DECISIO has fresh funding and a new board member. Photo via decisiohealth.com

A Houston-based digital health startup has officially closed its latest funding round and has a new member to its leadership to support the company's next phase.

DECISIO has appointed Major General Elder Granger to the company's board of directors. Dr. Granger is currently president and CEO of The 5Ps LLC, a healthcare, education, and leadership consulting organization.

"Dr. Granger joining our board provides enormous value and validation for our company moving forward," says Dr. John Holcomb, co-CEO and co-founder of DECISIO, says in a news release. "His expertise and leadership in the healthcare industry is a welcome addition to our esteemed group of Board of Directors."

Dr. Granger previously served as the deputy director of TRICARE Management Activity, a Department of Defense field activity responsible for operating the Military Health System as a fully integrated healthcare system providing care for 9.2 million beneficiaries worldwide. He also serves on the board of directors for Cerner Corp., Cigna Corp., and DLH Holdings Corp.

In February, the company officially closed its $18.5 million series B. DECISIO has raised $31.5 million since it was founded in 2013. The funding raised will go toward commercialization, continued product development, and operations growth.

Decisio is a virtual care monitoring software that's based on technology licensed from and developed at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. Using real-time clinical surveillance with data visualization, the DECISIOInsight software can identify risk that helps clinicians make better patient care decisions virtually. In 2015, Decisio Health was approved by the Food and Drug Administration class II medical device, which made it the first FDA-cleared web-native software.

"Virtual Care is the next step beyond traditional telemedicine, which — for many years — was limited to having a teleconference or even just a phone call with a caregiver," Hancock previously told InnovationMap. "Now we can start sharing real-time clinical data with clinicians wherever they happen to be located."

DECISIO's flagship product is called InsightIQ, and earlier this month the company launched a new tool: EnvisionIQ, which provides templated real-time and customized compliance reports to improve operational efficiency.

Dr. Elder Granger previously oversaw the DoE's health care system. Photo courtesy

Here are five quick Houston innovation stories — from fundraising to strategic partnerships. Photo via Getty Images

Houston startup raises money, Texas VC closes fund, and more local innovation news

short stories

Houston innovators had no need to beware the ides of March this year. With all the excitement from SXSW, CERAWeek, and Houston Tech Rodeo this month, there might be some headlines you may have missed.

In this roundup of short stories within Houston startups and tech, Houston startups announce new funding and partnerships, while a Texas VC raises its largest fund yet.

Tekmetric closes recent fundraising round

A Houston software company has raised an undisclosed amount of funding. Photo via tekmetric.com

Tekmetric, a cloud-based shop management system for automotive repair shops, announced the close of its growth investment from California-based Susquehanna Growth Equity. The details of the round were not disclosed, but, according to a news release, the fresh funds will go toward growing Tekmetric's engineering and technical teams and expansion across the United States.

Launched three years ago by Prasanth Chilukuri and Sunil Patel, co-founders and co-CEOs, Tekmetric's SaaS solution provides shop owners with digital inspections, integrated payments, and more of their business needs.

“Since our launch in 2016, Tekmetric has always aspired to deliver the greatest possible value to auto repair shop owners who partner with us to run their business,” says Chilukuri in the release. “Susquehanna’s deep industry expertise and support of product-led growth makes the company an ideal partner as we scale our business, boosting our platform’s advanced products and providing the highest caliber of service for our customers.”

The platform provides both convenience and security for its users.

“As a former shop owner myself, I know how difficult it can be to find a system like Tekmetric that shop owners can trust with their business,” says Patel. “At Tekmetric, we strive to build strong relationships with our users to support their business growth. The SGE team has the same mindset, which makes them an ideal partner as Tekmetric continues to grow in the industry.”

The Postage taps new financial planning partner

The Postage has a new strategic partner. Photo courtesy of The Postage

Houston-based legacy and estate planning software platform The Postage has announced a new partnership with Austin-based Whitwell & Co., LLC, an investment management and financial planning firm.

The Postage platform, which will now be available for Whitwell's clients with the new collaboration, range from important information and documents management, estate planning document creation, end-of-life planning, and memory and message storing.

“Whitwell & Co. focuses on supporting their clients through the myriad of choices that arise during planned and unplanned life events and transitions. The Postage fits right into that, and we are thrilled for the opportunity to share our platform with their clients in their planning and organization efforts,” says Emily Cisek, CEO and co-founder of The Postage. “Our hope is to grow awareness of the streamlined digital solutions available and provide Whitwell’s clients the opportunity to create estate planning documents, easily store and safeguard critical information that families will need access at all phases of life. We look forward to providing clients of Whitwell & Co. a comprehensive planning and preparation service that delivers peace of mind to their families.”

The B2B partnership takes effect this month. The Postage, which was founded in 2019, is also closing its crowdfunding campaign on April 4.

“As a company, we are built upon the principles of an innovative approach to investment management and financial planning,” says Stefan Whitwell, CEO at Whitwell & Co. “This partnership is an important approach for us to offer our clients as we progress into the digital age. Having been around families who have had to experience the loss of a loved one, I see the need for a service like The Postage. Too often many are unsure of next steps, where documentation lives, and even last wishes.”

Austin venture capital firm with Houston portfolio companies raised $250M fund

S3 Ventures has fresh funding and eyes for Texas startups. Photo via S3

Billed as the "largest venture capital fund focused on the state of Texas," S3 Ventures's recently announced $250 million Fund VII is focused on investing in Texas startups.

S3 Ventures usually invests $500,000 to $10 million in seed, series A or series B rounds with the capacity to invest more than $20 million throughout the life of a company. The firm has made more than 50 investments since it was founded in 2005 and has more than 25 active portfolio companies and over 20 exits.

“In our first 17 years, we have been fortunate to partner with truly visionary founders who have transformed the way we work, live and heal,” says S3 Managing Director Brian R. Smith in a news release. “We look forward to working with many more in the years ahead.”

The firm has Houston startups in its portfolio: BrainCheck, a provider of interactive cognitive assessment and care planning technology; Saranas, an early bleed detection system; and BuildForce, a construction labor marketplace.

“We believe that by 2030, Texas could be the second-largest technology ecosystem in the country,” Smith said. “That growth is being driven by long-term demographic shifts and broad-based economic strength of not just Austin, but also Dallas, Houston and San Antonio.”

Saranas announces new patent

This Houston medical device company has reached another step in commercialization. Photo courtesy of Saranas

Houston-based early bleed detection medical device company Saranas has been granted a new patent from the Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office. The patent, titled “Access Closure with Bleed Monitoring,” allows for embedding a vascular access closure device with the company’s proprietary bleed monitoring technology.

“As we continue to grow our commercial presence with the Early Bird, we are pleased to secure this important patent that is designed to further expand the implementation of our differentiated bleed monitoring technology,” says Saranas CEO James Reinstein in a news release. “This patent award demonstrates Saranas’ commitment to innovation and further strengthens our intellectual property portfolio.”

At the end of 2021, Saranas announced its first patient in its clinical trials at Morristown Medical Center in Morristown, New Jersey. The trial will eventually enroll up to 265 patients across the U.S.

"We have been using the Early Bird in our clinical practice for the past two years, and the current design of incorporating a fully functional introducer sheath with bleed detection allows for seamless integration into high risk interventional cardiovascular procedures," Dr. Philippe Généreux, interventional cardiologist, says. "Embedding bleed detection directly onto a vascular closure device is the eventual next step and has the potential to become the standard of care across all types of vascular access procedures.”

DECISIO announces new product

DECISIO has a new product on the market. Photo via decisiohealth.com

Houston-based DECISIO has created a suite of customizable clinical decision support tools has announced a new product: EnvisionIQ. The new tool provides templated real-time and customized compliance reports to improve operational efficiency.

EnvisionIQ is a hospital's real-time data and visualization solution enables health systems to benchmark their clinicians, units, and hospitals to accelerate improvements, reduce variation, and expedite data collection for agency reporting requirements.

"Clinical benchmarking tools are essential to enable health systems to quickly identify improvement opportunities that have substantial impact. The addition of EnvisionIQ to our product portfolio allows DECISIO to provide comprehensive surveillance and analytics platforms to benefit hospitals in many capacities," says Paul Sinclair, chief revenue officer at DECISIO, in a news release.

Customers can tap into DECISIO's new product with or without integration with its flagship product, InsightIQTM, which was launched in 2015. The company raised a $13 million series B round in 2019.

Baylor St. Luke's Hospital is using a new Bay Area technology to provide treatment to stroke patients. Photo courtesy Baylor St. Luke's

Houston hospital taps artificial intelligence to boost stroke treatment

health tech

For neurologists and neurocritical care providers like Dr. Chethan Rao, medical director of Neuroscience ICU at Baylor St. Luke's Hospital, time is incredibly important when it comes to brain-related recoveries.

"For every minute that you don't treat a patient with a stroke, 2 million nerve cells die. In the normal aging process, you lose about 35,000 cells a year or so," Rao says. "In other words, you age about 10 years every minute you don't get a treatment for stroke."

This is why his team is using new technologies, softwares, and innovation to drastically reduce the time it takes to treat patients who've suffered from a stroke starting from the moment they enter through the doors of their hospital.

One of the latest advancements at Baylor St. Luke's is the adoption of the San Francisco-based artificial intelligence app called Viz.ai across its stroke care teams.

The app received FDA approval in February 2020 and uses deep learning algorithms to analyze CAT scans for suspected large vessel occlusion (LVO) strokes. Baylor purchased the software about a year ago and is the first Houston-area hospital to use artificial intelligence for this type of treatment.

Viz.ai instantly allows doctors to determine salvageable and unsalvageable brain tissue, creating what Dr. Rao describes as a "map" for any potential procedures. Determining the viability of this type of treatment traditionally would take about 15 to 20 minutes, according to Rao.

"That's the reason artificial intelligence and automated technology has become extremely important. Because the more you've reduced the time it's required to make decisions and to provide treatments for stroke, that benefit is humungous for the patient," he says.

Rao says that his team uses the software about every day and has treated roughly 140 stroke patients with guidance from the tool.

Next the hospital aims to connect Viz.ai with additional automated systems it has adopted to speed up processes for stroke patients and manage their care, including TigerConnect for internal HIPAA-approved messaging and Decisio, a Houston-based product that captures key time stamps.

And Rao adds that the hospital is researching ways to extend the use of Viz.ai for select patients—to salvage more brain matter and analyze additional neurological events.

"More exciting things will be coming out of it," he says. "We're also working on helping it analyze aneurysms, not just blockages. Can we locate the bleeds, so that we can create different alert systems and then create different treatment pathways immediately?"

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Houston-based health tech startup is revolutionizing patient selection for clinical trials

working smarter

On many occasions in her early career, Dr. Arti Bhosale, co-founder and CEO of Sieve Health, found herself frustrated with having to manually sift through thousands of digital files.

The documents, each containing the medical records of a patient seeking advanced treatment through a clinical trial, were always there to review — and there were always more to read.

Despite the tediousness of prescreening, which could take years, the idea of missing a patient and not giving them the opportunity to go through a potentially life-altering trial is what kept her going. The one she didn’t read could have slipped through the cracks and potentially not given someone care they needed.

“Those stories have stayed with me,” she says. “That’s why we developed Sieve.”

When standard health care is not an option, advances in medical treatment could be offered through clinical trials. But matching patients to those trials is one of the longest standing problems in the health care industry. Now with the use of new technology as of 2018, the solution to the bottleneck may be a new automated approach.

“Across the globe, more than 30 percent of clinical trials shut down as a result of not enrolling enough patients,” says Bhosale. “The remaining 80 percent never end up reaching their target enrollment and are shut down by the FDA.”

In 2020, Bhosale and her team developed Sieve Health, an AI cloud-based SaaS platform designed to automate and accelerate matching patients with clinical trials and increase access to clinical trials.

Sieve’s main goal is to reduce the administrative burden involved in matching enrollments, which in turn will accelerate the trial execution. They provide the matching for physicians, study sponsors and research sites to enhance operations for faster enrollment of the trials.

The technology mimics but automates the traditional enrollment process — reading medical notes and reviewing in the same way a human would.

“I would have loved to use something like this when I was on the front lines,” Bhosale says, who worked in clinical research for over 12 years. “Can you imagine going through 10,000 records manually? Some of the bigger hospitals have upwards of 100,000 records and you still have to manually review those charts to make sure that the patient is eligible for the trial. That process is called prescreening. It is painful.”

Because physicians wear many hats and have many clinical efforts on their plates, research tends to fall to the bottom of the to-do list. Finding 10-20 patients can take the research team on average 15-20 months to find those people — five of which end up unenrolling, she says.

“We have designed the platform so that the magic can happen in the background, and it allows the physician and research team to get a jumpstart,” she says.” They don’t have to worry about reviewing 10,000 records — they know what their efforts are going to be and will ensure that the entire database has been scanned.”

With Sieve, the team was able to help some commercial pilot programs have a curated data pool for their trials – cutting the administrative burden and time spent searching to less than a week.

Sieve is in early-stage start up mode and the commercial platform has been rolled out. Currently, the team is conducting commercial projects with different research sites and hospitals.

“Our focus now is seeing how many providers we can connect into this,” she says. “There’s a bigger pool out there who want to participate in research but don’t know where to start. That’s where Sieve is stepping in and enabling them to do this — partnering with those and other groups in the ecosystem to bring trials to wherever the physicians and the patients are.”

Arti Bhosale is the co-founder and CEO of Sieve Health. Photo courtesy of Sieve

Houston nonprofit unveils new and improved bayou cleaning vessel

litter free

For over 20 years, a nonprofit organization has hired people to clean 14 miles of bayou in Houston. And with a newly updated innovative boat, keeping Buffalo Bayou clean just got a lot more efficient.

Buffalo Bayou Partnership unveils its newest version of the Bayou-Vac this week, and it's expected to be fully operational this month. BBP Board Member Mike Garver designed both the initial model of the custom-designed and fabricated boat as well as the 2022 version. BBP's Clean & Green team — using Garver's boat — has removed around 2,000 cubic yards of trash annually, which is the equivalent of about 167 commercial dump trucks. The new and improved version is expected to make an even bigger impact.

“The Bayou-Vac is a game changer for our program,” says BBP field operations manager, Robby Robinson, in a news release. “Once up and running, we foresee being able to gain an entire workday worth of time for every offload, making us twice as efficient at clearing trash from the bayou.”

Keeping the bayou clean is important, since the water — and whatever trash its carrying — runs off into Galveston Bay, and ultimately, the Gulf of Mexico. The improvements made to the Bayou-Vac include removable dumpsters that can be easily swapped out, slid off, and attached to a dump truck. The older model included workers having to manually handle trash and debris and a secondary, land-based vacuum used to suck out the trash from onboard.

Additionally, the Bayou-Vac now has a moveable, hydraulic arm attached to the bow of the vessel that can support the weight of the 16-foot vacuum hose. Again, this task was something done manually on the previous model of the Bayou-Vac.

“BBP deeply appreciates the ingenuity of our board member Mike Garver and the generosity of Sis and Hasty Johnson and the Kinder Foundation, the funders of the new Bayou-Vac,” BBP President Anne Olson says in the release. “We also thank the Harris County Flood Control District and Port Houston for their longtime support of BBP’s Clean & Green Program.”