A Birmingham, Ala.-based startup's lightweight bedside clinical decision support technology is garnering plenty of attention from health system decision makers and the state's entrepreneurial community.

The technology, a "Smart Ribbon" developed by IllumiCare, hovers above any inpatient electronic health record and provides physicians on-the-spot, patient-specific information on medication cost and possible safety ramifications, financial and clinical impact of lab tests ordered, estimated historical radiation exposure, cancer risk and cost of radiation procedures, as well as comparative price lookup data.

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The company is one of 11 chosen to advance in the annual Alabama Launchpad competition sponsored by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama. The competition provides up to $250,000 in funding and mentorship for the companies selected, but IllumiCare CEO G.T. LaBorde said the company is already reaping benefits from its innovative approach to clinical support.

"There's a large health system here and they have a national innovation coordinator," LaBorde said. "When you get an audience with this guy it's very shark tank-like, and when we walked in he said 'Who are you and how did you get two hours on my calendar? Is this some sort of dashboard-like thing? You realize I've seen three of these today already.' So he was doing his best to be a hard case. And about 15 minutes into it, he picked up his mobile phone and called the chief medical officer at one of the hospitals in his system and asked him to check our technology out. The team involved in IllumiCare has 76 years of healthcare high- growth early stage company experience, so we've done this before."

In LaBorde's case, that prior experience paid big dividends. He was co-founder of data-mining vendor MedMined, which grew its customer base to more than 400 hospitals in 30 states and was acquired by Cardinal Health in 2008. He is confident he has another winner with IllumiCare.

The product's appeal, he said, is multi-faceted. It works atop any EHR, but requires no interaction with it. Its small display size and lack of alarms render it unobtrusive in a clinical workflow. And its real-time information can not only encourage physicians and other clinicians to order fewer tests and cheaper medication, but also protect patient safety. In fact, it was a never-ending series of radiology tests for a patient that gave the company's chief medical officer, Mukul Mehra, M.D., the inspiration for IllumiCare.

Mehra's patient, a Crohn's disease sufferer, had received 18 CT scans over a several-year period, yet the repeated testing did not result in a change in treatment nor an improvement in her condition; it did, however, result in an absolute 2.8 percent increase in cancer risk over her baseline, what Mehra called "the ultimate in low value, high cost to the health system, and high cost to the patient."

The system the IllumiCare team devised, while it works atop any EHR, using the EHR's user sign-on, does not need to collect data from the EHR. LaBorde said it gathers clinical data from the hospital's HL7 transaction data, and financial data from either internal hospital sources or from third-party sources such as CMS Medicare allowable fees, average wholesale drug costs, and salary versus non-salary costs for given procedures. The company then added its own algorithms to calculate possible safety risks inherent in radiology levels or the administration of antibiotics or proton pump inhibitors.

Even if the idea does not take the top honor in the Launchpad contest, LaBorde said he has received enough positive feedback at networking events that the exposure has been well worth the effort.

"I'm used to selling things that are super hard to sell, and this idea just makes a lot of sense," he said. "What we hear a lot is, 'This is very novel, this makes a lot of sense, and I can't believe we haven't thought of his already.'"

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