Matthew Tabakin went to medical school intending to become an emergency medicine physician. But during his training, he met so many patients who struggled to manage their prescription drugs that he became an entrepreneur instead.
“They’re not intentionally missing doses, but what they’re being asked to do is complicated,” Tabakin says.
He wanted to build a universal medication management system that could help patients take their medications correctly — regardless of age, socioeconomic status or experience with technology.
That was the genesis of Medsense Health, which is developing tools for patients and caregivers, including Bluetooth sensors that attach to medication containers and an app that determines whether medications are taken on schedule.
Medsense Health is one of three early stage startups accepted to the first cohort of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) Innovation Accelerator program.
BCBSIL teamed up with MATTER, a Chicago-based global health care incubator and corporate innovation accelerator, to identify solutions that can influence health care beyond the doctor’s office.
“Working with early-stage entrepreneurs to shape their solutions provides BCBSIL unique inputs into how these companies evolve,” says Steve Hamman, president of BCBSIL. “We see the startup community as an essential partner in advancing innovation.”
Each company in the accelerator program received $25,000 and was teamed up with three senior leaders at BCBSIL to help inform their value proposition for health care payers.
Navigating the market
Medsense Health joined the accelerator with the hope of determining the value it could bring to an insurance company and learning how to engage with large corporate partners to scale the business, Tabakin says.
The startup’s three BCBSIL mentors are well-equipped for that task. Each represents a different area of BCBSIL’s business, so they can give a 360-degree view of the industry.
Brian Bauernfreund, assistant vice president of portfolio delivery, serves as an IT partner to BCBSIL’s pharmacy and provider services business. Carlos Garcia, executive director of product management, runs a team that develops, markets and measures success of specialty products for large employer clients. And Hayes Abrams, executive director of network strategy and implementation, is the company’s lead on health data exchange.
“We can help these organizations understand that health care is a complex space — and the payer space is exceptionally complex. Giving them a sense of what they have to think about can potentially bring products to market faster,” says Garcia.
The three-month program culminated in a virtual Demo Day in October. Medsense Health and the other two startups gave overviews of their solutions and shared what they learned.
'Get your numbers in order'
In the first month of the program, Tabakin says, Medsense gained immense insights into product security, scalability and how to potentially run a pilot program with a large corporation. “They’ve taken off months of research to go down the path that we are on — and given us new ideas that we never would have had before.”
Abrams says Tabakin came to the program with an open mind about learning how his solution could fold into the broader health care ecosystem. He connected Tabakin and his team with BCBSIL actuaries and data scientists to help prepare to sell the solution to a customer — whether in health insurance or another part of the industry.
“We gave them an array of paths to go down so that he could have a multipronged product distribution approach,” Abrams says. His bottom-line advice was: “Get your numbers in order.”
The accelerator program provided opportunities for BCBSIL’s leaders to learn, too. “Working in a large organization, you get used to the way things are done,” Bauernfreund says. “This is challenging me to think about ways we can be more nimble and agile in how to bring solutions to market.”