Healthcare integration: There’s an app for that

Employer wellness initiatives have become increasingly popular, but Marty Jaramillo says he sees a flaw with many of the programs: They're delivered in a way that's too fragmented. Companies offer their employees perks, like a free gym membership or onsite physicians to encourage healthy behavior, but there's typically no blueprint for workers to navigate and leverage all the available resources. 

Jaramillo, a former physical therapist, said he's developed an app to help fix the problem.  He's the CEO and founder of tech startup Health Connections, which has developed a mobile app and web platform that connects the various healthcare resources that companies and insurers offer employees and customers. 

The platform acts like an intranet and aims to integrate the health and wellness resources, care teams and programming provided by employers and delivered directly to employee's computers or smartphones. 

The company, based in the Weatogue section of Simsbury, has raised $ 1 million in startup funds, including an investment from former CEO Richard Braddock, who chairs Health Connections' board. 

Braddock was actually one of Jaramillo's patients. Ironically, it was Jaramillo's two decades of physical therapy experience, in which he worked with clients' physicians, nurses, chiropractors, and nutritionists as part of an integrated care team, that gave him the idea for Health Connections. 

"It's about balance and harmony, or Yin and Yang," said Jaramillo. 

Braddock said he believes the company's web platform is "another area where the Internet could transform an industry, in this case wellness." 

"The market potential is here and ready to be made," Braddock said. 

Although miniscule when compared to the size of the entire healthcare market, the opportunity for mobile health apps is growing. A report from Research and Markets estimates the industry could reap $26 billion in revenues by 2017. 

Despite the countless programs, providers and vendors available, Jaramillo said delivery of wellness programs to employees isn't effective because they are disconnected and siloed. 

"Our platform connects the wellness teams and resources a company already has in place, and delivers it in a very personalized way to the employee," Jaramillo said. 

Health Connections' platform is a white-label product, which allows companies to customize, re-brand and offer it as their own. 

Here's an example of how it works: When an overweight and hypertensive employee who travels a lot for their job visits their company's onsite nurse, the nurse will deliver to the employee's smartphone what's dubbed the "Hypertension Health Circle." 

It provides access and information to all the resources available at the company to manage hypertension, such as exercise, stress reduction, and diet modification plans as well as healthy eating options available on the road. 

"We offer the technology solutions that connect the dots within the wellness ecosystem at the enterprise," Jaramillo said. Health Connections also connects the various individual providers and vendors, to create a healthcare team for the employee. An employee looking to quit smoking, for example, could log onto the "Smoking Cessation Circle" to find out what programs and onsite vendors or providers can offer help. 

Health Connections' revenue model is volume-based. The company charges a subscription fee per month based on employee usage. 

"Today, a company spends more than $50 per month per employee on health," Jaramillo said. "Our platform costs less than a dollar per employee per month." 

Jaramillo said Health Connections currently has 10 clients, mostly businesses including pharmaceutical, medical device and insurance firms. Health Connections also wants to enter the wearable sensor devices market with products that can capture health data such as blood pressure, Jaramillo said. 

In 2013, Health Connections was selected by StartUp Health to participate in a prestigious three-year business accelerator program that helps health and wellness companies. Generally StartUp Health, which is chaired by former Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin, holds up to a 10 percent equity stake in each firm. 

"We are excited to be a strategic thought partner to Health Connections as they scale and grow their business," said Unity Stoakes, StartUp Health's co-founder and president. "Building a successful business in health care comes with many challenges including long sales cycles, regulation, and privacy issues, to name a few. It can be difficult to sell big, new ideas into the system. But Health Connections has an advantage because they not only have many years of healthcare expertise, they look at everything with a fresh innovative lens." 
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