Tag Archives: MIT Media Lab

5 Breakthrough Healthcare Startups

The 2016 HITLAB Innovators Summit and World Cup was held once again at Columbia University in New York. There were 74 technology companies that entered the competition, and five finalists were selected. All of these startups that entered the competition and others that help sponsor this annual event have the potential to help improve the way healthcare is delivered now and in the future through innovative technologies.

Near Infrared Imaging (NII), based in Wrentham, MA, has developed a technology for the enhanced visualization of veins. This technology, called the Vein-Eye, is a hands-free, non-invasive hospital cart that provides real-time imaging of the veins below the surface of the skin. Michael Feeney, president of Near Infrared Imaging, said, “Vein punctures can be very painful, especially for difficult patients who may be obese, very young, very old and/or have dark skin.” Multiple attempts to puncture a vein result in a very negative experience for both the patient and the provider.

The first specific successful application of the Vein-Eye is varicose vein treatment. The Vein-Eye is also targeting patients receiving dialysis, patients with severe burns, patients with Thalassemia Major Disorder and patients undergoing FLAP surgery, which is a technique involving lifting a tissue from a donor site to a recipient site. Roughly 25% of all patients, regardless of healthcare setting or illness, have delayed care due to the inability of a healthcare provider to establish an IV access to the patient’s vein. NII is also working to develop a patented technology that will detect real-time bleeding in the brain at the scene of the injury.

MedLogiq, based in Hazlet, NJ is bringing technology originally developed and used by the automotive and aviation industries to testing and monitoring product quality and performance in the medical device marketplace. This proven technology comes at a time of increased concerns about product defects in a wide range of medical-devices, resulting in serious injuries to patients and massive product liability lawsuits. The FDA has expressed serious concerns with these adverse events and has significantly increased actions against medical device manufacturers.

See also: 5 Apps That May Transform Healthcare  

Bill Acevedo, the CEO of MedLogiq, said: “Our solution provides value from proof of concept through end of life for medical device manufacturers and any other stakeholder.” Acevedo went on to say; “Medical device manufacturers don’t know what they don’t know.” There are many key questions that need to be asked and independently verified about medical devices. Is there a design defect? Was it built correctly? Is there a potential for patient harm or product liability? What data points are needed for continued monitoring of quality outcomes?

Jim Zerka, CFO, said: “Our main objective is to improve patient care and outcomes by reducing adverse events.” Acevedo closed his presentation by stating that this quality control technology was used by Ford to ensure manufacturing quality of every car coming off their assembly lines worldwide.

MedLogiq, along with their technology partner MAHLE Test Systems, has been granted access to the intellectual property for the generic infusion pump (GIP) from the PRECISE Center at the University of Pennsylvania to integrate their solution as the “maintenance processor” to accurately measure and report device performance. The GIP was built by the PRECISE Center to the FDA specifications to enhance safety monitoring, performance testing and event data recording capabilities for infusion pumps designed to administer fluids and medications to patients in a precise manner.

Green Sun Medical, based in Fort Collins, CO is revolutionizing the treatment of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS). AIS is a condition resulting from a curvature and rotational deformity of the spine. This condition develops in 3% of children under the age of 16. This results in the incorrect rotation of the spine and creates a prominent rib hump in these children. Most patients are diagnosed because of this rib hump, and when it progresses past 30 degrees they are prescribed a traditional brace. Current braces involve a 40-year-old technology, which is a rigid brace that the child must wear as much as 23 hours a day. Needless to say, these traditional braces are terribly uncomfortable and can create pressure sores, also known as bedsores or pressure ulcers, that can result in severe infections and must be worn until the child becomes skeletally mature. If the condition progresses past 50 degrees, surgical intervention is required, with the average cost exceeding $150,000. In addition, surgical intervention results in a 50% complication rate over the patients’ lifetimes.

This new solution is transforming spinal bracing technology and treatment options for spinal deformities through the use of a comfortable dynamic brace with built-in sensors linked to an iPad that provides physicians and family members comprehensive brace pressure information and compliance data in real time through a “report card.” This report card allows for corrections and adjustments to the brace. This technology will prevent children from the pain and suffering of antiquated braces and prevent needless surgeries.

In addition, Green Sun Medical has created a new dynamic brace to help both adults and children with Kyphosis. Kyphosis is a forward rounding of the back and can result in a much exaggerated and very painful rounding. This can occur to anyone at any age but is most common in elderly women.

Green Sun Medical won the award at the Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati Medical Device Conference in June 2016 as the #1 new medical device in the U.S.

EarID, based in Cambridge, MA, screens and diagnoses ear infections with higher sensitivity and specificity than existing clinical methods by using new 3D imaging and data analytics on a cloud-based platform. EarID assists in ear infections monitoring and management by minimizing unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions and time lost from work by parents and from school by children. Ear infections are the #3 reason for absence from school by children and most likely cause a parent to also miss work.

See also: AI: The Next Stage in Healthcare  

Anshuman Das, a post-doctoral associate at the MIT Media Lab and MIT Tata Center for Technology+ Design, noted that the primary screening tools for ear infections has not changed since the 1800s, and his research has found that accurate diagnosis of ear infections is not currently met in pediatric care. The current diagnosis of ear infections relies on visual inspection of the eardrum, which is performed by a device called the otoscope, which gives very little quantitative information about the actual health of the ear. EarID overcomes these challenges by integrating the conventional otoscope with a structured illumination system that greatly enhances optical and anatomical information about a patient’s ear drum. In addition, the technology with enhanced diagnostic capabilities helps address the overprescribing of antibiotics, which is a well-known public health crisis. (https://tatacenter.mit.edu/portfolio/earid-smart-ear-imaging/)

UE LIfeSciences, based in Philadelphia, PA, is on a mission to make effective breast cancer screening accessible in the developing world and was the winner of the 2016 World Cup. Matthew Campisi, CTO and co-founder, noted that 50% of the breast cancer diagnosed today is in the developing world, with 70% in the Pacific Rim/Southeast Asia, where two-thirds of cases are first diagnosed in stage 3. The company’s technology is currently being used in India, where the death rate from breast cancer is twice that of the U.S. This technology provides a battery-powered handheld wireless device that can store and send data and is accessible anywhere in the world. It is painless and radiation-free and allows for early detection of breast cancer.

UE Life Sciences’ first product, NoTouch BreastScan, is an FDA-cleared device and in a recent clinical trial detected early stage breast cancer with 87% accuracy. The second product, iBreastExam, is a handheld breast scanner that uses a smart phone as its monitor. The development of this technology was funded by the PA Department of Health to address the fact that 90% of the developing world and millions of women do not have access to breast cancer early detection.

Exhibitors at the HITLAB Summit included several other healthcare technology companies such as AdhereTech, based in New York, which has invented a smart wireless pill bottle. AdhereTech was the winner of the first HITLAB World Cup in 2013. Its “smart” pill bottles are being used by patients in pharmaceutical and research engagements and can collect and send data in real time. This system automatically analyzes information, and, if the patient misses a required dose, he receives customized alerts and targeted interventions by cell phone, text messages, etc. This amazing technology requires zero patient setup and recharges just like a cell phone and lasts as long as 5 years. Josh Stein, the CEO, told me the entire purpose is “to see that patients are taking the correct medication at the right time. This is particularly critical for patients diagnosed with cancer.” (www.adheretech.com)

Citus Health, also based in New York, has created a solution named “Call Bell” to help revolutionize how home infusion companies connect with patients. Melissa Kozak, CEO, told me she invented this technology after spending seven years as an on-call nurse for a home infusion company “to help keep my patients out of the hospital.” Kozak experienced firsthand how home infusion patients often needlessly face tremendous anxiety along with many potential adverse events such as delays in receiving antibiotics, chemotherapy, nutrition etc. when patients’ home infusion care process breaks down. The current system typically involves after-hours call centers that are inefficient and typically provide an answering service, not a certified nursing expert. Call Bell allows patients to get answers quickly in real time to address IV support questions and troubleshooting along with answers to questions like, when will my nurse arrive, or when is my next delivery? In addition, this technology provides home infusion companies with accurate patient home infusion supply counts with vastly improved patient support and communications. Call Bell was designed to address the Holy Grail of healthcare, better patient care and better outcomes at a reduced cost.

See also: Consumer-Friendly Healthcare Model  

It was a real pleasure once again to meet so many amazing people developing state-of-the art solutions for an array of global public health issues through new technology. I wish them all continued success and look forward to the 2017 HITLAB Innovators Summit, Nov. 28 -30, 2017 held once again at Columbia University.

On-Demand Economy Is Just Starting

Fifteen years ago, the idea of having access to any bit of information you could possibly want at your fingertips was outrageous. In 2001, you could get access to the Internet from your phone, but the experience would be slooooow, and it might cost you hundreds of dollars. Dial-up Internet from desktop computers – remember them? – was still very much a thing. Now, people carry smartphones that give them instant access to just about anyone, to every bit of news and to almost all the knowledge in recorded history.

People use those devices mostly to watch videos of singing goats and people failing at dunking a basketball, but that’s a different story.

The point is that technology, such as smartphones and smart watches, has created an on-demand world where gratification needs to be instant. When someone decides he wants something, he doesn’t want it in two hours. He doesn’t want it in 20 minutes. He wants it now. And, he wants it at the push of a button.

As the trajectory of the last 15 years shows, the trend toward on-demand will only continue, perhaps even accelerate.

The main driver, as usual, is good, old Moore’s Law, which has seen the computing power of a chip double every year and a half to two years since the 1960s at no increase in cost. Moore’s Law is why a gigabyte of memory, which cost $300,000 in the mid-1980s, today costs less than a penny, and why, despite some technology headwinds for Moore’s Law, we’ll have devices hundreds of times as powerful as today’s before kids born this year enter high school.

Other “laws,” such as Metcalfe’s, continue to drive the value of networks at an exponential rate. So-called “network effects” are why millennials rarely have their phones more than a foot away and why there is so much effort to make devices even more accessible – in front of your eyes, a la the failed-but-not-forever-dead Google Glass, or on your wrist as a “watch.” Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of the MIT Media Lab, has argued for years that we’ll eventually wind up with cellphones surgically implanted behind our jaws, where they will have easy access to our vocal cords and our ears.

But Moore’s Law and Metcalfe’s and the others that have driven the unbelievable progress in computing are just the start. Now, three more factors are kicking in, increasing the pace toward the on-demand world. First, sensors and cameras are wiring more and more of the world every day. Second, people are coming up with new business models that build on these new capabilities in surprising and powerful ways. Third, the effects will spread to what is sometimes referred to as “the next billion” (and the billion after that). Those of us in the developed world won’t have all the fun; the rest of the world will join in.

Sensors and Cameras

Fitbit et al. track every step you take and every calorie you burn, and they’re just the beginning. People have begun talking about the “Internet in Me.” The idea is that you might ingest some small sensor that will report from inside your blood stream about blood pressure, blood sugar, etc. A wireless signal – powered by the abundant electricity inside us – would send the information to your phone or watch, which would relay any necessary information to a doctor or some sort of healthcare provider.

Drones are everywhere. They can check crops, monitor disasters or do whatever. In fact, woe to the next generation of teenagers – parents can now just keep a drone in the home and have it fly around from time to time to see if Junior is having a party while they’re away.

Our mobile phones constantly provide information on traffic flow, based simply on how fast they’re moving in our cars. (When is the last time you saw a traffic copter, let alone a thin rubber hose across a road that tripped a counter every time a car ran over it?) Waze has layered crowdsourcing on top of the data from mobile phones, encouraging people to report accidents and other delays, to fine-tune maps and so forth. Nauto, a start-up, is trying to add another layer by getting fleet operators—and, eventually, individual drivers—to put cameras in vehicles (one looking at the road, one looking at the driver) with the initial goal to improve safety. If enough of Nauto’s cameras are on the road, they will provide a real-time look at the world. Want a parking spot right now? Nauto can tell you about the one that opened up 30 seconds ago a block away.

Google is gathering information in real time about diseases like the flu – it can report when and where a lot of people start searching for information about certain symptoms. Even our thoughts and emotions are getting wired. Historically, in presidential elections, people conducted the occasional opinion poll, so you’d have a sense of the result of the debate a week or so later. Now, people monitor Twitter streams and Google searches in real time to assess who won and who lost. Those feelings then get aggregated in prediction markets that are far more accurate than political observers ever were. Of course, a lot of effort gets put into figuring out presidential elections because of the stakes involved, but this kind of wiring and immediate response will spread into other areas, as well.

The physical world is being folded into the digital one through hacks such as QR codes, which let magazine readers scan them to figure out where they can purchase an outfit or whatever else is in an image. Amazon’s voice-activated Alexa sits in the middle of a room and allows people to buy something through Amazon right when they think of it, even if they don’t have their phone near them.

Our lives divide into two parts these days: Those that are wired and those that will be wired. 

New Business Models

Just Google “the Uber of,” and you’ll see how much a single inventive business model can change things. You’ll be prompted with companies offering the Uber of trucking, dog walking, laundry, snowplows, tennis partners dentistry and much more. There is a powerful example in the insurance industry: WeGoLook, which is being called the “Uber of claims handling.” If a carrier needs a picture of a car, it can send someone out from the office, or it can draw on the tens of thousands of freelancers affiliated with WeGoLook and have one of them take the necessary pictures and gather the information. Especially in rural areas, it can be a lot cheaper to have a local person gather the information than to send someone out from a regional office. And, through the wonders of information technology, WeGoLook can be so thoroughly integrated into a carrier’s system that the person asking for the photos, etc. doesn’t need to even think about whether the request is being fed to an internal person or to WeGoLook.

Even without totally new business models, tweaks are accelerating the pace of the economy. Seamless, the on-demand food delivery service, has shaken things up by making it much easier for customers to order food for takeout or delivery. Venmo has become popular among millennials by greatly simplifying the process of sharing costs and, in general, making small payments to each other.

Amazon went from “delivery some time” to mostly two-day delivery, via Prime. Now it is working hard to get to same-day delivery and is even experimenting with drones that could deliver within perhaps 20 minutes.

These business model changes will keep unfolding, too, in many cases like a slow-motion train wreck. You can already see some of the ways that 3D printing will step up the pace – you just click on the image of a hairbrush you want and have it start printing in your office immediately. Or look at the news business. Remember weekly news magazines like Time, Newsweek and BusinessWeek? Not only have they gone away but even daily publications like the Wall Street Journal have had to switch to instantaneous publication online – no more holding the big stories for the print edition the next morning. Those of us of a certain age remember what a big deal it was when Monday Night Football showed highlights from the day before. Now, we don’t even have to wait for Sports Center at the end of a game. We can just call up a highlight on our phones. If you look at the changes going on at CNN, you can see that its mission has changed, because there is a new form of 24-hour news network: It’s called the Internet, and it’s “on-demand” — no need to keep Wolf Blitzer droning on in the background.

The Next Billion

As more and more people from countries such as China and India and places in Africa enter the middle class, they will get access to all the technologies that drive the on-demand economy in the rest of the world. In some cases, they will even leapfrog us. In Kenya, for instance, growth in the traditional sort of banking is stunted even as the economy grows, because people use their mobile phones to exchange money. Who wants to go to a bank and wait for a teller?

And these changes in technology, business models and demographics are just the things we know about. You can be quite sure that lots of clever people are already at work on other ways that will speed the move toward the high-speed economy.

Think of the shift in the economy as the move from the demand curve to the on-demand curve.

What Is Your 2016 Playbook for Growth?

CEOs entering 2016 convinced they can succeed by doubling down on what worked in the past may be reading from the wrong playbook.

According to a recently released Forrester/Odgers Berndtson study, “The State of Digital Business 2015,” most companies remain unprepared for digital transformation” — an absolute must for growth. Yet executives representing the diverse sectors examined in the study expect the majority of their sales to be digital by 2020. How will they get there?

If your transformation plan to capture at least a fair share of an expanding digital sales pie is not well underway, and you feel behind the eight ball, that may be for good reason – digital transformation leading to adopting a meaningful new business model or new technology can take years. And it demands operating along a different set of practices that used to work.

Growth is within reach of any CEO…

  • Moving at least as fast as the pace of technological change,
  • Delivering on clients’ growing expectations for real outcomes, and
  • Adapting to the shifts of economic and workplace controls to the millennial generation.

The CEO must be the Chief Growth Officer. Hiring a chief digital officer or chief innovation officer or someone else carrying a fashionable CXO title assigns daily responsibility for actions to close the digital gap. This can be a good move. The CEO cannot be everyplace at all times, and, besides, micromanagement from the top of the C-suite is deadly. When it works, this added role introduces skills, fosters enterprise-wide external partnerships, signals commitment inside and outside the organization and creates the digital blueprint for buy-in by colleagues. But the CEO alone has and must use his or her authority to coordinate growth levers and make the tough calls.

The CEO is also the Chief Culture Officer. Culture is not the job of HR or any other designee. Culture is the sum of the hundreds of choices everyone makes every day. People respond to the behaviors of their leaders. What do growth behaviors look like? Think about orchids in a greenhouse. Like orchids, new and different ideas are fragile and require special care. They may need protection from the outdoors – the conditions through which a mature business can operate, but that will kill a still-emerging concept. The CEO must advance a culture of a greenhouse, using governance to support both the work wherever growth businesses are being incubated, and a smooth transfer to the mainstream at the right time.

A lot has changed, but strategy is still the starting point for execution that gets results. Good strategy means having a clear view of where you are, an intended destination and a map of the terrain with a logical path to get there. Good strategy allows for good prioritization of short- and long-term moves, including the digital agenda. Strategy is still what gives all members of an organization a common view of goals. Strategy must evolve from what it has become in too many companies — a financial extrapolation supported by a sales-y PowerPoint presentation and ungrounded assumptions.

You must govern to engage and create accountability. Bring the whole C-suite into the act – no bystanders or anonymous choristers allowed. It’s a great idea to ask your CMO or CIO (or both) to lead the digital acceleration effort, but what about the rest of the C-suite? Put a governance process in place that fosters a constructive dialog with all of the CEO’s direct reports, including the P&L leaders and functional heads. Governance must reinforce that every member of this team has “skin in the game” to achieve growth results. No one is exempt from being part of the solution.

You have to update the risk/reward equation. Face it – the traditional American corporation was built to be predictable – to control risk. But nowadays, avoiding deviation from the status quo may be the riskiest path of all. I’ll paraphrase how Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab, described the issue at a recent talk: To the corporate leader, downside risk is determined by aggregating variables that are stress-tested through complex analyses in an attempt to account for unknowns. And the potential of digital is full of unknowns, so it can easily be discounted down to where it is assumed to just have incremental impact.

But here’s a whole different view: To a venture capitalist, the maximum downside is the loss of 100% of his or her investment. That investment is meted out in small chunks as milestones are passed, so exposure is clear, measurable and contained. And the upside is viewed as exponential (though low-odds).

Food for thought: Reframing the risk/reward inputs and calculation can be a liberating and responsible course of action.

Digital transformation is a non-starter without the right talent. Seek evidence beyond the skills that seem urgent now but come with an expiration date — what matters is hybrid thinking, continuous learning and a record of delivering meaningful results. Is “fit” simply a euphemism for “people like me”? Go after your complements, and even some people who don’t fit your mold, but for whom you are committed to make room. The continued homogeneity of the faces on the “Team” section of most corporate and start-up websites in this day and age reinforces the untapped opportunity to invite others in and reap the rewards.

You must measure client outcomes. What gets measured gets done. And the wrong metrics stifle innovation. Applying yesterday’s metrics with blunt force is a death sentence for new ideas. The CEO must take a stand on how to gauge digital progress. Implement metrics that: 1. Align to the strategy. 2. Reveal how well you are delivering outcomes to the client (i.e., fulfilling the benefits that brought them to you in the first place). 3. Focus on how well the team is delivering results to clients. 4. Relate to drivers of the P&L and overall franchise health now and in three to five years.

You need to generate speed and momentum through constant progress in small chunks. It beats all-at-once precision that misses the market. Iterate, iterate, iterate, as fast as you can. Make live prototypes and show them to clients. Test and learn. Be flexible to new data and insight. The word “failure” does not appear in this playbook. “Failure” is something you bring upon your team when you don’t take the learning from a study, a test, a prototype, a client conversation and have it fuel the next improvement, however large or small, to allow you to move closer to success. “Failure” is what happens when the water cooler talk echoes with, “That doesn’t work, so we killed it.” A culture of “failure” has gum in its gears.

You must pursue three stages to finding your digital leverage: Step one: Identify the sources of revenue from new clients or relationship expansion (see above point on speed) and the drivers to win this business. Step two: Define the profit model. Step three: Go for scale. I worked under a CEO who set up this one-sentence approach during our early days of digital transformation: “Find the unit profit model and then see if you can scale it.”

You need to collaborate. Some people are wired to collaborate. Others are expert at advancing their own goals through silos. Evidence of growth effectiveness: an environment where colleagues build on each other’s ideas with the goal of shared success. Make collaboration a hiring competency that is taken seriously. Make it an expectation and demonstrate through your own behavior what that means.

Finally, you must get out there and get your hands dirty. We all learn by doing. Fast and valuable knowledge exchange takes place when corporates and start-ups interact. Corporates will find the speed, iteration and absence of failure as a concept inspiring. Start-ups are always looking for mentors and advisers with financial, marketing and operating experience. This quid pro quo can be the basis for a mutually beneficial and mind-expanding relationship. Make the meeting ground any space that is not a corporate conference room.

This post is also published in Amy’s regular column on Huffington Post.