team work

GE, Microsoft tap Houston startup's technology for virtual COVID-19 treatment initiative

Houston-based Decisio's virtual care technology has been paired with GE Healthcare and Microsoft technology in a new initiative for hospitals dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak. Photo via decisiohealth.com

Houston-based health tech startup Decisio Health Inc. has been enlisted in the war against the novel coronavirus.

Chicago-based GE Healthcare Inc. has tapped Decisio's AI-powered DECISIOInsight software, which enables health care providers to remotely monitor patients, for an initiative involving Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft Corp. that's designed to help treat COVID-19 patients.

The coronavirus-targeted Mural Virtual Care Solution, which was introduced April 15, marries Decisio's virtual monitoring software with GE Healthcare's telehealth technology and Microsoft's Azure cloud-computing platform. It's designed to offer hospitals a broad view of COVID-19 patients who are hooked up to ventilators in ICUs. This platform merges data from ventilators, patient monitoring systems, electronic health records, labs, and other sources.

This special technology package is a stripped-down version of the Mural Virtual Care Solution, which pairs Decisio's and GE Healthcare's technology to virtually track hospital patients. GE Healthcare invested in Decisio in 2019.

Until January 31, 2021, the Mural coronavirus bundle is being provided at no cost to hospitals. Among the users is Oregon Health & Science University in Portland.

"We're trying to carry as much of the cost burden to make this as sustainable as possible for our hospital partners that we know are hurting economically right now," says Bryan Haardt, CEO of Decisio.

"There has to be a moralistic compass," he adds. "You have to be driven by something more than just profit."

GE Healthcare, which contributed to Decisio's $13 million Series B round in December, was already partnering with the startup on the Mural Virtual Care Solution. Microsoft was brought into the mix to speed up delivery of the platform in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

"This relationship did not exist prior to this initiative," Haardt says. "We all came together and said, 'Guys, we've got to do our part. It is absolutely a moral imperative that we get together.' And we said, 'OK, well, what are the parts?'"

Haardt says this project equips hospitals to adhere to the best standards of care when it comes to treating COVID-19 patients who are relying on ventilators. In a COVID-19 treatment setting, one of the key benefits of the Mural Virtual Care Solution is that a health care clinician can monitor a patient's vital signs and other data without physical contact, he says.

Founded in 2013, Decisio built its virtual health platform using technology licensed from and developed at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. Coupling real-time clinical surveillance with data visualization, the DECISIOInsight software can pinpoint risks and guide clinicians toward better decisions about patient care.

Haardt says Decisio's software aims to reduce the rate of hospital deaths, length of hospital stays, and burden on hospital resources by helping health care providers decrease the severity of hospital-acquired infections, pneumonia, the flu, and other conditions. Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center in Houston is among the customers for Decisio and GE Healthcare's broad-based Mural Virtual Care Solution, which was rolled out last year.

Also, Decisio has teamed up with professional services firm Deloitte to deliver virtual patient monitoring at U.S. Department of Defense hospitals. This technology is being piloted at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio and Naval Medical Center San Diego.

"We look at doctors and nurses as heroes, because they're really good at getting people out of trouble," Haardt says. "And we like to think of our solution as keeping people out of trouble, because if you can keep them out of the trouble, then these heroic, herculean efforts [by doctors and nurses] are not required as much … ."

Haardt explains that Decisio's technology can monitor patient activity and detect patient trends in not just one area of a hospital (such as an ICU) or throughout an entire hospital but across a commonly managed group of hospitals. Those insights help hospitals ensure all of their health care professionals are following the same treatment protocols.

The No. 1 economic detriment to hospitals "is doing things different at all their different facilities," Haardt says. "If you can reduce the variability of care, we know the cost to provide goods and services goes down, and we know the outcomes improve."

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Building Houston

 
 

Veronica Wu, founder of First Bight Ventures, recently announced new team members and her hopes for making Houston a leader in synthetic biology. Photo courtesy of First Bight Ventures

Since launching earlier this year, a Houston-based venture capital firm dedicated to investing in synthetic biology companies has made some big moves.

First Bight Ventures, founded by Veronica Wu, announced its growing team and plans to stand up a foundry and accelerator for its portfolio companies and other synthetic biology startups in Houston. The firm hopes to make Houston an international leader in synthetic biology.

“We have a moment in time where we can make Houston the global epicenter of synthetic biology and the bio economy," Wu says to a group of stakeholders last week at First Bight's Rocketing into the Bioeconomy event. "Whether its energy, semiconductor, space exploration, or winning the World Series — Houstonians lead. It’s in our DNA. While others look to the stars, we launch people into space.”

At First Bight's event, Wu introduced the company's new team members. Angela Wilkins, executive director of the Ken Kennedy Institute at Rice University, joined First Bight as partner, and Serafina Lalany, former executive director of Houston Exponential, was named entrepreneur in residence. Carlos Estrada, who has held leadership positions within WeWork in Houston, also joins the team as entrepreneur in residence and will oversee the company's foundry and accelerator that will be established to support synthetic biology startups, Wu says.

“First Bight is investing to bring the best and the brightest — and most promising — synthetic biology startups from around the country to Houston," Wu continues.

First Bighthas one seed-staged company announced in its portfolio. San Diego-based Persephone Biosciences was founded in 2017 by synthetic and metabolic engineering pioneers, Stephanie Culler and Steve Van Dien. The company is working on developing microbial products that impact patient and infant health.

Wu, who worked at Apple before the launch of the iPhone and Tesla before Elon Musk was a household name, says she saw what was happening in Houston after her brother moved to town. She first invested in Houston's synthetic biology ecosystem when she contributed to one of Solugen's fundraising rounds. The alternative plastics company is now a unicorn valued at over $1 billion.

“I founded First Bight because of what I see is the next great wave of technology innovation," she says at the event. "I founded it in Houston because the pieces are right here.”

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