med tech

TMCx medical software company taps Houston for first U.S. market

TMCx company BetterConsult is premiering its software in Houston as its entrance to the U.S. market. Getty images

Long hours, high-stress situations and overwhelming college debt contribute to burnout among physicians. But so does something you might not have pondered: record keeping.

The clerical burden triggered by electronic medical records, or EHRs, "has become a leading cause of physician burnout," according to a 2017 article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. That declaration is backed up by a 2014 survey of 6,375 physicians in the U.S.

Technology from a startup called BetterConsult Inc., which recently planted its roots in Houston, aims to help diminish clerical burdens and physician burnout. BetterConsult is one of the latest entrants in the $31.5 billion global EHR market.

Through an online questionnaire, BetterConsult's software captures a patient's symptoms, medication, and other clinical information before an office visit. It then translates the data into concise medical notes available for a doctor to review.

BetterConsult says its technology can:

  • Decrease administrative tasks.
  • Enable doctors to see more patients.
  • Offer better insight into a patient's condition.
  • Improve patient outcomes.

Chris Barakat, senior vice president of BetterConsult, says Houston is the first U.S. market for the startup's offering. BetterConsult already is up and running in Australia, where parent company HealthShare Pty Ltd., a provider of healthcare technology, is based.

Barakat seeks to sign up at least 5,000 doctors — primary care physicians and medical specialists — in the Houston area by January 2023, which he says would result in about 400,000 patient e-consultations per week.

"BetterConsult has a vast database of symptoms and concerns available for patients to select which provides additional actionable information to the physician," Barakat wrote in a post on Medium.com. "In addition, the application can be used to support the continuum of care by updating the patient information for future visits. The solution has potential applications to provide value in emerging areas including telehealth, mental health, and population health."

Telehealth alone holds massive potential. A recent report from Global Market Insights forecasts the worldwide telehealth market will reach $130.5 billion by 2025, up from the current $38.3 billion.

"Telehealth is part of a larger digital transformation in health care. The electronic health record, omnipresent mobile devices, and faster internet connections have provided new ways for patients and providers to interact," the American Hospital Association says.

At this point, Barakat is BetterConsult's sole employee in the Houston office, but the company plans to add an untold number of sales, marketing, and support professionals. The startup graduated in June from the TMCx business accelerator at the Texas Medical Center Innovation Institute.

BetterConsult's technology is slowly being rolled out in the Houston area. Barakat says the BetterConsult software will be piloted at two major healthcare systems in Texas.

Dr. Rajat Bhatt has installed BetterConsult's software at his three rheumatology clinics in the Houston area. Bhatt says the technology has cut documentation work by 40 percent. In addition, he says, it has decreased diagnosis errors, thanks to taking into account a patient's full medical history rather than just a current condition.

"The time I am saving is allowing me to increase the number of patients I see per day, helping to reduce the extensive wait times for Texans to see a rheumatologist," Bhatt says. "Because of the volume of patients I can now see, it has made my business much more economical. I can now see new patients within a week."

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Building Houston

 
 

As of this week, Lara Cottingham is the chief of staff at Greentown Labs. Photo via LinkedIn

The country's largest climatetech startup incubator has made a strategic new hire.

Lara Cottingham is the new chief of staff for Greentown Labs, a Boston-area company that opened in Houston earlier this year. Cottingham previously served as the city of Houston's chief sustainability officer and the chief of staff for the city's Administration and Regulatory Affairs Department for the past seven years. In her new role, Cottingham will oversee the day-to-day operations and communications for Greentown's CEO Emily Reichert, along with key stakeholder engagements and strategic initiatives for the incubator.

"Lara brings a tremendous wealth of knowledge and experience to our team from her dynamic leadership role at the City of Houston," says Reichert in a news release. "Her breadth of knowledge in sustainability, climate, and the energy transition, and her expertise in regulatory and stakeholder aspects of the energy industry, will be incredibly valuable to our team and community."

Under her leadership at the city of Houston, Cottingham was the chief author of Houston's Climate Action Plan, an initiative aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Houston, and getting the city to a point where it meets the Paris Agreement goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. Cottingham helped the city move to 100 percent renewable electricity, according to the release, and helped turn a 240-acre landfill into the nation's largest urban solar farm.

"In leading the Climate Action Plan, Lara helped spark Houston's leadership in what has become a global energy transition and was a passionate advocate for climate action in Houston," says Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner in the release. "While she will be missed, this new role will only strengthen our partnership with Greentown. I look forward to working with Emily, Lara, and the Greentown team to meet our climate goals and make Houston the energy capital of the future."

Before her work at the city, Cottingham worked at Hill+Knowlton Strategies' Houston office range of clients across the energy sector. Earlier in her career, she served as communications director for two congressmen in the U.S. House of Representatives. She began her work with the city in 2014.

"In working with Mayor Turner and Climate Mayors across the U.S., I saw how important partnerships are to helping cities decarbonize," says Cottingham in the release. "There is no better partner or place for climate action at work than Greentown Labs. Greentown is 100 percent committed to attracting and nurturing the energy companies of the future and making Houston the energy transition capital of the world. I'm excited to join the team and see how climatetech can help cities reach their climate goals."

Greentown Labs first announced its entrance into the Houston market last summer. The new 40,000-square-foot facility in Midtown across the street from The Ion opened its prototyping and wet lab space, offices, and community gathering areas for about 50 startup companies opened in April. Greentown was founded in 2011 in Somerville, Massachusetts, and has supported more than 400 startups, which have raised more than $1.5 billion in funding.

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