The pain of a lingering sore throat is in many cases, not just physical.
On top of feeling unwell, people often have to enter the health care system to get relief. This often looks like: making a request to take time off work, finding an open appointment, sitting in traffic, filling out paperwork, enduring a throat swab, and finally, paying the bill.
Treating common illnesses —
strep throat, urinary tract infections, influenza, and now, COVID-19 — could be more accessible and affordable, giving power to the consumer and reducing wasted spending in health care, argues Ken Mayer, founder of health technology company, Safe Health Systems.
Based in Los Angeles, Safe
Health Systems is working to disrupt the traditional approach for treating low-complexity illnesses by offering remote diagnostic and digital care services. In 2020, the company formed a venture offering digital provider services, AI-based care and remote and rapid diagnostic testing, with Mayo Clinic through the Mayo Clinic and ASU MedTech Accelerator.
In the case of someone suffering from strep throat, the Safe platform would allow that person to find care, take a rapid diagnostic test, and receive trusted results, from home.
When Safe Health Systems launched in 2016, its scope
was narrowly defined, focused exclusively on the rising sexually transmitted disease epidemic. The company created an app, Safely, that allows users to import STD test results and show their verified status privately on their phones.
Looking to scale the technology, Safe Health Systems turned to the Mayo Clinic and
ASU MedTech Accelerator, an immersive two-week program followed by six to 12 months of continued mentoring, that began in 2019. The program helps early stage medical device and health care technology companies level up through personalized feedback from clinicians and business leaders.
Six companies, including Safe Health Systems, were part of the inaugural cohort. As a participant in the Mayo Clinic and ASU MedTech Accelerator, Mayer was able to spend invaluable time with subject matter experts, including Dr. Steven Lester, the program’s founder and medical director, and a Mayo Clinic cardiologist.
Inspiration for the accelerator came to Lester and colleagues at ASU about four years ago, after Lester took on a new role in Mayo Clinic’s department of business development. One of the first people Lester connected with was Charlie Lewis, the accelerator’s co-founder and vice president of venture development and physical sciences at SkySong Innovations, an ASU spin-off that helps
bring university inventions to the marketplace.
The two began discussing ways to make health care technology companies visible to the venture capital community, “to potentially fund some of these things, as well as getting in front of potential entrepreneurs that might be able to take these ideas and run with them in the form of launching a new startup,” Lewis says.
Lester and Lewis brought in other experts from ASU to help build this unique accelerator
that combines access to Mayo Clinic’s world-class physicians and ASU’s entrepreneurial resources. The program includes individuals such as Ji Mi Choi,
vice president, Knowledge Enterprise and founding executive director, the J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute; Michael Harris, senior director of corporate development at Mayo Clinic and accelerator co-managing partner; Rick Hall, senior director of health innovation at ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and accelerator co-managing partner; and Amy Woof, who serves as clinical operations program manager of Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University Alliance for Health Care.
The unique program will “help these companies to advance in the marketplace,” says Lewis, who is the program’s chief venture development officer.
The program is designed
to help innovators navigate notoriously complex governmental medical regulations, while gaining support from established and sometimes reluctant-to-change health institutions.