NOLABA, Partners Name Winners of Health Innovators Challenge

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NEW ORLEANS – At the third annual New Orleans Health Innovators Challenge. the New Orleans Business Alliance and partners announced the winners of five pitch competitions, including the Social Isolation Challenge, which includes significant project funding from lead sponsors Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana and Ochsner Health.

As champions of this year’s Social Isolation Challenge, Happy will receive $36K toward expanding its support-givers platform to additional markets. The company has a national network of support givers with backgrounds in healthcare, such as social workers and peer supporters, that operate using Happy’s innovative technology platform.

This year’s challenge, which focused on interventions to address loneliness in the aging adult population, took on new significance, as issues resulting from social isolation continue to rise in prominence as we navigate the current COVID-19 pandemic. 

In addition to the Social Isolation Challenge, four additional challenges were issued by Louisiana-based healthcare organizations. The following winners of these challenges were also honored during last week’s two-day event:

HCA/Tulane Health System’s Transition of Care Challenge – Dina

The Transition of Care Challenge sponsored by Tulane Health System sought a company that could use innovative technology to reduce the costs of care by reducing the need for health services through education and preventive care. The winner, Dina, utilizes a network of hospital care managers with home health aides to support a patient’s transition of care.

Lafayette General Health System’s Healthcare Consumer Engagement Challenge – Predict Health 

The Consumer Engagement Challenge sponsored by Ochsner and Lafayette General Healthcare focused on patient-provider unification through data streams that is delivered in real-time to the health care patient/ consumer in the modality/ device of their choice. Predict Health was the winner of the healthcare consumer engagement challenge. The companies behavior prediction mode on member and patient acquisition, engagement and retention across the health continuum won the judges over.

New Orleans Health Department’s + New Orleans East Hospital’s Diabetes Management Challenge – Pack Health

The third challenge was a unique challenge — I Deserve It Challenge posed by UJAMAA Economic Development Corporation and Tulane University focused on forward-thinking tech support to address inequitable health disparities. EDP Biotech was selected as the winner of the challenge and their mission and output highlight the need to support affordable health solutions that are accessible to all. 

Tulane University’s + UJAMAA Economic Development’s “I Deserve It”! Challenge – EDP Biotech

The final challenge picked up where last year’s event left off during the pitch competition and focused on diabetic management. The New Orleans East Hospital and the New Orleans Health Department teamed together to select winner Pack Health, a company that focuses on providing anyone who has a chronic health condition assistance by addressing social determinant barriers that improve their health experience, behavior and outcomes.

Now in its third year, NOLAHI is an annual digital health competition that brings together startups from around the country to collaborate with local healthcare leaders to find solutions to pressing healthcare challenges. This year’s event also featured a prominent keynote speaker, Kornelius Bankston of TechPLUG, and panel discussions with challenge winning CEOs from Dina, Predict Health, Pack Health, and EDP Biotech – all of which seek to answer various issues facing the healthcare industry today. The event took place during a week of bio-tech oriented events, including MedCity INVEST Population Health.

In light of ongoing safety and health concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s NOLAHI event was reimagined to include a more accessible and fully virtual two-day format, and several new additions such as a virtual tour of New Orleans’ rapidly-growing BioDistrict and a one-on-one chat with Kris Khalil, CEO of the New Orleans BioInnovation Center.

“Each year, the process of watching the applicants make it through the NOLAHI competition is an inspiring one to observe,” said Jeanette Weiland, Vice President of Bio, Innovation, & Special Projects at NOLABA. “The entrepreneurs have immense passion for making a positive impact for the greater good, and they sacrifice and take risks in ways for which many people don’t have an appetite. As economic developers, it is our hope that these startups can find a market here in New Orleans and Louisiana to help justify growing their operations here, create quality jobs, and all while bringing innovative tools to our community that improve lives.”

“We decided to focus on social isolation for our challenge in 2019 because this was emerging as a serious health issue, particularly for older adults,” said Dr. Jeremy Wigginton, a medical director for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, who participated on the judging panel. “Given the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen social isolation become widespread and affect more people, and it was even more important to us to find a way to help people maintain connections while remaining safely at home. All three solutions the finalists pitched were top quality, and we had a very hard time choosing a winner. We selected Happy because they not only met the criteria we looked for in the challenge, they also were the most ready to enter the market and let healthcare providers and organizations start using their programs and services.”

“We were thrilled to see such creative and innovative solutions from all three finalists this year at NOLAHI,” says Aimee Quirk, CEO of innovationOchsner Administration. “The winner of this year’s challenge, New Orleans-based company Happy, demonstrated an effective and scalable solution by providing on-demand access to skilled support givers. We look forward to seeing Happy continue to grow to help those struggling with social isolation, especially during this time of COVID-19.”

To watch the full recap of NOLAHI 2020, visit NOLABA’s YouTube page here.

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