With the pandemic pushing innovation in healthcare to accommodate the need for social distancing, telehealth came to the fore over the last 18 months, and regulatory changes opened up opportunity for new approaches like never before.
Up-and-coming tech companies stepped in to offer the tools that powered this shift. Many were working in the space where tech and health meet for years, but the pandemic accelerated the demand for the innovations that Baltimore companies had to offer.
For those unfamiliar with the term, telemedicine is the practice of medicine using technology to deliver care at a distance, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, focusing in on a physician providing care to a patient. Telehealth, by turn, describes the use of technology to provide healhcare and services.
Alongside a pandemic that sped up digital adoption, regulatory changes paved the way for telehealth to grow. For instance, at the federal level, a waiver granted by pandemic relief legislation allowed Medicare to cover telehealth visits for any patient, anywhere, as well as provide payment equal to in-person visits. At the state level, Maryland also passed provisions allowing for asynchronous technology, and expanding telehealth coverage to include chronic care and mental health. Many provisions expanding telehealth were extended under new legislation passed in 2021.
While providers expanded virtual options, the region’s digital health companies also stepped up. Below, we’ve rounded up tech companies based in the Baltimore area that are working to enable and improve distance care. Not all the companies below specialize in telemedicine, but they all use technology in innovate ways to improve the healthcare outcomes of patients:
The company developed a handheld device called MouthLab, which is designed to monitor vital signs, and has a corresponding app and analytics platform. It recently received 510 (k) clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The company initially intends MouthLab to be marketed for use during clinical trials, and founder Sathya Elumalai also sees a future in providing for telehealth visits.
Acquired this year by Amalagam, RX the company provides tools in the area of clinical decision support, integrating with electronic health records systems and providing access to data that allowed the tools to be integrated directly into a doctor’s workflow. Founded by Nate and Noah Weiner, the company is a recent example of how tech innovation in the health sector can take a company from founding to exit.
The company has long been a leader in health IT, with specific data and tools to improve care coordination in challenging moments. That proved essential during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the company’s APIs and SaaS tools helped enabled awareness among the different parts of the health system behind treating the disease and managing resources.
Marketing itself as the “digital front door” for healthcare, CEO Kristen Valdes founded the company in 2015 to bring the kinds of digital tools consumers have come to appreciate in other facets of life to healthcare. It recently raised $32 million in an oversubscribed Series B round to expand its team and grow the number healthcare providers using its app, which allows members to see all of their healthcare data in one place, share it with people they trust and get connected to care.
The company offers an app where users can access wellness classes from instructors in more than 45 health and fitness categories. The technology allows users to work out together from separate locations, allowing for more camaraderie and motivation in a remote workout, with classes geared towards people with disabilities, or health conditions like cancer, arthritis and diabetes.
Regional health insurer CareFirst recently launched this virtual primary care practice platform. Open around the clock, the company works to deliver care via an app, and provides referrals for in-person treatment when needed. It was developed inside Healthworx, the innovation and investment arm of CareFirst.
The Johns Hopkins spinout is aiding health departments, hospitals and health departments in modernizing their systems for the new age of telehealth. The company applies mobile video technology and data tools to the area of medication adherence, which ensures that patients are sticking with treatment plans and taking medication as prescribed. During the pandemic, it provided COVID-19 monitoring for hospitals, employers and schools.
The Annapolis-based company developed a platform for emotional and mental health support, with a virtual reality and digital health platform connecting healthcare workers, military servicemembers and others with care.
Founded by Anil Kshepakaran, the company’s “nimble telemedicine” technology provides tools to allow a patient, their family and caregivers to stay in communication, as well as providers ranging from a primary care physician to specialists. Through the app, users can video chat, message and access health records.
Founded by Enam Noor, the company’s platform, called inGAGE, is designed for use with Medicare Advantage and Managed Medicaid plans. The platform applies natural language processing to collect data for plan members like medical and clinical info, as well as social determinants of health. It generates a “next best action” for a member based on this info.
The innovation team at Baltimore-based hospital network LifeBridge Health is partnering with Chicago-based consumer health engagement company Higi to bring free smart heath stations to retail locations around the area for use by customers. LifeBridge is also helping other startups through its partnership with CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield’s Healthworx to create the incubator 1501 Health.
Founded by Andrew Suggs, the company is providing healthcare assessments using kiosks and screening tools at barbershops to meet patients where they are. The screenings can help catch preventable diseases that are leading causes of death in Black communities due to lack of access to healthcare, disparities in the healthcare system and a deeply ingrained mistrust in the medical system that often results in avoidance of yearly checkups.
Founder Avery Smith is building a database of Black skin for use by clinicians and researchers that work to improve AI functionality and combat racial bias in machine learning tools that are being used to decide between malignant and benign moles when testing for melanoma. The app itself will have users submit pictures of their skin and skin issues. The app will then provide feedback about what the issue might be, and suggestions on how to treat it.
Founded by Andrea Pais, the Harbor Launch at IMET-based company created a fully automated testing device for sexually transmitted infections that removes the need of lab technicians. The battery powered device, Novel Dx, analyzes the genetic sequence of a sample to identify a pathogen or genetic mutation. With the platform technology, the cartridges can be developed for a variety of infectious diseases, with tests in development for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
The Canton-based Johns Hopkins spinout makes FDA-approved test kits that offer gene-level analysis of cancerous tumors, called elio tissue complete. Combining chemistry and software, it’s designed to make next-generation sequencing testing available to local-level labs. It’s a medical advancement that could “democratize” access to the technology, which can help oncologists and patients make decisions about treatment.
Founded by Kavi Misri, the company offers a digital mental health therapy tool to medical providers to help expand access, and help patients build resilience. The system also includes a dashboard, which is used by providers for monitoring and to receive updates.
Founded out of Johns Hopkins by Eric Hamrock and Dr. Joseph Levin, the Towson-based company creates AI-based tools for healthcare that assist with community health outreach, triaging emergency room patients and patient scheduling. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company applied tools to allow nurses to triage patients from home, and to ensure mobile units were efficiently deployed.
Acquired in 2020 by Pittsburgh-based Net Health, the company developed a mobile app that’s used by clinicians to image and monitor chronic wounds. The app uses computer vision to analyze the wounds. Data then goes back into the doctor or nurse’s records, and they have access to a portal inside electronic medical records systems that allows them to track progress and plan care.
The company makes a tablet-based platform, called TikTalk, that’s designed to be used by speech language pathologists to help personalize training programs, and present children with engaging games that will improve and track their progress between sessions to treat speech issues and disorders using AI, machine learning and speech recognition.
The Columbia-based digital health company developed a platform to assist with chronic care management in areas including behavorial health, diabetes, heart failure and hypertension. It is offered to health plans, health systems and employers.
Based out of Howard County’s Elkridge as well as Rockville, Welmetrix developed a wireless sensor platform that is used by clinicians to track patients’ progress during rehabilitation. It’s designed for accountability in exercises assigned for patients who are recovering from an injury or procedure. As patients complete exercises, the platform tracks balance, core strength and joint function using a wireless sensor and mobile apps. Data, in turn, is shown through an app or web-based dashboard. The technology is currently being used in offices in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.
The company’s product, called Indicor, is a handheld device and corresponding Android app that helps patients monitor worsening heart failure.
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Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.