Our city has been known as a manufacturing giant, a transportation hub, an arts town, and an outdoor mecca. Now it’s earning a whole new reputation as a home for cutting-edge businesses in health and wellness. Here, meet
seven innovative companies finding ways to save lives, improve patient care, and altogether make the world a healthier place to live.
By Laura Childers and Meghan O’Dea
Shifting the Paradigm in Behavioral Care
THE TRADITIONAL HEALTH model goes: when you’re sick, you leave your home to get care. But for Harrison Tyner, co-founder of WeCounsel Solutions, this simply wasn’t enough. In the late 2000s, Tyner watched a loved one desperately try to find access to the behavioral health services she needed, but continue to struggle with distance. And the longer it went on, the more his frustration grew. “She actually ended up having to physically move to a different town to get the care she needed,” he says. “To me, it really highlighted the issue of the lack of access to specialty care.”
The incident became the impetus for WeCounsel Solutions, a telehealth startup Tyner founded in 2011 along with a few friends. Today, WeCounsel’s software allows behavioral health care providers to see clients anywhere, anytime through online sessions. But it’s far more than videoconferencing for therapists. The platform is HIPAA compliant and offers a host of tools for managing scheduling, billing, health records, and more.
WeCounsel is accessible via computer, tablet, or mobile device, making it a potential game changer for underserved areas of the U.S. “Rather than traveling hundreds of miles to the nearest city or metropolitan hub to receive specialty services, you can just log in,” Tyner says.
Currently, the startup has about 200 providers enrolled. But its plan is to take that number up to 800 by the end of 2015. “Telehealth is really new, and since we started, it has evolved rapidly as an industry,”
Tyner says. “I think once people start to understand it and get used to the technology, we’ll start to see even more of a huge trend upward in utilization.”
Advanced Catheter Therapies
Developing Solutions for Targeted Treatment
ADVANCED CATHETER THERAPIES designs catheter technologies to improve the effectiveness of medical procedures, positioning itself as an up-and-comer in the business of medical device development and research.
It all started in 2008 when Dr. Rex Teeslink, an interventional radiologist, began looking for a solution to a common problem: heart patients would go in for a procedure, only to have the blockages return a few months later (a condition called restenosis). So Dr. Teeslink came up with an idea. What if a catheter could deliver targeted drug therapy at the time of the procedure as a preventative measure? That same year he partnered with the Medical Device Development Group, along with Dirk Hoyns, a seasoned medical device engineer, and Paul Fitzpatrick, an experienced entrepreneur, to develop his idea.
The company has raised $7.5 million in capital, a large portion of which is from Chattanooga investors who rallied to bring the company here from Atlanta in 2011. The last round of funding completed just last month included an investor interested in bringing the company’s lead product to market. That product, called the Occlusion Perfusion Catheter (or “OPC”), received FDA clearance in 2013 and is currently in a clinical trial along with a targeted test market release. “Our other products, including a system for treating ischemic stroke developed by physicians at Erlanger South Regional Stroke Center, continue to advance toward commercialization,” Fitzpatrick says.
Creating Wellness Programs That Work
SINCE COMPANIES ARE not created equal, why is it that company wellness programs are? This is what BlueCross BlueShield began asking itself around two years ago, and the result was BlueHealth Solutions, a suite of wellness and health management programs with a strict no-cookie cutter policy.
“Today, wellness programs are a really key part of company culture and employee retention,” says Kasie Plekkenpol, director of health management product strategy at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. “So we wanted to change not only our services and products to be more consumer-friendly, but the way we delivered them.”
In the past 18 months, BlueCross BlueShield has rolled out eight new major enhancements under the BlueHealth Solutions brand, including the launch of a health management consulting team. These consultants work one-on-one with employers to identify their goals and objectives, and then use that data to identify the tools and services best suited to companies’ needs.
From start to finish, it’s all about customization, Plekkenpol explains. “We want to know what type of population we are working with. We personally don’t believe you can effectively engage people as all the same.”
She adds that the new strategy has been incredibly successful. For clients paired with consultants, employee registration increased up to 95%, completed personal health assessments increased up to 88%, and lifestyle coaching participation increased up to 58%. BlueHealth Solutions also saw population health improvements through decreased rates of inpatient hospital stays and fewer high-cost users, while needed preventative screenings and care increased.
Transforming The Way We Do Surgery
IMAGINE YOU ARE going in for major surgery. How would you feel if your surgeon had already practiced on an exact replica of your anatomy?
Local startup 3D Ops is making that possible by printing 3D models of organs and soft tissues based on actual MRI scans. The company’s goal is to help medical organizations use 3D printing to save money, reduce mistakes, and improve quality of care.
CEO Daniel Hampton believes so strongly in the concept that he moved his family here from Memphis last year after participating in Chattanooga’s Gig Tank accelerator program. He was joined here by President Keith Campbell, whose professional background includes 20 years at Siemens/IBM, and CMO Beth Douglass, who has extensive experience in medical device marketing and business.
Campbell says Chattanooga couldn’t be a better fit for the young company. The city’s entrepreneurial community has been consistently supportive, as proven by 3D Ops winning the Early Innovator Award at the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce’s Spirit of Innovation Luncheon last year. Plus, Chattanooga’s gigabit internet offers the infrastructure necessary for efficiently turning 2D scans into 3D models. “There’s no other place in the United States we can do that today,” Campbell says. “When it comes to crucial technology muscle, Chattanooga is way ahead of the game.”
Helping Health Care Providers Mitigate Compliance Risks
IN THE LATE ‘90S, MediTract successfully predicted that medicine in the new millennium would need digital solutions. Now the company serves one in four U.S. hospitals with its software and services.
Located in Chattanooga for more than a decade, the company works with health providers and hospitals to manage electronic contracts and documents.
According to COO David Paschall, MediTract was one of the earliest health care companies to offer cloud computing and a hosted infrastructure. Now, EPB’s gigabit infrastructure is helping the company speed up real-time access to its cloud-based contract life cycle solutions for health professionals across the U.S.
Paschall says that demand for the company’s services is growing. “The company has seen a 10 to 20% annual increase in business over the past decade,” he says. Additionally, just last year, MediTract’s acquisition of research firm MD Buyline led to a 44 to 55% growth in revenue.
Moving forward, MediTract plans to roll out a joint solution with its sister company, MD Buyline, to give health care providers the best of both worlds – spend management and process standardization in a single package. Company leaders say that ultimately, the goal is to benefit both the providers and the patients. “Streamlining processes for physicians allows them to spend more time on the important things like delivering better patient care,” Paschall says.
Forging New Pathways to Clearer Hearing
WHILE MANY COMPANIES equate tech innovation with youth, Chattanooga-based Clarity takes a different approach. Since 1969, the company has used the latest technology to improve the lives of older adults suffering from hearing impairment.
From amplified phones to notification systems to assistive listening devices, Clarity’s products are designed to offer smart solutions for the hard of hearing. The company’s Ensemble home phone, for example, allows users to receive email, text messages, photos, and videos all on one eight-inch tablet display. Other products in the works tackle not only amplification, but the clarity of sound for which the company is named. “The industry has shifted from simply making the sound louder to making it clearer with less background noise,” says Clarity Senior Marketing Manager Karen Windham.
Today, Clarity is the largest maker of amplified telephones in the United States, and it continues to look for ways to apply the youngest technology to the needs of older citizens. Since 2011, its 40+ employees have operated out of a facility on Preservation Drive outfitted with a state-of-the-art acoustic lab for testing equipment.
One to One Personal Physician Network
Connecting Companies with Quality Care
SINCE 2013, ONE TO ONE PERSONAL PHYSICIAN NETWORK has provided a more personalized approach to health care coverage. The brainchild of internal medicine physician Dr. Keith Helton, the company fosters direct relationships between employers and health care providers through its network of 180 primary care providers and specialists.
One to One’s network is designed to connect employers to health care providers who can develop personal relationships with employees and ensure they receive the highest quality of care. According to Dr. Helton, network physicians are specifically chosen “based on their care philosophy and ability to achieve high-quality health outcomes at low cost.”
This model of engaged medical care, Helton says, ultimately helps both employers and employees cut expenses. “Our clients are thrilled because they’re seeing decreases on their annual health care expenditures during a time when most businesses are experiencing increases,” he explains.
In addition to this full-service model, One to One also offers a menu of corporate health and wellness services to businesses of all sizes. Its current portfolio includes biometric screenings, on-site clinic management, custom employee wellness programs, care coordination, and health coaching.