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."

Decisio Health Inc. is designing data-driven resources for clinicians and patients using virtual care. Photo via decisiohealth.com

Houston virtual health care company receives investment from GE for its $13M series B

Money moves

A Houston-based health tech company is wrapping up its series B fundraising round with an investment from Chicago-based GE Healthcare.

The fundraising round is in its initial closing, says Gray Hancock, COO Decisio Health Inc., and is expected to close at $13 million. Decisio has previously raised $7 million, according to Crunchbase. The funds will be used for product development, support, and ongoing growth in operations.

"This investment really cements our partnership with GE Healthcare," Hancock tells InnovationMap in an email. "We signed a global distribution agreement with them earlier this year, so the investment is another step forward in our strategic alignment."

GE Healthcare also invested in Massachusetts-based Formlabs, which makes low-cost 3D printers for anatomical models, and U.K.-based CMR Surgical Ltd., which specializes in surgical robotics.

"Healthcare's next chapter will be written in part by emerging technologies like 3D printing, robotic surgery and virtual patient monitoring," says Kieran Murphy, president and CEO of GE Healthcare, in a news release. "That's why we're putting GE Healthcare's innovative engine and resources behind collaborations with these exciting, next generation companies – to help change the way clinicians work and enable more precise patient care."

Decisio is a virtual care monitoring software that was founded in 2013 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.

"Our theory was that if you can make the clinicians job's easier, and improve the outcomes for the patients then costs will come down," Hancock says. "But the care of the patient comes first. Do that right and the cost savings will follow. We say its 'where outcomes meet income.'"

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.

For Decisio, the future of health care is virtual, and the company is determined to design the best technology for clinicians and patients alike.

"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 says. "Now we can start sharing real-time clinical data with clinicians wherever they happen to be located."

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2 Houston startups make strategic C-suite hires

short stories

A couple of Houston tech startups have recently announced new appointments to their C-suites. A med tech company with its national headquarters in Houston has a new leader, and a Houston software has a new exec focused on strategy.

Optellum names new CEO

Jason Pesterfield will lead United States operations for Optellum. Photo courtesy of Optellum

Optellum, a medical software startup based in the United Kingdom and has its United States HQ in Houston, has appointed Jason Pesterfield as CEO to lead growth in the U.S. clinical market. Optellum AI-based software enhances early lung cancer diagnosis and therapy with its medical device software platform, Virtual Nodule Clinic.

Pesterfield was previously the president and CEO of Veran Medical Technologies, a leader in image-guided lung cancer diagnosis. He brings 25 years of leadership experience in the medtech sector. Optellum was founded by Václav Potěšil, Lyndsey Pickup, Timor Kadir, Professor Sir Mike Brady, and Jérôme Declerck.

"It took us almost a year to find the right successor who shares our vision and has the right expertise to take Optellum on to the next stage of growth," says Potěšil in a news release. "I am really excited to work with Jason, to make Optellum's platform available to every clinician in the USA and around the world, and to help them diagnose their lung cancer patients as early as possible. With Jason on board, I can focus on advancing Optellum's vision to transform early lung cancer therapy through partnerships that harness the power of AI software combined with molecular diagnostics, robotics and interventional devices, and drugs."

Liongard announces chief strategy officer

Patrick Schneidau is the chief strategy officer for Liongard. Photo courtesy

​Houston software-as-a-service company, Liongard, has named Patrick Schneidau as chief strategy officer. The company, founded in 2015, was a 2021 InnovationMap Awards finalist and reported that the team was looking to expand by around 70 new hires over the next year.

"Liongard is an incredible Houston growth story," Schneidau tells InnovationMap. "Our founders, Joe Alapat and Vincent Tran, have built a first-class team that allow technology service providers to operate at 10x by providing unprecedented insight and data into the systems deployed in the modern IT stack. In a rapidly growing market, they are quickly becoming 'must have' technology. I'm excited to join to team to accelerate their growth into new markets and with new products."

Schneidau spent over a decade at Houston-based PROS before serving in C-level positions at two other Houston startups — Commtrex and Truss. He's also previously served as talent committee chair for Houston Exponential.

Houston startup raises $1.75M round with support from local female-focused investor

future of work

A Houston-based startup focused on upskilling young professionals has closed its latest round of funding with support from a local investor.

Ampersand Professionals Inc. raised $1.75 million in pre-seed funding led by Curate Capital, a Houston-based, female-focused venture capital fund. Carrie Colbert, Curate's founding and general partner, will join Ampersand's advisory board.

Ampersand — founded in 2020 by Allie Danziger with Co-Founders Kathrin Applebaum and Scott Greenberg — has developed a platform for businesses to easily implement internship programs. The program also upskills and educates young professionals, providing them career development and job skills training.

"Ampersand's mission to democratize access to career-building opportunities for young professionals, ties in nicely with Curate's mission to empower women, says Colbert in a news release. "The company's platform will have a direct positive impact on young women (and others) as they begin their professional careers."

Both the female founders are personally driven by motivating and inspiring women and driving future of work solutions. The fresh funding will go toward expanding the Ampersand platform and network.

"The shift to remote work during the pandemic not only completely changed the way we all work, but also made it even more difficult for so many recent, and soon-to-be graduates, to make the connections needed to land their first internship and then gain the meaningful training to excel in those roles," says Danziger in the release. "This infusion of capital allows Ampersand to expand our e-learning platform, matching algorithm capabilities, ensure our training matches the needs of our business partners, and expand our university partnerships around the country."

Since September 2020, the Ampersand team has developed its training and career development platform with over 100 hours of job skills training content, according to the release, and has placed over 200 driven professionals in remote internships. (InnovationMap has been a business partner in Ampersand's program.)

Curate Capital was founded in 2020 by Carrie Colbert and Mark Latham. The firm, and its initial $10 million fund, is focused on funding early-stage, female-founded companies.

Houston startup with AI-optimized surgical scheduling technology is ready to scale

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With so many moving parts in the health care industry, Pamela Singh says patients can go through all the pre-operation steps up to literally arriving to the hospital, only to find out their surgery has been canceled due to an admin error.

Singh's startup, which she founded with her husband and surgeon Dr. Ashvin Dewan, CaseCTRL is looking to prevent these surgical scheduling inefficiencies. On this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast, Singh explains how the idea for the company came from an organic need Dr. Dewan saw in his practice.

"We decided there needs to be a better way to help surgeons, schedulers, and patients to have a better experience," Singh, who serves the company as CEO, says on the show. "Surgery is the highest revenue-generating event for any hospital, clinic, or private practice. And your patients are essentially your customers, so you need to give them the best patient experience."

CaseCTRL started with this patient-focused goal, but throughout development, Singh says she realized the overall effect of optimization. Especially, she says, when it came to COVID-19's effect on surgery scheduling. The company got its start amid the pandemic, and wasn't sure how the cancelation of elective surgeries was going to impact the startup's journey. But really, with the backlog of surgeries building up over different periods of stopping and restarting surgeries, a rising need for optimization emerged.

"COVID has had some sort of silver lining for us," Singh says, explaining that surgical facilities were looking for a way to catch up. "They realized the need for automating and streamlining their practice. And they realized that, instead of spending another four hours coordinating with patients and vendors, they could literally do it with the click of a button."

Now, in light of this growing need and awareness, Singh and her team is ready to scale. She says she is working with her team on integration opportunities and building out the tech to make it even more convenient to use.

Currently, the company is in the process of completing its Techstars accelerator and raising pre-seed funding. CaseCTRL was a member of gBETA Houston's second cohort and has pitched at several Houston innovation ecosystem events. Singh was even an inaugural finalist for the 2021 InnovationMap Awards. She says she's been surprised by how supportive Houston has been.

"The community here is diverse and, most importantly, supportive," Singh says, adding that at first they wondered if Houston had too much health care innovation and competition. "We realized the community in Houston ... really wants to see you succeed. The biggest pro is that entrepreneurial spirit here in Houston."

Singh shares more about her entrepreneurial journey and what's on the horizon for CaseCTRL, as well as her advice for fellow female founders in the podcast. Listen to the full interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.