One of the toughest aspects of COVID-19 has been the isolation of the ill, whether sick patients afraid to go to a hospital or residents of nursing homes who are cut off from loved ones as visitors are prohibited.
Four health care startups with New Jersey ties are leveraging telemedicine in innovative ways to link patients to medical providers and their loved ones.
A global pandemic like COVID-19 forces many changes. The health care system itself is challenged in many ways, as seen in daily headlines and disturbing images on TV. But the patient still needs and deserves the same things: access to care without demographics or social determinants affecting the quality, a good clinical outcome, an appropriate experience with the patient having a voice in the decision-making process and fair financial treatment with procedure costs based on the value delivered.
COVID-19 has accelerated the acceptance of telemedicine in a few short months, and these four companies have expanded or pivoted their businesses to serve patients’ needs.
Based in Hamilton, Forefront is focusing its COVID-19 relief efforts on an especially vulnerable population. The company provides behavioral telehealth to seniors in communities across the U.S., and in early March launched its #RuralHealthSTRONG response to COVID-19. The program expands Forefront’s secure, HIPAA-compliant video communications platform capabilities to enable residents of rural skilled nursing facilities to receive care from their local providers and stay connected to family members even if in-person visits are prohibited.
Forefront also offers behavioral telehealth carts with secure, HIPAA-compliant video communications at no cost to hundreds of rural hospitals nationwide. Members of Forefront’s clinical network – psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, psychologists and licensed clinical social workers – can use the technology to offer free peer-to-peer counseling sessions to thousands of frontline workers in hundreds of health facilities across the country.
The company, in which Tech Council Ventures is an investor, plans to continue to expand its free programs as the crisis unfolds.
As the COVID-19 crisis hit, Hoboken-based Noteworth was perfectly positioned as health care providers searched for a solution to monitor and manage their patients remotely. Noteworth uses connected devices to monitor patient care plans and education, patient surveys and symptom tracking, medication and more. The company can deploy its platform in less than 72 hours and can support more than 50 primary and specialty use cases.
For COVID-19, Noteworth launched two specific programs to help track and treat patients as well as track the exposure risks of health care workers and essential employees. These programs provide everything from trusted sources of information regarding the virus to symptom tracking and telemedicine capabilities designed to quickly connect those who need treatment. Justin Williams launched the company in 2016 after graduating from Stevens Institute of Technology. His business has seen dramatic month-over-month growth in demand.
To help respond to the unprecedented medical crisis caused by COVID-19, Beam Health is offering their telemedicine service to physicians across all specialties in the U.S., so they can treat patients without contaminating their offices or being infected themselves. Clinics across the country are being forced to temporarily shut their doors or quarantine doctors due to the high risk of contamination. In a critical time when patients need access to their physicians while hospitals are at risk of being overwhelmed, telemedicine is an essential resource.
Beam Health, based in Holmdel, offers a network of telemedicine-enabled clinics across the country. The company’s approach since day one has been to accommodate patients by aggregating telemedicine suppliers and giving consumers a diverse pool of virtual health care providers to choose from. Beam’s telemedicine services also prevent patients from needlessly going to a hospital and infecting other patients, according to CEO Sas Ponnapalli.
COVID-19 has taken a brutal toll on nursing homes. As the virus spreads rapidly in these facilities and visitors are prohibited, families have been desperate to know how their loved ones are managing. The HealthHive team reacted to this pressing new problem, offering its product to allow families of nursing home residents to have visibility into the day-to-day health and activity of the patients.
Families can use HealthHive’s product to view select clinical and activity data about loved ones. The technology also serves as an efficient and cost-effective method for the patient, family and staff to communicate. It was a pivot from HealthHive’s original vision when Stephen Farber of Short Hills, and his co-founder Jasmine Gardiner, aimed to solve a shared problem: helping in the care management of an older family member. They saw an opportunity to have a real impact on care delivery and bring together clinical data, social data and, most important, communication and care coordination around a patient, the clinical team and the family. Before its COVID-19 pivot, HealthHive expected to go live with its first customers next month, with a focus on patients transitioning from three New Jersey skilled nursing facilities and rehabilitation facilities to their homes.
Mark Kolb is Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Tech Council Ventures, a Mid-Atlantic early-stage technology venture capital fund.