By TIM GREEN
Reporter with Silicon Hills News
The monthly sessions of infusions can last up to eight hours. If the patient isn’t properly prepared or the complex drug mix is off, the patient can suffer significant side effects such as severe headaches and nausea. If worse comes to worst, the patient might have to give up the treatments.
To help patients manage their preparation and monitor conditions between treatments, Texas-based Corinthian has turned to a smartphone app called Patient IO developed by Austin startup Filament Labs.
The patients who use the app have done away with the packets of paper of care instructions and guidelines the doctor sent home with them and phone calls with their care team.
Instead they get reminders on their phones about drinking enough water and taking their meds. Corinthian’s staff can check in with their patients and the patients can quickly notify the staff when they have headaches or other problems. The app also has a library of medically vetted information about the patient’s disease.
Bucky Staggs, Corinthian’s science liaison, said the information flow between provider and patient enables them to work together effectively to improve care.
“It’s the biggest innovation I’ve seen in management for chronic disease patients,” said Staggs, who’s been a registered nurse for nearly 30 years. “It has absolutely improved the quality of care that we deliver to these chronic patients every time we see them.”
He said it’s essential to have a two-way bridge between patient and staff.
“For example, if we know you’re having side effects we can modify your next infusion to prevent that from happening again,” he said.Filament co-founders Jason Bornhorst, the company’s chief executive, and Colin Anawaty, the chief product officer, created the app out of the ashes of a previous fitness-related venture. They’ve found more interest and money in the digital healthcare business.
Patient IO is part of a wave of digital health products responding to health care changes that hold providers more accountable for patient outcomes and that encourage patients to take active roles in their treatments.
Filament expects annual revenue of $1 million this year. It’s raised $1.5 million in seed rounding funding from Corinthian Health and Arcadia, another customer, as well as Mercury Fund, Techstar Ventures, Geekdom Fund and a number of angels. Bornhorst said the company plans to seek Series A funding in the first quarter of 2016.
Bornhorst brings the experience of a serial entrepreneur to Filament Labs. When he was a student at the University of Michigan he started several companies. One, Mobiata, was bought by Expedia and still develops all of the company’s mobile travel apps.
Forbes noticed the healthcare turn, putting Bornhorst on its list of “30 Under 30” in healthcare for 2015.
Filament was selected for the first class of Techstars Austin on the basis of its fitness app, called Healthspark. The app would send reminders to users about exercise. The company even had a deal for the Aetna insurance company to distribute the app to its policyholders.
However, the app met the same fate as a Fitbit stuck in a sock drawer or a treadmill used as a clothes rack. Encouraging fitness, it turned out, was not a sustainable business.
Bornhorst said they needed some convincing to switch gears. “We got dragged into changing the app.”
Austin entrepreneur Josh Kerr was one of Filament’s mentors in Techstars and he and other mentors consulted with Bornhorst and Anawaty about pivoting.
“Both Jason and Colin wanted the same thing out of this company,” Kerr said. “They shared all the right core values. They both believed in the same end goal and were motivated by all the right reasons. They had complimentary skills and the resources they would need to be successful.”
Refocused, Bornhorst and Anawaty and their team went to work.
“It was no trivial thing,”Bornhorst said. “We totally rebuilt the platform.”
Kerr said that from his point of view, Bornhorst and Anawaty worked through some tough times together, but emerged with a much stronger company targeting a much bigger market.
Filament’s staff of 10, builds out and markets the app, working out of a building populated by other startups and tech companies. The team has many of its meetings at nearby Sweetish Hill Bakery.
Today, the app has thousands of users across 25 clinical sites, Bornhorst said.
The Corinthian site in San Antonio has a group of patients that pass on Patient IO’s benefits to fellow patients, Staggs said.
“Patients who use it and understand the value are talking to their fellow patients,” he said. ”Our internal growth (of the app) is from current users advocating to fellow patients.”
That’s accountability Filament likes.