Innovating within healthcare is tricky, because healthcare regulators are extremely careful and the rules can stymie innovation. But that’s a cost most people are willing to accept, considering how close healthcare hits to home.
Aptible is a fairly new company that has settled into Dumbo, with the goal of solving health and wellness startups’ regulatory problems. That way, the thinking goes, the startups can focus on helping people get more convenient and better care.
Chas Ballew, the cofounder and CEO of Aptible, is both a developer and an attorney. After serving in the military, he got interested in solving this problem after realizing how expensive compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) could be for new medical or related services.
See, if you wanted to start a company in photo sharing or data visualization, you can just start coding. To do something in the cloud in healthcare, however, a founder would have to spend time and money just learning the HIPAA rules.
Ballew saw it as prohibitive. So he and his cofounder set out to find a way to build a cloud infrastructure that would make it possible to deliver lots of healthcare services, particularly those that have, up till now, required a visit to the doctor’s office, but really shouldn’t have to.
He pointed to a company named Klara that provides dermatology services online. Launched in Germany, its founder realized that most dermatological appointments and needs can be dealt with using photos and talking a doctor remotely, even asynchronously. This makes everything easier for busy people, including the doctor. It lets the physician see more patients while lowering the cost to both parties.
To be able to provide that kind of service online, however, requires a lot of security and compliance which might be more than a startup team can take on. Right now, Aptible is providing a concierge service to people that want to provide services using the cloud. For $3,500 a month, a company gets access to its platform, tools and extremely high-touch customer service to make sure everything works.
This works well for the dev shops, hospitals and insurers that make up about half of Aptible’s customers now, Ballew said, but it’s still a high price for an early-stage startup.
Aptible thinks of its software in two parts:
- The Platform. Cloud infrastructure that meets the highest standards for information security and regulations. Auditable and restricted to certain users. A part of Aptible’s concierge work is limiting what security types call “surface area,” that is, the number of access points. When a system has limited access points, it’s referred to as “hardened,” Ballew told us.
- Compliance Engines. The biggest part of HIPAA requirements is being able to prove that you’ve done everything that’s required of you, Ballew explained. “The tools help streamline the process of showing you’ve complied,” he said. To this end, they also do manuals and trainings for customers.
Aptible is a venture-backed startup and an alum of Y Combinator. It spent a brief stint on the west coast at Rock Health Capital, but has settled into Brooklyn. Ballew’s cofounder, Frank Macreery, is from New York and wanted to start a business here. The location helps with securing talent, Ballew said, adding, “It doesn’t take any convincing to get someone to at least want to move to New York. There’s no hard sell there. I think everybody at some point kind of dreams of dropping whatever they are doing and moving to New York.”
Aptible is currently a team of four, working from Green Desk in Dumbo.