Sometimes good news takes its time getting around.
Madison health IT company Wellbe (www.wellbe.me) has finished its first fundraising round, receiving $1.1 million from angel investors in Wisconsin and beyond, as well as a $300,000 loan from the Madison Development Corp. The funding was fully committed in August, but Wellbe chief executive James Dias kept the news quiet.
“We told the investors ... we (employees) all had a beer over it ... and we just went straight back to work,” Dias said.
Wellbe, 1200 John Q. Hammons Dr., creates Guided CarePaths, a series of online tools to prepare patients for surgery and to keep them on track afterward, as they recuperate.
Dias said Wellbe’s Patient Guidance System (PGS) is like “GPS for your health.”
Patients scheduled for an operation often will meet with the surgeon beforehand and get bombarded with information, much of which they may forget, Dias said. “We break it into bite-sized chunks,” he said.
Through its CarePaths, Wellbe sends patients emails at specific times, letting them know what they have to do to prepare, giving them forms to fill out online, offering educational videos and answering frequently asked questions, Dias said.
That could include advice on what not to eat before surgery, reminders about arranging rides, and symptoms to watch for during recovery.
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The first CarePath, released commercially in 2012, dealt with hip and knee replacement patients; the second, for bariatric surgery patients, was introduced this week at Cleveland Clinic’s Medical Innovation Summit.
Next, Wellbe hopes to tackle spine and cancer surgery. The new funding will let the company add staff and develop new products, as well as expand sales and marketing, Dias said.
Wellbe is part of the health IT industry in Madison that’s growing alongside Epic Systems Corp., the ever-expanding Verona electronic health records company which, with $1.5 billion in revenue last year, is in a category of its own.
Dias, 48, had no experience in the health field before Wellbe. He was vice president of sales and marketing at Sonic Foundry in Madison and was one of the inventors of the MediaSite presentation-streaming technology that Sonic Foundry bought in 2001. A native of Bangalore, India, Dias has a bachelor’s degree in cinematography from Northern Michigan University and a master’s degree in electronic media from Ohio State University.
Dias started Wellbe in 2008, intending to “marry the best Internet technology with behavior shaping,” he said. His initial focus was child obesity, but the business model — selling directly to consumers — didn’t work. So he started over and spent more than a year talking to representatives of hospitals, insurance companies and health plans.
“We discovered a need in high-volume surgical procedures to help patients move through their procedures,” Dias said. The first pilot program was developed in 2010 with orthopedic surgeons at Butler Health System in Butler, Penn. Today, the system is used at Butler, at UW Hospital and at Avera Health System in Sioux Falls, S.D.
Before the funding, the company was bootstrapped, with its employees working second jobs and “all kinds of projects on the side,” Dias said. Now, Wellbe has 11 employees and will add five more in the next 12 months.