Smartlink Mobile Systems lands $2.5M Seed

Bambi Francisco Roizen · January 13, 2015 · Short URL:

Startup hopes to leverage payment reforms in chronic care starting in 2015

If you're like me, signing on to various patient portals can be tedious. In fact, it's a rare occasion that I do, mainly because I don't have to and because there are too many I have to sign into. It either means I'm very healthy, or it means I'm lazy about caring for my health needs, beyond working out and eating well. I think it's a bit of both.

That said, there is a significant need for such an universal platform and though there are a number of companies trying to address this on the Web, like Practice Fusion, there isn't a defacto leader in mobile, just yet anyway. So it's not surprising there are companies trying to take that lead.

Smartlink Mobile is one of them, having just raised $2.5 million in Seed financing, after launching three years ago. The goal is to enable clinical dialogue between a patient and all of their providers on a mobile device. "From a physician perspective, they have a central location to communicate one-to-one or one-to-many," said Dr. Siu Tong, Founder and CEO, who was formerly CEO and Chairman of Engineous Software, which was sold for $40 million in 2008. He's also received numerous entrepreneur awards, like Entrepreneur of the Year Award (from Ernst & Young, USA Today and Nasdaq). 

Since a soft launch in 2014, the startup has signed up about 1600 physicians and healthcare providers who in turn get their patients to use the service. The incentive for these providers is that by engaging more with their patients, the quality of care goes up. For instance, providers can remind patients to come in to get a flu shot, or they can provide instructions on how to take certain medications. Patients can also use the platform to create their own appointments.  

This all sounds well and good. The challenge, however, is getting physicians to embrace one platform.

Smartlink hopes it will have wind behind its sails in 2015 when the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) introduce a non-visit-based payment system so physicians can manage patients with 
chronic ailments, such as high blood pressure, high cholestorol, heart diseas or diabetes. At the moment, doctors don't receive payment for out-of-office visits, even though communicating with patients, or giving medication refills don't have to happen in the office. 

But this year, any practice caring for patients with two chronic conditions that are expected to last at least a year, and are at risk of death or severe functional decline can earn about $40 per patient per month. This means a doctor could add significantly to his/her income.

Physicians need to use EHRs (electronic health record) to bill for this type of service and must spend at least 20 minutes per month in non-visit-based care activities. But not all EHRs meet the criteria to support these new services, said Dr. Tong. There are electronic requirements, such as providing asychronous communications between patients and doctors and the ability to transmit care plans to other healthcare providers. "We help them meet those two requirements that aren't met by other EHRs," he said. 

Asked how challenging it's been to get physicians to transition their practices to the new changes in healthcare requirements, Dr. Tong added: "The fact that Medicare is investing money into chronic care management, it wil be quicker and easier for physicians to understand." 

See emerging startups like Smartlink Mobile, plus more established startups, such as Practice Fusion, One Medical Group, and many more at Vator Splash Health on Feb. 12 at Kaiser Center in Oakland. Check it out here.

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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.

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