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For sticking it to fraudulent pharmaceutical sellers. Sproxil has developed a game-changing approach to help eliminate the fake drugs that kill more than 700,000 people around the world each year. When patients receive their medications, they simply scratch off a sticker label to reveal a code, then text it to Sproxil, which verifies its authenticity. Last year, the company crossed the 2-million-use threshold and launched a partnership with IBM to analyze customer data so they could discern drug-counterfeiting patterns. Sproxil has since expanded to several other fields in need of product verification, from agricultural goods to auto parts.


For bridging the healthcare gap with telecom. Safaricom first won international attention for dramatically expanding banking in Kenya by providing financial services over the phone. Now, it’s doing the same for healthcare with Daktari 1525, a call-in service launched in late 2011. For a small fee, Kenyans can phone a doctor 24 hours a day, giving them access to basic medical advice in a country where healthcare providers are in ridiculously short supply. Safaricom recently launched a budget-friendly smartphone called Yolo, which is also the first Intel-powered phone to reach Africa.


For bringing design to third-world healthcare. While access to healthcare in developing countries has improved, new patients often shy away from (if not scoff at) providers who use today’s typically expensive and complex tools and machinery. D-Rev aims to bridge the gap by designing top-quality products that can be built affordably, then partnering with distributors to bring them to market. Last year, it launched Brilliance, a scaled-down phototherapy lap for infant jaundice that costs a fraction of the price of competing products.

4_Proteus Digital Health

For putting GPS in our pills. Finding out what’s wrong with our bodies would be a lot easier if doctors could just see inside, right? That’s the thinking behind Proteus Digital Health’s product, an ingestible sensor the size of a grain of sand and powered by stomach acid. When swallowed with a pill, the device, which won FDA approval last year, relays information to your smartphone about your intake schedule and how the drug is affecting your body. The ultimate goal is to embed the sensor directly within pharmaceutical products.


For bringing design to your blood-sugar monitor. Dexcom treats medical devices like your favorite electronics. Its continuous glucose monitor (CGM)--a device that that monitors a diabetic’s blood-sugar level via a sensor placed under the skin of the abdomen--could be mistaken for a sleek flip cam, and helped the company increase it revenue 42% in the second quarter of last year. In October, the FDA approved its newest line, the G4 Platinum, which offers a color LCD display, customizable alerts, and up to 30% better accuracy.

6_GE Healthcare

For making an ultrasound for your whole body. While GE has long been the top seller of ultrasound devices around the globe, Logiq, its light and portable laptop-size machine, can do things most others can’t. Logiq has become a favorite of sports doctors--most notably those in the NFL and major-league baseball--by allowing them to peer inside an athlete’s body mere moments after an injury. Its latest versions can construct 3D versions of scans and observe needles inside the body during injections.


For redefining the role of the pharmacy. A public spat last year with a prescription partner stalled Walgreen’s revenues and siphoned customers away. To counter the loss, the company bet on a more refined approach to patient care, which yielded new mobile app features that help patients manage their medications, such as Pill Reminder, and a web tool called Find Your Pharmacist, which lists local pharmacists by their expertise. Those efforts, combined with partnerships with the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services to expand in-store HIV testing, created a new standard for the patient-pharmacy relationship.


For making it easy to access medical records online. Athenahealth stands out among the companies that are putting medical records online: It’s a system that doctors actually like to use, a critical factor in dragging healthcare into the Digital Age. Athenahealth’s nimble, cloud-based application is so attractive that more than one-third of its new clients had been users of other costly electronic systems. With its recent acquisition of mobile health company Epocrates, Athenahealth will soon be able to let doctors access patients’ records on the go.


For strengthening the doctor-patient connection. Teladoc provides medical consultations by phone and video, selling its services to insurers that want to keep members from making unnecessary trips to the doctor’s office. Last year, the company more than doubled its membership and launched a service to let physicians connect directly to their patients. A new partnership with medical software company HealthSpot will let Teladoc create private, walk-in kiosks for patient care.

10_SeeChange Health

For giving members incentives to get healthy. After three years administering fast-growing products for United Healthcare, SeeChange Health launched its own insurance company last year, and it’s pursuing the industry’s Holy Grail: getting members to take more responsibility for their own health. The startup sells software that analyzes workers’ health risks, and then maps out plans to help them stay healthy. When employees complete simple tasks like getting a physical or filling out a wellness survey, they earn rewards in the form of cash or discounts on out-of-pocket expenses.

[Image: Flickr user Rosmary]