When Star Cunningham was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at age 16, she wondered why doctors insisted on treating her illness — which affects the digestive system — with oral medication she had to digest.
Fast forward 30 years, and she’s hoping her health management startup might someday help turn that kind of situation around.
4D Healthware is software that links a patient’s wearable fitness device to an interactive online platform that incorporates their personal health history, she said. Its focus now is managing activity and weight, but the system is designed to adapt with technology as it emerges, likely incorporating patches or internal devices that might monitor things like how a body is processing food or medicine, she said.
“You’re going to be checking 4D in the future, just like you’re checking your Twitter or your Facebook or your Instagram today,” she said, “because you’re going to want to know where you stand in terms of your health.
”Cunningham, based at 1871, has been building the platform for three years, but said she recently turned a corner when she was invited to participate in Silicon Valley-based HealthXL, an accelerator program in California focused on healthcare companies. 4D Healthware was one of 21 startups selected from more than 300 applicants, according to HealthXL.
Cunningham returned from her first HealthXL session in California recently and said she was paired up with several healthcare companies, along with Silicon Valley-based angel investors. She hopes to complete an early funding round within a month. Until now she’s been bootstrapped.
“Our seed round is a million dollars,” she said. “We are fully confident that we are going to be able to draw and close that round of funding in the next 30 days.”
Technori Founder Seth Kravitz, an adviser to 4D Healthware, said Cunningham is operating in a crowded space as entrepreneurs see opportunity from aging baby boomers, combined with the burgeoning data amassed by the growing Internet of Things.
“You have all this data being collected, and now what?” Kravitz said. “From here on out, there will be a lot of startups focusing on the now what.”
Cunningham started the company three years ago, after she’d had enough of traveling the world for IBM, where she said she worked on a special team implementing large projects. One job involved helping manage the World Cup in South Africa, tackling issues like security and transportation, which meant adapting new technology to old systems.“
All of my experience at IBM taught me how to deal with legacy infrastructure,” she said.
This idea carries over to 4D Healthware, designed to work with a variety of devices, both existing ones and those yet to be developed.“This is an open platform designed to be plugged into, or plugged on top of, the healthcare system,” she said. “We’re not going to be asking hospitals to revamp their entire workflow. We’re going to be able to sit on top of whatever is there, so that they can procure this patient information in the way that they want to see it.”
Kravitz said Cunningham’s corporate experience may give her a leg up in a space where she’ll be looking to connect with large stakeholders like insurance companies and health-care providers.”
She has wisdom that comes from being in business for a long time,” he said. “She’s not some 24-year-old who just started a company, and you need any advantage you can get.”
4D Healthware is launching a test program out of a Sacramento, Calif.-based medical center. Doctors focusing on obesity and diabetes will encourage their patients to use the system, which will be offered at the discounted subscription rate of $9.99 per month, Cunningham said.
It will monitor activity and weight, as well as whether patients are filling their prescriptions and taking their medication, she said.
The goal, is to allow individual patients to feel more in control of decisions that affect their health, and to allow doctors see data they can use to make care decisions.
Cunningham said that while the vast amounts of data collected will be useful to doctors and researchers, a key element will be keeping individual data private by removing identifying information.
“People need to know they can be truthful with it,” she said.
Right now the revenue model is the subscription fee. The $9.99 charge in the Sacramento test run is discounted, and she said she hasn’t determined the ultimate price.