KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A local venture aimed at improving customer satisfaction throughout the health care system has won an international competition among technology companies striving to help reduce medical costs in the United States.
The Leawood-based company, eLuminate Health, took home $15,000 for beating out nine other contestants in the finale of the Hackovate Health Innovation Competition, held Thursday at the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce offices in Union Station.
Event organizers were H&R Block and Think Big Partners, a Kansas City-based company that works with early-stage companies. H&R Block provided the prize money.
Each of the finalists, chosen from approximately 90 applications, made 10-minute pitches to a four-judge panel. An audience of about 140 people included representatives from business and government.
Second and third place paid out $5,000 and $2,500 and those awards went, respectively, to GetHealth of Dublin, Ireland, and inAssist Health Management Solutions of Torrance, Calif.
According to its chief executive, Tami Hutchison, eLuminate Health integrates with a health insurers’ computerized systems and processes and comes into play when a primary care physician makes a referral to a specialist.
Hutchison said the product benefits insurers because they no longer have to handle claims processing, pleases physicians because it expedites payments, and helps consumers and employers by driving down health care costs through competition.
The company charges transaction fees that could generate as much as $10 billion a year for the firm, Hutchison said.
She said eLuminate Health is focusing initially on outpatient surgery and imaging.
The company’s service allows patients to choose from a large provider network while giving them information on the quality of the physicians and the prices they charge.
“Think about the last time you or someone you loved had an expensive health care procedure,” Hutchison said. “How did you pick the doctor? How did you know what their quality was? Did you know what their prices were? eLuminate Health simply empowers consumers to answer those questions.”
GetHealth targets employers seeking to improve their workers health but offering a mobile application and web-based product intended to help people eat healthy and exercise more.
Company founders designed it with the goal of making it fun for employees to get healthy, said chief executive Liam Ryan. Companies pay $1.50 per user per month.
Ryan said the company takes a whimsical approach to good health by using non-technical language. It features so-called “motivacations” to notify and motivate potential slackers.
At inAssist, said chief executive Scott Speranza, its employees find problems like billing errors and overcharges, and then secure repayments for patients.
With an existing customer base of about 30,000 users, Speranza said, the company has already proven that “if you give us a set of medical bills, we are going to be able to find money.”
Last year, he said, the company identified more than $2.5 million in mistakes.
Company technology allows users to scan in a medical bill so inAssist can audit the charges.
Users of the service come either through their employers, who pay a monthly fee per employee, or directly from consumers, who also pay a monthly fee. Other customers can use the service on a per-case basis, for which the company takes a percentage of the savings it recoups.
Kush Saxena, H&R Block’s chief strategy officer, was a judge and a speaker at the event.
He said that the Affordable Care Act provided a natural extension of Block’s tax-preparation expertise into health care.
For instance, the government will assess a tax penalty to consumers who can afford but do not purchase minimum health insurance coverage as required by the act.
The company, he said, has a “very, very heavy overlap” with taxpayers who are underinsured or uninsured.
Block has taken some initial steps to help its clients deal with the new law, Saxena said.
“We are trying to figure out what we want to do longer term,” he said.
Hackovate organizers said partnerships with some of the presenters could figure into that long-term strategy.
Ned Holland closed out the event. A former executive with the telecom companies Sprint and Embarq, Holland is now at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as assistant secretary for administration.
Though innovation is often lacking in government, Holland said, the department is working across divisions to take advantage of the massive amount of data it collects.
“Data really is the fuel for innovation,” he said, adding that the department wants to be a catalyst for private-sector advances.
“You are doing brilliant things,” Holland said, “and I thank you for it.”