Virta burst on to the digital health scene recently boasting a $37M funding round and a tech-heavyweight CEO Sami Inkinen who previously co-founded Trulia, the online real-estate platform.
Virta is the latest digital health star to follow the trend of what I’m now beginning to identify as tech-enabled care management. Think of it as a healthcare service delivery model where traditional care providers’ interaction with patient is enhanced (in terms of quality and quantity) using modern technology infrastructure like sensors, mobile, machine-learning.
Virta focuses on Type II diabetes management. They offer a dedicated health coach (someone who can help mentor and guide the patient through the health choices they need to make), a personalized nutrition plan and an overall physician supervision of care. All these service experiences are supported by technology that definitely includes a mobile app; and probably includes the needed wearable sensors (for weight, BP, etc. monitoring) along with relevant biomarker tests (like HbA1c).
Diabetes is a complicated multifactorial lifestyle condition that is often made worse with neglect of one/more aspects like exercise, weight, nutrition, mental health, medications, stress, BP, etc. So a comprehensive, closely-monitored program can surely make a difference. And technology is key for scaling services while keeping them personalized. So this kind of solution approach makes sense.
Omada (for diabetes) was an early player in the tech-enabled care management space. Livongo (also diabetes), Lantern (mental health), Hinge Health (musculoskeletal disorders) are some other examples. It’s a good sign to see standardizable niches of healthcare service delivery being scaled up with clever technology use. Of course all this still needs to pass the muster of traditional third-party payment machinery in our healthcare system. Given the accountable care trend I’m optimistic about the viability of such companies as long as they show real outcome improvements.
Switzerland-based MindMaze created news early 2016 when it raised a $100 million round of funding at a pre-money valuation of a Billion dollars. It is creating virtual reality products related to neural recovery.
The medical-grade product (!imaginatively called MindMotionPRO) embodies the usual inpatient medical device: a set of CPUs and monitors attached to a metal framework on wheels. It has optical motion sensors (like Microsoft Kinect) that recognize patient movements, along with sensors to record physiological signals like EEG.
The application is amazing: using immersive virtual reality on half-paralyzed (hemiparetic) patients to trick their brains into jumpstarting control of the paralyzed half. This ‘mirror therapy’ was proposed in 1990s, and modern VR tech is a perfect match for it.
MindMaze has been approved by regulators (CE Mark) in Europe, which is a big deal. Whether that justifies a unicorn status is no longer a question in my mind, mostly because the reality-distortion of unabashed venture capital investment is now a given in most new corners of tech. Who knows what the actual $ business potential is. Looking at the immense spread of what VR can do in healthcare (surgeon training, mental health, patient education, etc.), a solid-start means a good chance of survival.
Nuna has the right mix of all the tailwinds a startup can ask for: talented team, big funding cushion, valuable data and huge market.
Founder Jini Kim was one of the Google PMs who was poached to rescue Healthcare.gov. That inroad, plus personal experience taking care of her autistic brother led to Nuna’s current shape.
Nuna has the enviable access to Medicaid’s records of 74 million beneficiaries. The cloud-based data warehouse that Nuna is building would be able to generate deep insights that probably have never been surfaced before.
Nuna just announced $90M funding round right out of the gate with the legendary KPCB name backing them. That should give enough runway to make a big dent in a stolid, opaque space.
Adding it to the 10 Year Watchlist. Should be interesting.