Merck l Heritage Provider Network Innovation Challenge Demo Day: 5 Solutions for Improving Patient Health

January 23, 2013 was demo day for the 5 semi-finalists of the Merck l Heritage Provider Network Innovation Challenge. The goal of the challenge was to create products or services that would help patients with chronic disease, in particular, diabetes and/or heart disease patients, adhere to their care plans. According to challenge guidelines, submitted concepts would focus on “human-centric opportunities to achieve health and wellness”.
The event was sponsored by Merck, which has been active in the digital health space, and invests in digital health, via the Merck Global Health Innovation Fund (; The Heritage Provider Network, a California-based network of providers, urgent care clinics and affiliated health care plans that provide health and preventative services to its clients (; and the Health Data Consortium, which runs Health Data Challenges and is a collaboration of government, private and non-profit organizations and individuals that work together on measures that use health data for improved health and health outcomes (
The demo day judges were: America Bracho, CEO of Latino Health Access; Allan Chochinov, chair and co-founder of the School of Visual Arts MFA Products of Design Program; Josh Rosenthal, co-founder and CSO of RowdMap; Michelle Snyder, EIR of InterWest Partners; and Mark Wagar, President of Heritage Medical Systems.
Prizes for the challenge included $20,000 for the 5 semi-finalists for the development of a product proto-type, mentorship and a 3 day boot camp in San Francisco. Two finalists would receive an additional $20,000 to conduct mini-pilots and the overall winner of the challenge would receive $100,000 to advance the prototype to a real world solution for people living with diabetes and/or heart disease.
The 5 semi-finalists presented at the AOL building in New York and included:
1. Sense Health (
A company that helps to create and monitor care plans for patients in between appointments with providers using an SMS-based system. The company is currently running a randomized control trial at Montefiore Medical Center. (It was also a participant in NYC’s PILOT Health day 2013, you can read more about that here:
2. Frame Health (
A company that uses the Hogan Assessment Health Personality Profile to produce adherence profiles for patients. In 6 minutes, the platform is able to determine which psychological triggers will be most effective for patients to maintain medical care adherence.
3. Fit4D (
A company that uses a platform that integrates data, workflow and device integration and the input of healthcare providers to develop a personalized program for patients.
A company that uses dynamic technology that generates personalized, multimedia daily to-do-lists on mobile devices.
A company that has created “a new vital sign for primary care”, a number that takes into behaviors like smoking, alcohol use, and activity level/weight to make personalized behavior referrals.
The two challenge finalists, announced January 27, 2014 were SenseHealth and Wellframe. Notably, both were alums of health accelerator/incubator programs, StartupHealth, and RockHealth, respectively.
Overall, in looking at the companies, they represent the intersection of mobile, health, social media, data, human behavior and intend to capture and target health-affecting behaviors that occur in between  office and hospital visits -time frames that are generally longer than time spent in facilities. This human + tech approach, which targets in-between-times and represents point of care moments is incredibly valuable because it’s real world behaviors, actions, attitudes, and knowledge, as well as knowledge gaps, that affect care and ultimately, health outcomes. The use of SMS is compelling because it is one of the easiest, cost-effective and most ubiquitious technologies out there and it is already integrated into many people’s lives.  Having a new vital sign of behavior in primary care is provocative because of its simplicity as a concept and it’s ability to potentially condense a lot of information into one indicator. Having to-do lists in piece-wise forms for patients can be interactive and motivating and may very well lead to to improved outcomes, as those steps can lead to additive positive effects.
I was glad to to see the importance that was placed on design, as evidenced by having a judge with a design background, as well as how companies leveraged existing technologies and information distribution channels so as to not burden patients with high service costs. Additionally, was glad to see a female CEO, as well as docpreneurs as  semi-finalists in a major health technology challenge.