Brigham Shark Tank Delivers Expected Theme, Unexpected Outcome

At the second annual Brigham and Women’s Hospital Shark Tank on Wednesday October 7, the role of Kevin O’Leary was more than filled – and the outcome was not without its surprises.

The event featured three startups that had been selected by the Brigham iHub to compete for a cash prize and in-kind services. They each delivered five minute pitches followed by a  Shark-style Q&A from a panel consisting of clinicians and health tech industry experts. The event was part of Discover Brigham, a full-day event showcasing research and innovation at the Longwood Area hospital.

Improving the transition from acute to long-term care – a recurring focus of some of the Brigham’s most recent innovation events – was the theme of Wednesday’s Shark Tank. All 3 startups – Meet Caregivers, Memora Health and WatchRx – aimed to improve patient care after the hospital discharge.

Meet Caregivers, the first to pitch, had developed a platform for matching elderly patients in need of regular home visits with nearby home-care experts. Their platform allows families to browse and book preferred caregivers for their loved ones and track the progress of those home visits. Given the razor-thin margins of existing caregiver services, the main concern of judge Kathryn Britton (Medical Director of Care Transitions at the Brigham) was with the company’s financial sustainability.

Memora was next with an SMS-based reminder tool for medication adherence. Founded by a team of college and grad students, Memora offers a dashboard on which clinicians can manage a patient’s medications, set up automated texts reminding them when to take their pills, and interact with analytics on adherence data. Sharks Charles Morris (primary care physician) and John Wright (orthopedic surgeon) voiced concerns about the redundancy in a clinician’s workflow of having to simultaneously manage each patient’s meds list on their EMR as well as on Memora.

Finally, WatchRx presented their medical adherence wearable, a smart watch that interfaces with pharmacies and hospitals to maintain up-to-date med lists and delivers talking instructions on which pills to take and when. Although they emphasized the necessity of their non-iPhone hardware given dismal smartphone penetration rates amongst the elderly, Morris argued that the product was best left as an app on Apple’s iWatch given its versatility and dominance in the market.

Following the three pitches, Wright offered a Kevin O’Leary-style warning to all the presenters that resounded very well with the audience, saying that their products were “best suited for millennials and hypochondriacs” and that the true focus of digital health products should be care of underserved populations.

In an informal audience poll, Memora pulled in the fewest votes while WatchRx was the favorite by a long shot. But surprisingly, the Sharks gave first place to Memora, with Morris claiming that, despite their imperfect integration into the clinician’s workflow, “their platform has the most potential to adapt and grow.”

The team at Memora Health will receive a $2,500 prize and lunch with a number of key players at the west-coast digital health venture fund Rock Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

 

A correction was made to this article on 14 October 2015. Rock Health is a “digital health venture fund” not “digital health accelerator” as was first written.

Jayson Marwaha

Jayson Marwaha

    Jayson Marwaha is a medical student at Brown University who does research and writing on data, finance, and safety in healthcare. Follow him on Twitter at @Jayson_Marwaha.

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