Thinking Big in Minnesota

Big ideas are nothing new in Minnesota. Earl Bakken’s big idea gave us the battery-powered pacemaker. And Betty Crocker—herself a big idea of the General Mills marketing team—had a big idea that gave us shelf-stable cake mix. Truly, without Minnesotans the world wouldn’t have the supercomputer, the pop-up toaster, or Zubaz. And if these 35 ideas, inventions, and innovations are any indication, Minnesota’s not done thinking yet.

NO. 1

Up North is famous for its vast boreal forests. A Grand Rapids scientist is making sure they remain vast as the climate warms.

Most Minnesotans feel a deep calm on their way up north: The air cools and freshens, and foliage perceptively shifts from the hardwoods of the south to the great boreal pine forest of the north. But species like white and black spruce, balsam fir, and quaking aspen are endangered by our warming climate and encroaching pests. The worst-case scenario is that within 100 years the Boundary Waters will be surrounded by prairie or wide-open savanna. Thankfully, scientists at the University of Minnesota, The Nature Conservancy, and the U.S. Forest Service are planning what our future boreal forest will look like. Brian Palik has been stationed at the Grand Rapids Forest Service research lab for the past 26 years.

“The predictions for northern Minnesota are pretty bleak,” he says about the anticipated 10-degree hikes in winter temps if CO2 continues to grow unabated. “So if we want pine forests 100 years from now, we better look at a range of options.”

One of the best options is called “assisted migration,” which Palik and his crew have been working toward by planting trees in their experimental forest to determine which perform better in warmer, drier conditions—trees like ponderosa pine from the west and burr oak from the south.

“We’re trying to demonstrate that people can start planting these species now in these northern pine forests and expect them to do well.”

NO. 2

An Edina guy parlayed the pandemic into a return trip to the White House.

Andy Slavitt wasn’t always a health care crusader. After graduating from UPenn’s Wharton School and receiving his MBA from Harvard, Slavitt was settling into life as an investment banker and McKinsey type before his good friend died of a brain tumor. During the process, Slavitt saw firsthand the sort of collateral damage the American health care system can inflict on a family, as his friend’s widow and children were forced to move in with the Slavitts. He jumped into health care and ended up in Minnesota as a vice president at UnitedHealth’s Optum. And when the Obama administration hired Optum to fix the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act’s Healthcare.gov, he went with the team to D.C. Before long, he became the acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Slavitt spent most of the Trump administration fighting efforts to repeal the ACA. That is, until the pandemic set him on an entirely new course. Via his biweekly podcast, In the Bubble: From the Frontlines, he became one of the most prolific real-time sources of credible information and interviews about COVID-19. It even led to a book, Preventable: The Inside Story of How Leadership Failures, Politics, and Selfishness Doomed the U.S. Coronavirus Response, slated to be published in June. Slavitt’s COVID deep dive also got him back into the White House as a senior advisor on President Biden’s COVID response team.

NO. 3

We repurpose abandoned iron ore mines into aeroponic farms.

Community-supported agriculture (CSA), wherein farms sell their crops directly to individuals and families, is nothing new. Neither are decommissioned mines in northern Minnesota. Marrying the two, however? Now that is a horse of a different color. And yet that’s exactly what Tower-based farm start-up Harvest Nation is readying to do via vertical aeroponic farming in the Soudan Underground Mine. Wait. What? In the where?! Vertical aeroponic farming (a novel method of soil-free farming that constantly mists crops with nutrient-filled water to grow) in the underground physics laboratory of Minnesota’s first iron ore mine. Harvest Nation is the brainchild of Denise Pieratos, Tracey Dagen, Dani Pieratos, and Nikki Love. The women, who are all members of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, have long wanted to establish a four-season indoor farm to provide their community nutrient-rich, fresh, and affordable produce, and a random encounter with an official from the Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park led to the epiphany that the mine’s physics lab room, replete with 40-foot-high ceilings, would be just the place. Now, designs are in place, financing is in progress, and once financing is firmed up, presale produce box subscriptions will be available for around $55 per week. Heirloom, soilless, iron-ore-mine dragon carrots? Don’t mind if we do.

NO. 4

We invented an iron lung… for your head?

Early in COVID, when PPE was at its shortest supply and hospital staff were realizing that N95 masks alone wouldn’t cut it for frontline health care workers, U of M Medical School professors Drs. Kumar Belani and Gwenyth Fischer were inspired by a concept they’d seen in Taiwan and created a rigid cube structure that goes over an infected patient’s head. Their “ventilator box” has ports for workers’ arms to access the patient and HEPA filtration to save negative-pressure rooms for the patients who need them most.

NO. 5

A company from Burnsville created a way for you to make sure Grandma’s taking her meds when you can’t be in the same place as Grandma.

Video messaging apps like FaceTime have become indispensable in maintaining contact with Grandma and Grandpa during the pandemic. But what if you actually have to make sure they’re taking their pills at the right time?

Enter Burnsville start-up Omcare’s new home medicine dispenser. Adapted from CEO and founder Lisa Lavin’s smart treats dispenser for pets, the slick new device takes Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and mellows her out by crossing her with a machine that reminds us of Pixar’s adorable Wall-E.

The dispenser’s interactive cameras allow you to not only watch Gammy take her pills when she’s supposed to take them but also to make sure she actually swallows them down. Now all it needs is a spoonful-of-sugar button.

Read the full list from Mpls. St.Paul Magazine here.


Pill-Dispensing Tech Makes the Medicine Go Down...With Human Help, That Is

When Stephanie Luehrs’s father began losing track of what day it was, she knew his pre-filled pill packs were no longer going to work, even though they were carefully labeled. So she bought him a high-tech pill dispenser.

The MedMinder device she got has compartments for every day of the week, and they pop open with a beep when it’s time to take the pills stored inside. Ms. Luehrs gets a text notification if her dad hasn’t taken his pills. When she learned he missed some doses, she went to his apartment and turned up the volume on the machine. One day, she got a notification that the machine was operating on backup battery—her father, who has Alzheimer’s, had unplugged it. Another time, he didn’t close one of the compartments properly and the box got jammed. Ms. Luehrs had to call customer service, which remotely unlocked the compartments, and then she closed them properly.

People like Ms. Luehrs are finding that when it comes to pill-taking, technology only works with human involvement, especially for people with memory loss. “The machine is great, but you definitely want to have someone to help with refills or other issues,” Ms. Luehrs, of Rogers, Minn., said.

Numerous products and services are designed to make pill-taking easier, from “smart” caps like Pillsy, which screw onto prescription bottles and chirp when it’s time to take pills, to the type of automatic pill dispensers Ms. Luehrs uses.

Other types include Hero, Dose Flip and MedaCube, which hold weeks’ or even months’ worth of pills and can be programmed to release the right amount at the right time. The devices sound an alarm to indicate it’s time to take pills; most also work with apps so that caregivers can get notifications of missed doses.

There are simpler approaches, too: reminder services and apps such as MyMeds, Medisafe and CareZone.

While most of these work as advertised, there’s still the “last mile” problem of getting the pills into the dispensers—and then into peoples’ mouths.

“We don’t have a good system for identifying and matching the right kind of technology with the specific caregiving situation,” said Joseph Gaugler, a professor and director of the Center for Health Aging and Innovation at the University of Minnesota. “A lot of technology for seniors is marketed as being good for all.”

Some medical experts told me patients would take their medicine more often if they were better educated about why it’s important. I’m a bit dubious of that argument. We all know a good diet and physical activity can stave off illness, yet it’s still hard for many people to stick to healthy eating and exercise habits. Some experts said it’s the difficulty of forming new habits that makes pill-popping so hard—and not just for older adults with dementia.

I won’t remember to take vitamins unless the bottle is sitting right next to my coffee maker, where I’ll be sure to see it. After all, none of my daily habits are as entrenched as my morning coffee ritual. But even when the bottle is right there, I often conveniently forget. (I don’t like swallowing pills.)

There are many other reasons people won’t take pills—the cost of medication, concerns about side effects and the reminder that they aren’t in perfect health. Approximately 50% of patients with a chronic illness don’t take medications as prescribed, according to several studies. This is a big deal when you consider that 69% of Americans ages 40 to 79 took one or more prescription drug in the past month, and 22% took five or more, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Andre Bierzynski, a director at AARP Innovation Labs, has been working with startups to make medicine-taking easier. He said the most promising solutions combine technology with human assistance. He pointed to an early-stage startup he’s been working with called Ōmcare. The company intends to sell its automated pill dispensers to senior-care providers, who would then lease the device to consumers and charge them for their services. The senior-care provider that’s testing it with about 50 seniors in Minnesota has employees who check in with people via an on-device video screen to make sure they’re taking their pills properly. Ōmcare is partnering with a Midwestern pharmacy to provide the pill packs the machines dispense. Company founder Lisa Lavin said she plans to commercialize the service in the Midwest by the end of the year, then expand into more states next year.

Read the full article from The Wall Street Journal here.


Tech behind pet webcam could help telehealth offering medication tracking

Burnsville-based Omcare Inc., a digital health company working to bring its "telehealth portal" to market, cut its teeth with an unlikely product: a webcam for pets.

Following a merger, Omcare is the new identity of Anser Innovation, a firm that makes a webcam that connects pets with their owners called PetChatz. Everything is going according to plan, CEO Lisa Lavin said. Anser built out its video chatting hardware with PetChatz, but the goal was always to eventually make the technology with humans in mind.

Omcare is now looking to commercialize what it calls the Home Health Hub, a tablet-like device that connects users with health care providers and pharmacists via telehealth and dispenses medication. The Home Health Hub helps seniors and people with chronic conditions with medication adherence, or making sure they take the right medication at the right time each day, by providing visual confirmation of them taking the medication. It can work with any telehealth system, Lavin said.

The firm has already recruited a heavyweight board that includes former UnitedHealthCare and Optum CEO Jeaninne Rivet, Bind Benefits Inc. President Jodi Hubler and Surescripts' Chief Intelligence Officer Mark Gingrich.

Read the full article here.


MassChallenge HealthTech Announces 2021 Cohort of Top Digital Health Startups

Boston, Mass. (December 17, 2020) - MassChallenge HealthTech today announced the 30 digital health startups that will join its 2021 cohort. MassChallenge HealthTech invites the community to meet the 2021 cohort at its virtual MassChallenge Verticals Opening Night, an introduction to the digital health and financial technology cohorts on January 13.

“This year’s MassChallenge HealthTech cohort is our most competitive and diverse group to date – we closed our application season with more than 380 incredible applicants from more than 35 countries and 210 cities,” said Nick Dougherty, Managing Director of MassChallenge HealthTech. “The 30 startups represent some of the world’s most innovative businesses that are transforming healthcare. We are excited about what our entrepreneurs will accomplish with their Champion partners in this upcoming program year.”

After rigorous Matchmaking, this year’s startups received 73 partnership offers from 21 MassChallenge HealthTech Champions, an impressive group of institutions, providers, and payors. Beginning in January, these industry-leading organizations will work directly with startups by facilitating key advisor introductions, pilots, research, and investment opportunities. Startups will also have access to tailored curriculum, industry experts, and investors, and the opportunity to apply for scholarships.

Read the full article and see who joined Ōmcare in making the list here.


Maintaining medication adherence during a health crisis

People of all ages can have difficulty managing their medications, but this is especially true for seniors who may face physical limitations, memory loss, and multiple chronic conditions. Add to this the complexity that coronavirus (COVID-19) social distancing has created for caregivers and older adults, and you have a perfect storm for medication non-adherence, which is estimated to account for 10% of hospital readmissions, nearly 25% of nursing home admissions, and 20% of preventable adverse drug events in older adults.

So, what is medication non-adherence? According to the American Pharmacists Association, non-adherence includes delaying or not filling a prescription, skipping doses, splitting pills, or stopping medication early. In addition to generating an estimated $100 to $289 billion in health care expenses annually, non-adherence takes a toll on the health of seniors who may be on long-term medication and need ongoing, consistent care.

Millions of older Americans currently depend on a home aide or family caregiver for help with their medications, but the current COVID-19 crisis is causing lockdowns and restricted visitation rules at nursing homes, while independent seniors are isolated in their homes. As a result, medication adherence is at risk for all older adults. In addition, they are at risk of suffering from loneliness as a result of extended isolation and a disruption in their social connections.

If you or someone you know is a caregiver, or if you’re concerned about medication management for a loved one or family friend during the current health crisis, here are three strategies to stay socially connected to loved ones and help ensure they take the right medication at the right time.

Read the full article from Senior News.


For The Record with Lisa Lavin, Founder & CEO, Ōmcare

Lisa Lavin is founder and CEO of Ōmcare, a subsidiary of Anser Innovation. Ōmcare is a digital health company pioneering products that enable remote care. Ōmcare extends the reach of caregivers and redefines medication adherence.

Lisa has over 25 years of experience building new business from the ground up within the healthcare and high-tech sectors. Lisa is active in local and national organizations that support entrepreneurialism and women in business. Lisa is a Minnesota Cup Division winner, Eureka Award winner for Innovation, was recognized by Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal as one of 25 Woman to Watch, Minnesota Business’ Real Power 50 and The New York Observer’s 2020 List of the Hottest “Flyover Tech” Companies in Digital Health.

Give us the Omcare elevator pitch.

Ōmcare is a digital health company pioneering products that enable remote care in the home. Ōmcare extends the reach of caregivers and enables visual confirmation of real medication adherence, resulting in lower healthcare costs and healthier populations. Ōmcare is changing the way the world cares.

What have been the company’s most exciting milestones thus far?

  • Ōmcare has formalized an agreement with Ecumen and Thrifty White Pharmacy for the pilot of the Ōmcare Home Health Hub. Ōmcare is expanding partnerships with other pharmacies, providers, payers, and channel partners for national launch later this year.
  • Ōmcare’s third patent was published July 9, 2019. Other patents are pending.
    • US 9,202,011, US 10,078,732 and US 10,347,377
  • Ōmcare has attracted top talent with over 150 years of combined experience in healthcare and innovation. The company and its leadership has been recognized as Minnesota Cup Division winner, Eureka Award winner for Innovation, Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal 25 Woman to Watch and Minnesota Business’ Real Power 50 and was named among the “20 Hottest Flyover Tech Companies” by The New York Observer, based on insights from a panel of healthcare and business experts at the 38th Annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference.

Read the full interview from Medical Alley.


3 Strategies to Help Aging Loved Ones Master their Meds

Despite the widespread use of tools like lockable pill boxes and smartphone apps, it’s estimated that only half of patients take their medications as prescribed. In September of 2018, the American College of Physicians reported that medication non-adherence accounts for 30% to 50% of treatment failures and 1-in-4 hospital admissions.

Medication non-adherence directly impacts the senior population, wherein millions of seniors depend on a home care aide or family caregiver to administer medication. Managing the dosages and schedules of multiple drugs can be a complicated, confusing, and even stressful task for caregivers. As a result, part-time family caregivers often experience anxiety related to not knowing if their loved one has taken the right medication at the right time.

If you or someone you know is a caregiver, or if you’re concerned about medication management for a loved one or family friend, here are three strategies to help ensure they take the right medication at the right time.

1. Establish a routine and method of reminders.

A consistent care routine is the foundation of a successful, long-term care plan. Following a simple, memorable routine and reminder system can help aging loved ones remember to take their medications throughout the day, even if their caregiver can’t always be there to remind them.

Continue reading on The Caregiver's Voice.


Ōmcare® unveils its Home Health Hub at HIMSS20 Global Health Conference

News Release

(FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE)                                                                                                                

Ōmcare® unveils its Home Health Hub at HIMSS20 Global Health Conference 

Ōmcare Home Health Hub™ designed to enable remote care and medication assistance via two-way audiovisual technology

Burnsville, MN (February 17, 2020) – Ōmcare® announced today that it will preview its soon-to-be-released Ōmcare Home Health Hub™ at the HIMSS20 Global Health Conference March 9-13 in Orlando, FL. HIMSS20 attendees can visit booth 6493 to see how the Ōmcare Home Health Hub can improve medication adherence for aging adults and people with chronic, complex health conditions.

Ōmcare is a Minnesota-based digital health company that aims to extend the reach of caregivers and improve medication adherence and outcomes through its Ōmcare Home Health Hub, which gives caregivers of all types – from physicians and pharmacists to home care providers or family members – the ability to see and speak to elderly or disabled dependents and confirm compliance with medication treatment plans from anywhere. The easy-to-use Ōmcare system is designed to serve as a conduit for telehealth and virtual care services. Ōmcare facilitates remote monitoring and interaction via the audiovisual interface and provides confirmation of a patient’s actions and status, which supports and gives family members greater peace of mind.

The two-way video capabilities of the Ōmcare Home Health Hub allow individual caregivers or senior living facilities to ensure proper medication adherence through visual confirmation of right medication, right person, right time – from anywhere – which can significantly impact quality of life and clinical outcomes while reducing health care costs.

“We’ve seen a growing interest in technology that extends the reach of caregivers and enables remote care, from anywhere,” said Lisa Lavin, founder and CEO of Ōmcare. “Our research shows that the marketplace is ready for the Ōmcare Home Health Hub and that utilization of this technology has the potential to change the way the world cares by reducing the burden and cost of caregiving and improving outcomes and quality of life for patients.”

Ōmcare earned its third patent from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (U.S. Patent No. 10,347,377) for the company’s web-enabled, audiovisual, medication-dispensing telemedicine system for the home in 2019. The device made its official debut at the Leading Age Annual Conference and Expo late last year, where it earned nods from industry media as an “emerging technology in the caregiving space.” Ōmcare was also recently named among the “20 Hottest Flyover Tech Companies” by The New York Observer, based on insights from a panel of healthcare and business experts at the 38th Annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference.

To learn more, visit https://www.omcare.com. To schedule a meeting with the Ōmcare team during HIMSS20, email info@omcare.com.

 

###

For more information:       

Barbara Tabor, APR / (651) 230-9192 / barbara@taborpr.com

About Ōmcare

Ōmcare is a digital health technology company focused on extending the reach of caregivers, increasing medication adherence, and improving treatment outcomes by harnessing the power of remote care and two-way video technology. By partnering with pharmacies, payers, providers, and family caregivers, Ōmcare strives to help people live healthier, more vibrant, independent lives. Learn more at www.omcare.com. Follow on Twitter (@Omcare_Health) and LinkedIn.


Assembling the Dream Team: Anser Innovation appoints Jodi Hubler to Board of Directors, rounding out team of heavy hitters in preparation for Ōmcare Home Health Hub launch

NEWS RELEASE         

(For immediate release)

Assembling the Dream Team:  Anser Innovation appoints Jodi Hubler to Board of Directors, rounding out team of heavy hitters in preparation for Ōmcare Home Health HubTM launch

Hubler brings a unique combination of executive leadership, business development, and global health care investing expertise to help guide Ōmcare® toward commercialization

Burnsville, MN (February 13, 2020) –  A board of directors is critical to success for startup companies. And with the recent appointment of Jodi Hubler to its board of directors, Minnesota-based digital health company Ōmcare has rounded out a board that is packed with heavy hitters committed to guiding the company toward commercialization of its Ōmcare Home Health Hub. Hubler is currently CEO and managing director of Lemhi Ventures and president and board director of Bind On-Demand Health Insurance. She is widely recognized as an investment expert and has a long track record of identifying trends in market needs and backing companies with the potential to meet those needs.

Hubler joins Jeannine Rivet and Amanda Brinkman as recent additions to the Ōmcare Board of Directors, as Ōmcare founder and CEO Lisa Lavin prepares the company for product launch. According to Lavin, Hubler’s decade of venture capital investing and board governance expertise, starting and investing in health care services companies, makes her uniquely qualified to bring a differentiated perspective to the digital health start up.

“We are beyond excited to have such highly talented, passionate, creative and fearless people committed to helping us achieve our mission of changing the way the world cares,” said Lavin. “Jodi brings vast health care connections and a venture capital mindset to the Ōmcare Board, along with a personal passion for shaping the way people experience care. What’s more, Jodi has made it her personal mission to help others succeed. Jodi's heart puts her heads above the rest.”

Ōmcare aims to extend the reach of caregivers and improve medication adherence and outcomes through its Ōmcare Home Health Hub, which gives caregivers of all types – from physicians and pharmacists to home care providers or family members – the ability to see and speak to elderly or disabled dependents and confirm compliance with medication treatment plans from anywhere. The easy-to-use Ōmcare system is designed to serve as a conduit for telehealth and virtual care services. Ōmcare facilitates remote monitoring and interaction via the audiovisual interface and provides confirmation of a patient’s actions and status, which supports and gives family members greater peace of mind.

In addition to her position on the Ōmcare Board of Directors, Hubler currently serves on the boards of Central Logic, Digital Reasoning, Caring Bridge, and Medical Alley Association.

“Ōmcare realizes that the home is a central point in care delivery, and they are uniquely positioned to capitalize on the promise of connected health, digital technology, and human interaction to influence the necessary and important work of medication adherence and compliance,” said Hubler. “The digital health market has been noisy with many surface solutions, but Ōmcare has depth and the ability to meet people wherever they are in their health care journey. The Ōmcare Home Health Hub is a very elegant and tangible solution that enables aging in place and that will address medication adherence, individual health and well-being, and quality of life.”

Ōmcare earned its third patent from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (U.S. Patent No. 10,347,377) for the company’s web-enabled, audiovisual, medication-dispensing telemedicine system for the home in 2019. The device made its official debut at the Leading Age Annual Conference and Expo late last year, where it earned nods from industry media as an “emerging technology in the caregiving space.” Ōmcare was also recently named among the “20 Hottest Flyover Tech Companies” by The New York Observer, based on insights from a panel of healthcare and business experts at the 38th Annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference.

To learn more, visit https://www.omcare.com.

 

###

For more information: 

Barbara Tabor, APR / (651) 230-9192 / barbara@taborpr.com

About Ōmcare
Ōmcare is a Minnesota-based digital health company that aims to change the way the world cares by extending the reach of caregivers, increasing medication adherence, and improving treatment outcomes through the power of remote care and two-way video technology. By partnering with pharmacies, payers, providers, and family caregivers, Ōmcare strives to help people live healthier, more vibrant, independent lives. Learn more at www.omcare.com. Follow on Twitter (@Omcare_Health) and LinkedIn.

Read related coverage on the following news outlets:


Podcast: Lisa Lavin on game-changing technology for seniors

Ōmcare founder and CEO Lisa Lavin was recently interviewed for the podcast Health Innovation Matters.

In this episode, Logan Plaster, editor of StartUp Health, mixes the personal with business as he interviews Lisa about the source of her passion for changing the caregiving experience and how technology can extend the reach of caregivers and ensure the right medication is taken by the right person at the right time.

Tune in to the podcast episode: https://healthinnovationmatters.libsyn.com/mcare-with-logan-plaster-and-lisa-lavin