Boston Scientific, Google Look to Jumpstart Digital Health Startups

December 29, 2016
Boston Business Journal

By: Don Seiffert

Boston Scientific has made a name for itself with devices that are implanted into the body to prevent heart attacks. But through its Connected Patient Challenge, launched last month, the company is looking to get more involved in the kind of preventative medicine that’s based on the data generated by doctors, patients and the growth of wearable devices.

The second-annual competition, which is co-sponsored by Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), is offering $50,000 in in-kind support to a startup that uses data analytics to optimize patient care and healthcare efficiency. Companies can apply through Jan. 15, 2017, and finalists will be honored at a live event at Google’s Cambridge facility on Feb. 23. Entries are being hosted on Medstro, a social media platform for physicians that allows members of the general community to ask questions, share feedback and vote.

Dave Knapp, vice president of corporate research, said in a recent interview that Boston Scientific (NYSE: BSX) has been working in the field of so-called digital health for some time, with two of its six major divisions involving “active implantables.” One example: the company launched a Ureteral Stent Tracker app in March to help patients with stents meant to treat kidney stones remember to have the devices removed after six months.

But Knapp says the company has been looking to get more involved in the field, partly as a way of emphasizing innovation that leads to improved overall wellness.

“Boston Scientific is making a big investment in digital health,” he said. “Up to now we’ve been playing a leading role in the area of acute care. We want to be able to play a bigger role in primary care.”

There remains a vast, untapped field in digital health. Data from the U.S. healthcare system is estimated to have amounted to 150 exabytes by 2011, but nearly 80 percent of it remains unstructured, and only 15 percent of hospitals use advanced predictive analytics. Advancements in the area would serve to save money for the helthcare system in the long run.

Knapp said the competition allows the Marlborough-based medical device giant to be “outward-focused,” and better acquainted with the many digital health startups in the area. Last year, the first Connected Patient Challenge attracted about 50 applicants that were “hugely varying” in scope, but mostly all centered around remote patient monitoring. The winner was WatchRx, an Acton-based startup founded by Jayanthi Narasimhan and Arun Buduri that developed a simple smart watch intended for elderly people who need oversight with their medical care.

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