Boston health tech groups are finalists in Harvard’s Health Acceleration Challenge


Twine Health and a group at Boston Children’s Hospital are among four finalists in the inaugural Health Acceleration Challenge hosted by Harvard Business School and Harvard Medical School.

Twine Health makes a mobile app that lets doctors create a personalized treatment plan for patients as a checklist and then follow along as they complete their tasks daily. The team from Boston Children’s has developed a training system to reduce communication errors among doctors, a big contributor to medical errors. They beat out a field of some 500 entries from 29 countries.

The Challenge’s objective is to help promising projects get developed much more quickly, in a field where it can take a dozen or more years to see a health care innovation through to completion.

“They already have great evidence that their innovation is already working and they all have dissemination plans,” Cara Sterling, director of the Harvard Healthcare Initiative, said of the finalists.

Each of the four finalists will receive $37,500, and their businesses will also be the subject of a Harvard case study. The winning business will be selected a year from now, based on how successfully it was able to grow.

Twine Health is already conducting pilots of its mobile app for treatment of hypertension in six clinics and health centers, and is expanding the service to other chronic conditions, including diabetes and obesity.

“They want to help us scale,” co-founder John Moore said of the Harvard group’s backing. “And that’s the stage we’re at in the company, so it’s the perfect synergy there.”

The entry from Boston Children’s Hospital is called I-PASS, a combination of training and memory tools to connect all the doctors who are treating a single patient. Its creator, Amy Starmer, director of Primary Care Quality Improvement at Children’s, said communication errors among doctors are responsible for most major medical errors.

“The handoff problem is something that a number of institutions are scrambling to address,” said Starmer.

Starmer and her colleagues showed in a New England Journal of Medicine study that a trial of the I-PASS training at nine hospitals around the United States led to a 23 percent decrease in medical errors.

A third finalist is Bloodbuy, a Dallas company that designed a price-matching system, similar to Priceline, to link hospitals with blood banks. The cost and supply of donor blood varies with geography and season. Bloodbuy allows hospitals to choose a location and bid for the supply they need, then matches them with blood centers that qualify.

“Historically this whole industry has been a data vacuum,” founder Christopher Godfrey said.

Palliative care is the focus of the fourth finalist, Medalogix, of Nashville. The company applies predictive modeling to identify those patients who are unlikely to live much longer.

“If I had a good idea that this is likely to be [my] last six months on earth, I want to spend that time fishing with my grandson,” president and founder Dan Hogan said. “We’re really proud to say that we’ve built software that provides that opportunity.”

Image via NEC on Flickr

Nidhi Subbaraman writes about science and research. Email her at [email protected]
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