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Demo Day Debuts New Healthcare Tech

If you can imagine healthcare tech entrepreneurs promoting their firms with pitches as polished as the best of those on TV’s Shark Tank, you’ve got an idea of what Cedars-Sinai’s Demo Day is about.

Demo Day marks the culmination of a three-month program run by the Cedars-Sinai Accelerator to speed the development of innovative, early-stage businesses aiming to bring advances to the healthcare field.

For the founders of those enterprises, the event can open the doors to millions of dollars in funding as well as potentially major new customers. The latest Demo Day, held Thursday, Sept. 12 at the Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts, drew an audience of about 300 that included representatives of healthcare systems, investment firms and Cedars-Sinai leaders, to hear presentations by 10 young firms.

Yet as Anne Wellington, managing director of the Cedars-Sinai Accelerator, pointed out, Demo Day and the entire Cedars-Sinai Accelerator effort aren’t only about spurring business activity.

“The potential that technology has to affect a lot of patients and to broadly improve care is really exciting,” Wellington said. “Many of the solutions that we work with through the accelerator have the potential to improve care for our patients at Cedars-Sinai, and then throughout the broader healthcare community, both in the U.S. and internationally.”

Examples of past alumni whose products are being used in pilot programs at Cedars-Sinai include Digital Medical Tech, which makes a Bluetooth-based system that helps nurses track down medical equipment, and Aiva Health, which sells electronic voice assistant systems that work with speakers such as Amazon Echo to let patients adjust their TV sets or make specific requests to the hospital staff.

The accelerator program graduated its first class of businesses in 2016, and the group that gave their pitches on Thursday represented the fifth class.

In all, 47 companies have graduated from the accelerator program, which is housed on Beverly Boulevard across the street from the hospital. Those alumni companies have raised $200 million in investment and hired more than 375 people. What’s more, their products and services have been used by hundreds of thousands of healthcare professionals worldwide.

One recent change in accelerator program is that it has become entirely an in-house Cedars-Sinai operation. For previous classes, the Cedars-Sinai Accelerator worked with a Colorado-based firm called Techstars that focused on sifting through the flood of applicants to assemble a class.

Wellington said she typically receives about 400 applicants for the roughly 10 slots in every class. Cedars-Sinai invests $100,000 in each company, giving it a stake in the business and a chance to net an investment profit if, for example, the firms eventually are bought by a bigger healthcare concern.

To spur the companies’ development, their leaders are matched with Cedars-Sinai mentors including doctors, nurses and administrators.

“We try to get them as many opinions as possible so that they understand the complexities of working in a hospital environment, where everything has lots of people involved in it,” Wellington said.

Anne Wellington, managing director, Cedars-Sinai Accelerator
“The potential that technology has to affect a lot of patients and to broadly improve care is really exciting. Many of the solutions that we work with through the accelerator have the potential to improve care for our patients at Cedars-Sinai, and then throughout the broader healthcare community, both in the U.S. and internationally.”
Anne Wellington, managing director, Cedars-Sinai Accelerator

One firm in this year’s accelerator class, Feedtrail, which sells software for surveying patient satisfaction, already counts 43 healthcare systems in the U.S. and Europe as its clients. Still, “One thing we had not had a ton of experience with prior to this was implementing our platform across large health systems. With size comes complexity,” said Paul Jaglowski, Feedtrail’s chief executive and co-founder. So, he said, “it’s meant a lot” to have “the opportunity to really pick the leadership team’s brains here at Cedars-Sinai.”

Feedtrail’s system, which sends survey questions to patients’ smartphones or tablets with the aim of getting immediate replies that health care providers can act on swiftly, already is being tested in Cedars-Sinai’s emergency department, imaging operations and the Inpatient Specialty Program.

In the last two weeks of the accelerator program, heads of the participating firms focused intensively on perfecting their pitches for Demo Day. Melissa Morris, the founder and chief executive of Lantum, a London-based company that develops software for scheduling hospital staff, appreciated the coaching. "Our pitching has gotten way better since being here," she said.

Lantum is one of the biggest companies in the class, with 65 employees in London, but Morris said she was drawn to the accelerator program as way to draw on Cedars-Sinai expertise while entering the U.S. market. At Demo Day, she explained how Lantum’s software can save hospitals money by making it faster and easier for doctors, nurses or other personnel to swap shifts or for mangers to adjust schedules when a staffer calls in sick.

Representatives of each business got five minutes to make a pitch. Afterward there was no Shark Tank-style interrogation or immediate deal-making, but the healthcare entrepreneurs set up shop at information tables where they could chat more casually with potential customers and investors.

“I think we made some valuable connections,” said Charles Stern, a co-founder of Parker Isaac Instruments, which makes a device to improve the evaluation of lymph nodes in patients with colorectal cancer.

Other presenters at Demo Day included:

  • AMPAworks—AMPAworks is a team of nurses, doctors, pharmacists and engineers helping solve the problem of inefficient inventory-management in healthcare. The AMPAworks team has created a device and integrated software capable of counting inventory in real time. The system also keeps track of provider and patient inventory-utilization in order to save time and costs.
  • ClinicianNexus—This platform allows health systems to assess and share their capacity to teach, specifying their needs for various interns and residents. The information then can be shared with medical schools so students can apply for openings as efficiently as possible.
  • FocusMotion Health—Assessing and monitoring orthopaedic patients before and after surgery is at the center of FocusMotion Health. The company created a smart knee brace as well as a mobile application and dashboard platform that captures how much a patient walks and exercises and then sends the data to the medical provider. The company's first product, the TKR Recovery System, is aimed at patients undergoing total knee replacement. The system connects physicians and therapists to the patient, enabling daily guidance and almost real-time intervention.
  • Hawthorne Effect—Studies show that 89% of clinical trials are missing data and half of participating patients drop out before their study is completed. Hawthorne Effect has developed a virtual platform to track each patient's data. The company also trains investigators to visit patients in their homes to certify data and keep patients engaged. The result is lower patient withdrawals, more complete data collection and improved patient experience.
  • Health Note—Simplifying the process of documenting every physician-patient interaction is the mission of Health Note. The company developed a simple-to-use platform that patients sign in to before a physician appointment. The platform asks all the questions a physician would normally ask at the start of a visit. The information is formatted into a physician's note and sent to the medical record system.
  • Notisphere—Healthcare providers can get bogged down with product recalls and efforts to prevent patients from being harmed by a recalled item. To communicate recalls, the healthcare industry currently uses a mostly paper-based, slow and cumbersome process. Notisphere is a digital platform that allows suppliers to announce recalls and also enables real-time communications between product suppliers and healthcare providers.
  • Virti— Virti employs virtual and augmented reality coupled with artificial intelligence to transport physicians and students into difficult clinical environments so they can train for emergency response. For example, Virti can virtually place physicians in stressful environments, such as an emergency department dealing with a traumatic event. Following the experience, Virti then assesses participants' actions to help improve their performance. It also helps reduce patient anxiety by creating virtual hospital experiences for patients, taking them on the journey from the parking garage to the operating room.