News Article

SoloHealth raises $12M, inks Walmart deal
Date: Aug 03, 2012
Source: bizjournals ( click here to go to the source)

Featured firm in this article: Pusuant Health Inc of Atlanta, GA

Health-care technology firm SoloHealth Inc. has raised $12 million in a round led by a major health insurer.

The investment, led by WellPoint Inc., will help Johns Creek-based SoloHealth execute a national rollout that would put its health kiosks in more than 8,000 locations.

A key component of the rollout is a deal SoloHealth recently struck with the world's largest retailer — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. That deal will significantly increase the startup's visibility, expanding the company's kiosks in Walmart stores and Sam's Club locations nationwide. Although SoloHealth CEO and founder Bart Foster wouldn't disclose specifics, sources report it could be more than 2,000 locations.

SoloHealth has developed a self-service kiosk that helps identify risk factors related to obesity, hypertension and vision. The next-generation machine conducts a diagnostic health risk assessment using an interactive questionnaire and measures blood pressure, body mass index and visual acuity. It also includes a symptoms checker. Based on this assessment, the consumer is directed to a local health-care practitioner for follow-up care. Using information such as gender, age and ethnicity, SoloHealth's machine can suggest risk factors associated with certain groups.

For SoloHealth, the Walmart and WellPoint partnerships provide visibility and access to users, Foster said.

"Retail is where the consumers are and a crucial piece of our puzzle," he said.

Scaling to execute on the Walmart distribution requirement could be a challenge for SoloHealth, which currently has kiosks in just 300 stores.

"We are close to announcing a strategic partnership that will allow us to expeditiously produce and deliver [kiosks] to the Walmart locations as well as [get] ready for what we believe will be a strong 2013 with other retail and commercial partners," Foster said, declining to disclose details.

WellPoint (NYSE: WLP) operates Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in 14 states, including Georgia. The Fortune 50 company provides health insurance coverage to nearly 34 million Americans.

SoloHealth kiosks help people better manage chronic conditions, such as hypertension, obesity and vision impairment. For an insurer, keeping members out of hospitals and doctors' offices can translate into fewer claims.

With its retail-based, self-service approach, SoloHealth offers greater access to health care — a priority for WellPoint, said Brett Moraski, WellPoint's vice president of transformation.

"Ninety-two percent of Americans live within five miles of multiple retailers and visit a grocery store several times a week," Moraski said. "As we look at how we engage with people on their health, SoloHealth's retail-based model makes sense."

SoloHealth also plays into the broader trend of health-care consumerization.

As employers pass on health-care costs to employees through higher premiums, co-pays and co-insurance, employees have become more proactive about managing their health-care spending.

"Consumers have become, and will continue to be, a lot more engaged in managing their own health and health-care dollar," WellPoint's Moraski said. "Our role as a health insurer is to help them find new ways to better manage [their care] and live a healthier life."

SoloHealth's timing for a national rollout is prescient. A provision in the health-care law allows employers to give incentives to employees to work to improve their health. That incentive could drive up use of health stations.

"With all the attention on wellness and prevention, the current environment is perfect for technologies like ours," Foster said.
Poised for growth

SoloHealth is a "strong up-and-comer," playing in a market that includes large competitors such as GE Healthcare and Siemens, said Doug Kelly, analyst with IBISWorld. The health-care screening kiosk market accounts for about $700 million in annual sales, Kelly said.

An aging population and the ballooning incidence of chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes creates a potential market opportunity for health-care kiosks.

"By 2015 about 75 percent of adults are expected to be overweight and obese," Kelly said. "The ability for consumers to walk into [a store] anywhere and check their vital information will support demand for health-care kiosks."

Changing consumer and technology trends is also fueling adoption of health-care screening kiosks.

"Several surveys have indicated that consumers are pretty receptive to self-service health-care options if there are time and cost savings involved," Kelly said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is in the early stages of considering allowing kiosks to dispense prescription medication, Kelly said. That could allow health screening kiosks to serve the $300 billion-plus U.S. pharmaceutical industry, he said.

SoloHealth has raised about $25 million so far. Other investors include health-care IT industry veteran Walter Huff and Coinstar Inc., which makes Redbox self-service DVD rental kiosks. The startup will need to raise even more capital as it looks to execute on a $20 million national rollout.

SoloHealth plans to use the new investment to develop additional diagnostic testing functionality into its kiosks, such as the ability to assess allergies or skin conditions based on symptoms.

The company is also building out a health and wellness software platform that includes mobile apps and has recently launched a Web portal that allows consumers to store and track their biometric data online.

Foster is also looking to get his kiosks installed in more retail outlets.

The company is said to have pilot programs with Publix Super Markets Inc., CVS and Safeway.

Beyond retail, SoloHealth is eyeing other high-traffic, high-volume areas, such as corporate campuses and hospitals.

SoloHealth also plans to take its kiosks overseas as early as next year.