Venture capitalists have given a $15 million boost to an effort by 100Plus Inc. to use digital technologies to help doctors take better care of elderly patients when they aren’t in the hospital or medical clinic.
San Francisco-based 100Plus provides Medicare patients with digital weight scales, blood-pressure cuffs and other devices that transmit data to physicians, enabling them to spot signs that a person’s health is worsening or a treatment isn’t working. Investors, including venture firm 8VC, provided this seed funding over the past year, with the last of it coming at the end of 2019, 100Plus Chief Executive Ryan Howard said. But the company hasn’t disclosed the funding publicly until now.
With the new coronavirus curtailing routine doctor visits and straining hospitals, their investment seems well-timed. Entrepreneurs say interest in telemedicine and remote-patient monitoring has risen as the crisis has worsened. Several companies are competing in these suddenly high-profile sectors, including venture-backed startups such as U.K.-based Current Health Ltd.
“Covid will accelerate telemedicine by a decade,” Mr. Howard said.
Mr. Howard’s last company, Practice Fusion Inc., provided electronic-medical records geared toward independent physician practices. He founded Practice Fusion in 2005 and was its CEO until 2015, when he was asked to resign after a dispute over strategy with the board. The disagreement was over whether to sell the company or take it public, according to Mr. Howard, who said he didn’t want to sell.
Allscripts Healthcare Solutions Inc. acquired Practice Fusion in 2018. Early this year, Practice Fusion agreed to pay $145 million to settle criminal and civil investigations into the use of its software, in which it admitted to receiving kickbacks from an opioid company in exchange for using its technology to influence physicians to prescribe the opioid pain medications, the U.S. Department of Justice said in January.
The conduct predated Allscripts’s acquisition of Practice Fusion, according to Brian Farley, Allscripts’s executive vice president, general counsel and chief administrative officer.
“We are committed to maintaining the highest levels of professionalism and integrity,” Mr. Farley said in an emailed statement. “Allscripts recognizes the devastating impact that opioids have had on communities nationwide, and we are using our technology to fight this epidemic.”
Mr. Howard hasn’t been implicated in the investigation or kickbacks. He said he learned of the Justice Department probe through the media and hasn’t been contacted or questioned by investigators, adding that the news of the investigation, “ruined a large chunk of my life’s work; it’s been heartbreaking.”
Mr. Howard, 44 years old, founded the company that would become 100Plus in 2016. The inspiration for the startup came in late 2015, when a 40-year-old friend died in his sleep of a cardiac arrest, he said.
His goal with 100Plus is to enable doctors to remotely manage Medicare patients with chronic conditions, such as congestive heart failure, diabetes and high blood pressure. Even under normal circumstances, these patients have limited in-person time with their doctors and could benefit from more extensive interaction, he said.
100Plus uses cellular devices to transmit data. It ships these devices to patients’ homes, Mr. Howard said.
The company has 1,000 doctors and 16,000 patients using its technology and is adding just more than 1,000 new patients a week, Mr. Howard said. Its name derives from its aspiration to help people live well beyond age 100, he said. Its devices are covered through Medicare.
Barry Liberoni, an internal-medicine doctor in private practice in the Bay City suburb of Houston, said the 100Plus technology has helped prevent hospitalizations.
Through the digital weight scale, for example, doctors can find out when a heart-failure patient’s weight is rapidly increasing. By following up to be sure the patient is taking the prescribed medicines, and adjusting the treatment if needed, they can head off problems that could force patients to be hospitalized, according to Dr. Liberoni.
During the pandemic, the technology to remotely monitor patients has added benefits, especially for older people who are particularly at risk, he said.
100Plus, which now has four different devices, intends to add a half-dozen more to its portfolio in the next six months, so it can serve more chronic conditions, Mr. Howard said.
In addition to 8VC, 100Plus raised the seed capital from firms such as K50 Ventures, Correlation Ventures and individuals including author Tony Robbins and Henry Kravis, co-founder of investment firm KKR & Co.