Consumer Health Company Jiff Announces $7.5 M in Funding and a New CEO

By Sarah Lacy , written on March 12, 2012

From The News Desk

Jiff, a company that debuted its slick doctor-patient iPad application at last fall's TechCrunch Disrupt conference, is announcing some significant news today.

Jiff has raised $7.5 million in venture capital from Aeris Capital and Aberdare Ventures. It has hired Derek Newell as its new CEO. And it's unveiling a product direction that's about much more than the already impressive iPad app, the JiffPad.

In case you missed Disrupt, the JiffPad is a incredibly easy way for doctors and nurses to show patients quick videos that explain conditions and treatment options. IPads come full of quick videos the doctors can annotate as they go, drawing an arrow or highlighting some particular treatment option and explaining the patient's individual case along with the animation. The whole annotated video, with the doctor's voice instructions, is recorded and emailed to the patient and patients' family and caregivers with just a few clicks. No more trying to remember or to get your loved ones to convey doctor's orders.

That was already an impressive disruption in a pen-and-paper reliant industry. Today, Jiff is unveiling its fuller vision in a product called Circles of Health, which is opening in limited beta at South by Southwest. There's a quick video demo from the company below.

It's a bit hard to grasp, because healthcare is such a big confusing thing with so many rabbit holes of paper trails and relationships. Circle of Health wants to pull all of that, your healthcare history, visits, medical contacts and relationships, into one consumer-controlled HIPAA-compliant social network. You add anyone who plays a role in your health into your circle, whether doctors, nurses, family member, or other caregivers, and use it as a place to share information and track your health. You can create adjacent circles for parents or children. The JiffPad is just one app on what will be an open-API platform.

I shudder a bit describing it as a social network, because it makes Jiff sound way less substantial than it is. I'm not even going to use a silly phrase like "Facebook for health," because that makes it sound like Jiff is a place to list your jogging stats.

Instead, Jiff is trying to do two things that haven't been done well before. The first is to build a "health profile" that has a intuitive consumer-centric UI, is HIPAA-compliant so it can safely contain your medical records, and will be a platform that doctors and caregivers will actually engage with as well.

The largest insurance companies are already pushing towards something in this direction, as they want to be front-end portals tracking all of your health and wellness information in one place. But it's in consumers' best interest to have all of this information and relationships on an agnostic, open technology platform instead. For one thing, insurance companies don't build great software. But more practically, who keeps the same insurance provider his or her entire life?

That's the second revolutionary thing Jiff is trying to do: Deliver on the long-hoped promise of the intersection of healthcare and tech.

So-called healthcare-IT companies have gotten a bad name in the last few decades, because people from the IT industry didn't understand how to build technology that healthcare would and could adopt, and people from the healthcare industry typically build pretty lousy software. The result was a lot of hype and big ideas that mostly went nowhere.

The stigma has gotten so bad that raising money from investors was a brutal 18-month process for Jiff, despite having very connected founders, and an app that doctors were already using and loving. "It was all politics," says one of Jiff's founders and angel investors James Currier of Ooga Labs. The people from the IT-side of the firm throw their hands up at the mention of healthcare, but the people on the healthcare side of the firm only know biotech and devices.

Finding a CEO to lead this company was hard for the same reason, but Newell is an uncannily good fit. He was previously the CEO of HealthHero, which was sold to Bosch. It was one of the rare success stories in healthcare-IT.

Back in 2000, HealthHero partnered with IDEO to create a basic Linux box that sat in the patient's home and sent text messages back and forth between a hospital and the patient's medical devices, monitoring his or her health after a procedure. The device could tell the patient when to take a certain pill or when to come back in for treatment. It was its own rudimentary platform with 140 different apps running on it that managed all sorts of different diseases.

The devices were still a lucrative business for Bosch, but when Newell saw the iPhone he knew that was the future, not these comparatively dumb pieces of proprietary hardware. He tried to convince the company to retool its home monitoring software to run on iPhones, but Bosch resisted. The company he'd sold them was already one of the fastest growing product lines in the company and that was good enough for the stodgy German giant. It didn't want to be in the software business.

So Newell quit Bosch two years ago to look for something new to do and consult. In two years of searching, Jiff was hands-down the biggest and most disruptive idea he saw. In many ways its a souped up version of what he did with HealthHero, using technology to allow health providers to follow patients home.

"In the past everything was built for the clinician but nothing has been built for the consumer," he says. "Every major thing in your life is so simple except healthcare. The iPhone is going to be the new standard for staying connected to your doctor. In ten years, you will go to the doctor and he will prescribe you apps to manage your health."

Jiff - Circle of Health from Jiff, Inc. on Vimeo.

(James Currier's Ooga Labs is also an investor in PandoDaily.)