Three digital health startups from Techstars Boston demo day

By Aditi Pai
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HermesIQAt startup accelerator Techstars' Boston demo day this week, three of the 12 companies showed off digital health-related products.

One startup, called Change Collective, is led by Ben Rubin, the former CTO and cofounder of defunct sleep monitor company Zeo. His new startup aims to help people make lasting, healthy changes to their lives.

"What we learned from what eventually became Change Collective is that when people make change in their life, especially when it's successful, they almost always experience an identify shift," Rubin told MobiHealthNews. "They shift from someone who occasionally goes on a run, to a runner. They become a 'paleo' person, or a vegan, or a 'crossfitter'. There's a deep identity shift, and usually when that happens there's also some group, some brand, some expert, that's involved who is leading the way."

Rubin and his cofounder (fellow Zeo alum) Derek Haswell used this insight to connect with the experts, authors, and brands that had inspired people. From their conversations, the cofounders discovered that these experts hadn't figured out exactly how best to interact with consumers on mobile devices or use quantified self tools to actively help people change.

"They knew they were inspiring people, but they knew there was a gap between inspiring someone and actually getting them to change," Rubin said. "So what we decided to do was to build a platform that took the best experts, and built content -- articles and video -- around their change." 

So far Rubin has worked with Nataly Kogan, cofounder of life appreciation platform Happier, to build a gratitude course and Chris Kresser, author of Paleo Code, to build a course on the diet. Change Collective also offers verticals that are not health and wellness-related, such as personal development and professional development. This summer, Change Collective aims to launch two other health-related courses. One on body weight and exercise and another on startup life harmony, which rejects the idea that someone can only choose to run a great startup or have a great life.

All courses will cost between $20 and $70, and a portion of those funds will be given to the expert who teaches the course. Rubin said the average course completion rate in a recent Change Collective pilot was 80 percent, unlike other MOOCs, or massive open online courses, that show a 10 percent completion rate on average. These courses were also different than the average MOOC, he said, because Change Collective offers mobile features including text reminders and push notifications. The startup's pilot courses focused on becoming an early riser and feeling gratitude. After a one month beta, 1,000 course registrations were sold.

In January, the company also raised $1.4 million in seed funding from Founder Collective and NextView Ventures.

Another Techstars Boston startup, HermesIQ is developing a tool to process and analyze medical information sent through fax machines because, according to cofounder and chief business development officer, Akansh Murthy, information sent through fax machines are trapped in images or inaccessible formats.

"A lot of times important patient information is transmitted to the fax machine and staff typically print out the information that is coming in. Then they scan it back in to an electronic record," Murthy told MobiHealthNews. "When you scan it back in, you can imagine that whatever is being scanned back in is an image, even if it's five pages of text, it's an image. So you can't search the image, you can't populate terms, you can't do any sort of analysis on that document. What we're doing is converting that image to readable text and searching that text for relevant clinical information."

While Murthy said many people are working to move faxes online, no one is providing analysis and data on information that is faxed. Instead of converting a paper fax into an image, which is what Murthy said some digital health companies like Doximity are doing, HermesIQ is screening the faxes to determine relevant information and sending that to mobile devices. So far the company has been bootstrapped, but as part of its participation in the Techstars program it raised $118,000. It's also planning to completing a larger seed round.

"It is difficult to remove an entrenched piece of technology, especially in healthcare which is so slow to move to new standards and new technology," Murthy said. "Fax is considered a very secure point-to-point communication tool, it's not over an internet line, it's not hackable, and it's directly going from the sender to the receiver. But everyone is now shifting to the electronic method for communication. So the fax, I believe, will go away. It's just not going to go away anytime soon, because as electronic medical records become more and more dominant, the fax will be the least common denominator."

One example of this, Murthy said, is if a patient in Brigham wants to go outside the Brigham to get something done, whatever he or she does has to get faxed back because no one has the same system as Brigham. He adds, unless there is a universal system that becomes common or dominant, the fax machine will always be there.

If the fax machine does eventually die, Murthy said HermesIQ will focus its attention on connecting the different interfaces that provide electronic medical records and providing insights into the medical data for these companies. One example of a future feature that HermesIQ might offer, when the company has enough users, is a social graph that shows which doctors are treating which patients dealing with which illness. The graph would be able to identify the different areas that have certain illnesses and which hospitals treat the most kinds of cases.

The other health-related startup at the Techstars' demo day was Woo, a company that developed a small sensor that attaches to extreme sports gear and wirelessly stores that data on the user's phone or computer.