As health care workers have been on the front lines of battling the COVID-19 pandemic, emerging and innovative companies in Wisconsin have doubled down on their efforts to change the way care is delivered, pioneer new treatments and streamline payment systems. Here are just a handful of Wisconsin startup companies making notable advancements related to health care that are poised to grow in the coming years:
Milwaukee-based zizzl LLC is focused on streamlining payroll services and employee benefits administration for small and mid-sized companies in southeastern Wisconsin. The five-year-old company was founded by serial entrepreneur Raymond Seaver, Jr., who previously helped build another startup, Chicago-based bswift, which was acquired by Aetna for $400 million. Last year, after raising $630,000 during its first round of funding, zizzl launched a new health care benefits platform aimed at helping businesses with fewer than 100 employees. The zizzl Health platform makes use of the newly available Individual Coverage Health Reimbursement Arrangement (ICHRA), which allows employees to purchase a health insurance plan that they want and receive reimbursement from their employer for a portion or all of the premium. The upshot is employers can give their employees pre-tax money to purchase the plan of their choosing, rather than buying it for them.[caption id="attachment_527933" align="alignnone" width="1280"] Madison-based Kiio developed an app-based program for people with musculoskeletal issues that includes on-demand exercise therapy and interactive coaching.[/caption]
Fitchburg-based Kiio introduced its app-based therapy program for people with musculoskeletal issues in 2017, several years ahead of when the COVID-19 pandemic would accelerate the widespread adoption of digital therapeutics. Kiio has partnered with WEA Trust since 2017, when the Madison-based provider of health insurance plans for public employers invested $1 million in the startup along with contracting its services for WEA Trust members. For patients, Kiio’s platform offers screening to determine the type of back pain they have and suggests exercises to mitigate it. For health insurance companies and employers, the platform can help reduce unnecessary medication and procedures, driving down costs. In May, the company announced it has expanded its lower back pain management program to also include programs for knee, neck and hip pain.
Eau Claire-based SMARTcare Software developed a platform for homecare management that helps track new clients, manage homecare operations and ensure compliance and care quality. The software is used by both agencies and caregivers. As the demand for homecare continues to swell and caregiver retention remains a challenge for the industry, SMARTcare is positioned to grow. In 2020, the company announced the completion of a funding round led by the Idea Fund and Rock River Capital with participation from Pablo Capital, MUKC Fund I and the Chippewa Valley Angels Investment Network. The company said it plans to continue its market expansion with the infusion of capital.[caption id="attachment_527932" align="alignnone" width="1280"] Milwaukee-based Healthfuse’s leadership team includes Nick Fricano, Jon Myhre, Kelly Welch and Nick Corrao.
Milwaukee-based Healthfuse provides revenue cycle vendor management services to hospitals and health systems. In an increasingly complex health care reimbursement and revenue cycle environment, the company works to help health care organizations reduce costs while increasing collection performance of vendors. Healthfuse doesn’t charge a fee upfront, but rather retains about one-third of the overall savings it identifies for clients. The company, which was founded in 2011, hit its stride in 2019, growing by 40% year-over-year and adding 53 hospitals to its portfolio, for a total of 153. And in late 2020, it attracted an undisclosed investment from Birmingham, Alabama-based private equity and venture capital firm New Capital Partners.
Born out of the University of Wisconsin Translational Imaging Research Program, Madison-based AIQ Solutions developed medical software technology that provides early intelligence about how well oncology treatments are working. The platform analyzes medical imaging data to identify patients’ legions and produces intelligence to inform their treatment decisions. For six years, two of AIQ’s co-founders leveraged $8 million in funding to develop the methodology underlying AIQ’s products before the company incorporated in January 2015. Today, the information generated by AIQ is used by pharmaceutical companies for drug development and by hospitals to optimize therapies. With one product now commercialized, AIQ has a pipeline of new products for various diseases that could position it for future growth.