This is the fourth in a series exploring the telehealth sector and the Triangle-based companies behind its rise as a complement to traditional healthcare delivery. Check out previous articles and videos here.
While different in their expertise, scope and focus, North Carolina’s telehealth startups share a similar motivation. As Ed Barber, co-founder and CEO of Pattern Health puts it, “We (Pattern Health) can have an important impact on people’s lives (…) things we do here can help people be healthier.”
And we’ve explored North Carolina and the Triangle’s potential to lead the sector.
But like in many sectors, the true thought leaders and game changers are the innovators themselves.
Should North Carolina become a leader in this sector, it’s likely because of the companies, medical professionals and organizations supporting them. They’re the ones on the front lines, navigating the complex healthcare system as well as patient needs. They have the expertise to develop the applications and technology consumers and healthcare providers need to deliver healthcare services virtually.
The Triangle boasts a robust set of telehealth and digital health startups focused on a variety of areas of the healthcare industry. From physical therapy to emergency care, the Triangle’s telehealth companies help streamline healthcare for both patients and healthcare providers.
For now, companies focused on the video, mobile and remote patient monitoring facets of telehealth dominate the region while no companies specialized in store-and-forward (ex. doctors sending x-rays virtually to doctors) technologies could be found.
As follows is a list, albeit not comprehensive, of the telehealth companies to keep tabs on in coming months and years. In addition to these, a few local digital health companies that focus on simplifying healthcare through technology solutions are included.
The list rounds out with regional organizations that help telehealth and digital health companies grow and scale.
Leadership: Tim Horan, COO, Dov Cohn, SVP of Products
Funding: Raised $4 million Series A round in 2014 from Mosaic Health Solutions
This startup combines video, mobile health and remote patient monitoring into one signature product—Touchcare, an all inclusive telemedicine platform designed to help healthcare organizations conduct virtual health visits with patients. A provider can schedule appointments, set fees, conduct live video appointments and bill patients all from a mobile app. And patients can interact with doctors from their phones wherever they are. Only three years old, the startup already counts the urgent care chain, FastMed, and UNC-Chapel Hill Health Care’s Heart and Vascular practice as customers.
Co-Founders: Wake Emergency Physicians, P.A. (WEPPA)
Funding: No reported capital raised to date
The company focused on delivering emergency healthcare services via a secure, live video platform has had quite a year. Since we first profiled it in April, RelyMD has added 20 corporate clients (totaling 50 now), a partnership with a third hospital, Onslow Memorial, and is planning for future partnerships with nursing communities.
Healthcare Innovation and Support Organizations
DIHI “promotes innovation in health and healthcare through high-impact innovation pilots, leadership development, and cultivation of a community of entrepreneurship.” The group, led by Bill Fulkerson, MD, Suresh Balu and Will ElLaissi “catalyze innovations” within the university and health system through their in-house innovation incubator. The team works with Duke faculty and physicians on projects like making sense of big data from wearables and other medical devices to enhance care.
Housed within UNC Rex Healthcare, this group manages a unique venture fund created by Rex Healthcare’s investment portfolio as a way to diversify and bring to life technologies that strategically complement the hospital system’s work. Anita Watkins and Bobby Helmedag operate the fund and manage the nine portfolio companies. The group hasn’t invested in a telehealth company, as an opportunity has yet to arise, but has invested in several digital health startups like Awarepoint, Veran Medical and Baebies.
The organization that helped spearhead the digital health innovation sprint hosted at American Underground is funded by the UNC School of Medicine and charged to foster innovation within the hospital system’s healthcare delivery. In addition to the digital health sprint, the group offers pilot awards to internal innovators and partners with outside groups like Blue Cross Blue Shield on projects and pilots. Past projects include the study of whether mobile apps can assist those suffering from postpartum, the development of predictive models to forecast health for those with diabetes, and a study to measure the impact of having a cross-specialist team of doctors housed in one practice to provide more holistic care to patients.
Without Blue Door, the UNC-hosted digital health innovation sprint may not have happened. Founded in 2016 by Michael Levy and Leyan Phillips, Blue Door is an LLC that specializes in catalyzing innovation in digital health through focused, strategic collaborations and human centered design. The digital innovation sprint this organization facilitated for UNC is the first of many planned in the near future. With decades of experience in the healthcare sector and entrepreneurship, this group is uniquely positioned to advise and assist digital healthcare-focused startups succeed.
Medical Innovators Collaborative (MEDIC)
Housed at the Frontier, MEDIC is a UNC-Chapel Hill and NCSU collaboration designed to spark creative partnerships between doctors, students, faculty and medical tech entrepreneurs. As we reported in August, its primary purpose is to “help ideas become real products and fundable businesses.”