Fluegel is the Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer at Walgreens Co. Prior to coming to Walgreens in 2012, Fluegel was an executive at several prominent healthcare companies, including Wellpoint, Aetna, Inc., United Health Group and Tillinghast-Towers Perrin. He also serves on the Board of Directors of Metropolitan Jewish Health System in New York City,Health Integrated, Inc., and Performant Financial Corp.

Spencer Warden is the Provider Engagement Lead at Dabo Health Inc., which provides a community healthcare platform to view and track improvement in key performance metrics and allows for collaboration across hospitals and healthcare systems. Spencer’s responsibilities at Dabo Health include business development, corporate strategy, and strategic partnerships in the Hospital and Payer marketplace. He previously worked for Eli Lilly as a Sales Representative in San Francisco’s Neuroscience sleeve.

Mike Hamilton , President of Engagement at Blood: Water Mission, has received numerous honors for his work with youth and children, especially for orphan crisis issues and healthcare needs in Africa. Hamilton came to Blood: Water after 26 years in intercollegiate athletics at Clemson University, Wake Forest University, and the University of Tennessee. He also served on the board for Show Hope and chaired the Knoxville Chamber Partnership and the local United Way Chapter in Knoxville.

Lorri L. Jean is a nationally recognized leader in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (“LGBT”) civil rights movement.  She serves as CEO of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, the world’s largest LGBT organization.  Previously, Jean served as the Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.  Jean was the first openly gay or lesbian person to receive a top secret security clearance from the Central Intelligence Agency, and with her appointment in 1989 as Deputy Regional Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”), she became the highest-ranking openly gay or lesbian person in the Federal government. OUT Magazine has twice named her one of the 50 most powerful gay people in the nation and Los Angeles Magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in Los Angeles.

Ulya Khan, the Chief Operating Officer at Physicians Interactive, has more than 20 years of experience in technology, data and operations. Prior to joining Physicians Interactive, Khan held several leadership positions including Chief Operating Officer and Chief Of Staff at Thomson Reuters in London and New York City, where she was instrumental in building and exponentially growing several businesses and managing global teams across Asia, Europe and the Americas.

Additional members of the Health eVillages Advisory Board include:

Donato Tramuto, Founder, CEO and Vice Chairman of Physicians Interactive

Steve Andrzejewski, Chief Executive Officer of Spiritus Pharmaceuticals

John Boyer, President and General Manager of MAXIMUS Federal Services

Dr. Tim Bristol, Nurse Educator

Caleb DesRosiers, Healthcare Counsel at Foley Hoag LLP

Greg Divis, President and CEO of KV Pharmaceutical

Dr. Mary Jane England , Professor at Boston University School of Public Health

Mark Friess, CEO and Founder, WelVU, Inc.

Dr. Antoinette Hays, President, Regis College

Kerry Kennedy, President of the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights

Devin Paullin, Executive Vice President of Corporate Business Development of Physicians Interactive

Derek Rago, Vice President of Marketing & Strategy, McKesson Patient Relationship Solutions

Glen Tullman, Managing Director, 7Wire Ventures

Neil Versel , Freelance Healthcare Journalist

About Health eVillages
Health eVillages, a program of the not-for-profit Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights and Physicians Interactive, provides state-of-the-art mobile health technology including medical reference and clinical decision support resources to medical professionals in the most challenging clinical environments around the world. For more information about Health eVillages, please visit http://www.healthevillages.org/.

About Physicians Interactive
Headquartered in Reading, MA, PI aspires to use the power of worldwide networks of healthcare professionals and life sciences companies together in ways that will change the practice and business of medicine for the better. PI’s value proposition is to offer the life science industry a low-cost, virtual, multi-channel marketing approach that can be used to supplement currently promoted products, as well as non-promoted and orphaned products, that deliver benefits to physicians and patients. A key focus is providing services that fit into physicians’ and healthcare professionals’ daily workflow at the point-of-care when they make diagnosis, treatment and prescribing decisions. More information can be found at www.PhysiciansInteractive.com.

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Interested in seeing the kind of difference Health eVillages is making in remote parts of the world? Check out this short video about “moving the needle on global health.”

In somewhat related news, Qualcomm Wireless Reach and Trice Imaging reported last week how their mobile ultrasound technology saved significant amounts of money, time and, ultimately, lives in prenatal care, at three small, rural health clinics in Morocco. Click here to read the case study.

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