Health Care, Small Business & Startups, and Technology

Spectrum absorbs Abriiz

Health system shuts down Ideomed but keeps the mobile platform.

January 9, 2015
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Spectrum Health, the controlling interest in Ideomed, is integrating the Abriiz application product after deciding to pull the plug on Ideomed as a stand-alone company.

Amid the promising development of Ideomed’s multi-platform Abriiz application and overcoming the pioneering barriers in the field of digital health technology, Spectrum Health has made the decision to absorb the technology company’s product into its broader digital strategy and close down Ideomed as a separate entity.

Ideomed was initially launched in 2010 by Spectrum Health Innovations as a separate company with the hope it would produce enough revenue or attract venture capital investment from external organizations. Shutting down Ideomed as an entity stemmed from a decision by Spectrum Health that it was not in its financial best interest to continuing funding it as the sole investor.

Patrick O’Hare, senior vice president of facilities and chief information officer at Spectrum Health and board chair of Ideomed, said it was a difficult decision as the organization believes the tools and technology developed are where the market is heading in terms of supporting patients and members in managing their own care.

“Spectrum Health has been a key customer, if you will, of Ideomed. We have been utilizing the Abriiz platform in a variety of ways in a variety of different clinical areas in the organization,” said O’Hare. “Our goal is to continue to do so. Instead of us paying Ideomed, in essence, as a vendor to maintain and support the application, we are going to be doing it as a direct department of Spectrum Health.”

Keith Brophy, CEO of Ideomed, said from the Spectrum Health perspective, it was perfect timing to pull in the Abriiz product, which had been intersected with its digital strategy over the past several years.

“We’ve had a very busy and, by many metrics, very successful 2014 with the FDA approval and a number of other (advances on the) Medicaid front, and certainly with a period of extreme activity for us on various aspects of digital health,” said Brophy. “At the same time, the mobile health industry at large has continued to heat up, grow and have more development occur. It remains a young and emerging space.”

When Ideomed initially began pursuing the development of the multi-platform tool, Brophy said the role of mobile health was not clear; there was still debate about whether there was a place for it in the medical field and what it would ultimately look like. As a still emerging market, questions lingered as to how health systems would approach the digital health field and which vendors to invest in.

“There is a strong venture capitalist community that is out there. I think it is just challenging with a space like early-stage health IT,” said Brophy. “It reminds me of the dotcom space back in 1997 and 1998, where all of the models were so speculative as markets and buying patterns continued to emerge. That is certainly what we saw with Ideomed; markets were continuing to emerge in the health IT space.”

Originally set up with the anticipation it would fund itself, O’Hare said Spectrum Health finally reached the point where it decided not to continue investing in Ideomed.

“Venture capitalists were saying to us that they were going to wait on the sidelines before entering the market, and it wasn’t prudent on our part to be the sole investor behind this,” said O’Hare. “The thing that changes is behind the scenes. We are committed to the use of this technology for patients and members.”

Patients and members within the Spectrum Health and Priority Health system have used the Abriiz application to help manage chronic conditions such as asthma, cardiac care, overweight and diabetes. Based on a decision by clinical staff, individuals who could benefit from using the health management tool will have access to the platform, according to O’Hare.

As the product is rolled into the overall Spectrum Health organization, some of the Ideomed team, including permanent contractors, will transition into Spectrum, according to Brophy.

“We had 26 full-time employees. We would anticipate some team members rolling in, although Spectrum has a very large and strong staff of its own on web and mobile strategy, but we will supplement that where it makes sense from Spectrum’s perspective,” said Brophy. “I know a lot of individuals will go on to do other entrepreneurial startup work, as well.”

Since Brophy joined the team as CEO at the end of 2010, the mobile health solutions company has worked with external customers and partners, as well as Spectrum Health and Priority Health. Shifting its initial focus of researching asthma inhaler sleeves and similar medical devices to produce viable products in the mobile health field, Brophy said the company marched through a number of pioneering barriers.

“It was invigorating because we had terrific collaboration locally with the Spectrum system, great expert feedback, and we also had great collaborations nationally,” said Brophy. “We had a chance to influence thought on digital health nationwide. We testified before the U.S. Congress.”

Ideomed was selected as one of four mobile medical application companies to speak before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Small Business’ subcommittee on Health and Technology in 2013.

From its primary focus on the asthma population in 2011, Brophy said the company quickly expanded to include other chronic-health-related populations so those patients could leverage tools to help manage their health challenges.

“Abriiz has been deployed with everything from HIV populations in California to congestive heart failure patients in West Michigan, to physical therapy patients in Arizona,” said Brophy. “We discovered a lot of realities in patient digital health over the years. One reality is that a majority of those with chronic conditions have multiple conditions.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that, as of 2012, roughly 117 million adults have one or more chronic health conditions that are often costly, common and preventable. One in four adults in the United States has two or more chronic health conditions. In 2006, 84 percent of all health care costs were allocated to 50 percent of the population who have one or more chronic conditions, according to the CDC.

As Ideomed passes the baton to Spectrum Health to integrate Abriiz into its broader digital health strategy, Brophy said the company has had an interesting path over the years.

“We are a bit of an unusual business in West Michigan, perhaps, going from an innovative startup to fairly rapid growth, to expanding reach, to then having the product or the output assimilated,” said Brophy. “Our market was not yet proven out and our goal to build a product to touch patient lives kind of lives on in this next era.”

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