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iTriage: Smoothing the Path from Symptom to Solution

Dr. Wayne Guerra is a Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of iTriage.

There are more than 100 employees at iTriage.

The new iTriage space is growing at 1500 Wynkoop.

Dr. Peter Hudson is the Co-Founder and CEO of iTriage.

Testimonies of how iTriage helped, and at times saved a life, hang on the office walls.

A screenshot of iTriage's mobile app.

LoDo-based iTriage started in 2008 as a business model sketched out on a piece of paper between two physician friends. Today the Denver-based company counts about 100 employees and a total of nine million downloads of its signature mobile app. iTriage is part of a new wave of businesses targeting the intersection of healthcare and mobile technology, estimated to be worth $10.2 billion globally by 2018.
In the end, it was just food poisoning, but it was nice to know I had all the information I needed at my fingertips.
iTriage is a smartphone app that lets users research -- and potentially obtain treatment for -- various aliments from a bloody nose to swollen ankles to nephrolithiasis (kidney stones). 
In my case, my upset stomach was merely a result of some bad shrimp, but it was nice to know that I could have used the service to obtain detailed information for all kinds of potential problems and illnesses -- and not only that, I could also potentially use iTriage to check for nearby hospitals and even add my name to the waiting list.
iTriage is the product of two entrepreneurial physicians and their experiences treating an estimated 50,000 total patients. Dr. Wayne Guerra, iTriage's Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer, says his friend Dr. Peter Hudson "invited me over to his house for an idea he had" in 2008. The two mapped out on a piece of paper an iPhone app that they hoped would address troubles they often saw with their patients: "We watched patients routinely struggle to get the information they needed."Dr. Wayne Guerra is a co-founder and chief medical officer of iTriage.
The two drove to a local bank, obtained funding and the first version of the iTriage service was born five months later. Hudson is now the company's CEO.
The company has seen fast and furious growth in its five-year history. In 2011, the company was acquired by Aetna, representing the first big exit in the mobile healthcare space. There's a reason for all the millions of downloads and resulting success:  iTriage exists mainly to straighten the pathway between a patient and a care provider.
"Our primary goal is to help patients make better health decisions," says Guerra.
Potentially life-saving
Perhaps the best way to explain the value of iTriage is through the eyes of someone who might not be around today without it. Scott Tooker was on a business trip to Albuquerque when he started having chest pains in the middle of the night. He used iTriage to find the nearest hospital, and 20 minutes after he arrived he had a heart attack -- doctors were able to save Tooker's life by rushing him to a cardiac care center where he underwent an emergency procedure that included introducing a heart stent.
After recovering, Tooker was so relieved that he set about thanking everyone involved in saving his life, from the doctors who operated on him to the employees of iTriage. Guerra says that Tooker specifically sought out iTriage's Michelle Dye, the employee tasked with ensuring the app's list of hospitals was correct and up to date.
While Tooker's story is clearly a dramatic example of how people can use the service, he isn't alone. The app's page on the iTunes store is full of reviews gushing with praise for it.
Guerra explains that iTriage first launched its app at 99 cents, but the company soon decided to reduce that price to free in order to make it available to more people. Guerra says the company's primary business model involves charging hospitals, family practitioners and other care providers for premium listings in the company's app. 
The company is also now working to ink more advanced agreements with hospitals and other locations -- for example, Centura Health announced earlier this year a wide-ranging agreement with iTriage that includes the launch of the "iTriage Employer Health Plan," which allows the 22,000-plus associates and family members on Centura Health’s own health plan to find providers in their insurance network. Guerra says iTriage is working to sign additional deals like the one with Centura.
There's a reason that Centura and other providers are agreeing to partner with iTriage: The company's app has recorded more than nine million downloads, and is adding to that figure at the rate of around 200,000 to 300,000 per month. Guerra says iTriage records about 3.5 million "sessions" per month, which is where a customer opens and uses the app. Perhaps most importantly, the company's app is rated 4.5 out of 5 stars on Apple's App Store. "We are very proud of that," notes Guerra.
Based on his lengthy experience in treating patients, supplemented by feedback from iTriage users, Guerra offers a few suggestions to make the best of one's health via iTriage:
  • Situational: Users can access iTriage to find a local doctor to fill a prescription.
  • Storage: iTriage can record your medical history and information, information that is stored in the cloud and accessible from the iTriage app or the Web. This can help users easily and quickly provide their health history if necessary.
  • Seasonal: Thanks to the service's news and alerts function, iTriage users can access seasonal information like what the allergy situation is or whether there's an outbreak of whooping cough (or, as Guerra notes, "pertussis").
Growth potential
iTriage is tapping into a potentially lucrative space: According to Transparency Market Research, the market for mobile healthcare services, dubbed mHealth, is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 41.5 percent, from $1.3 billion last year to fully $10.2 billion by 2018.
"The global mHealth market is primarily driven by factors such as the increasing adoption of smartphones and rising incidences of chronic diseases," notes Transparency Market Research. "The development in smartphone applications has created new and interactive ways of communication between patients and healthcare providers."
So what's next for iTriage? The company is currently settling into its new offices in LoDo.There are more than 100 employees at iTriage.
"So much of the culture [of a company] is the building you're in," notes Guerra, adding that the office will have hydraulic desks that will allow employees to sit or stand -- a healthy approach to the workspace. Also: "Coors Field is just down the street."
Guerra also makes it a point to say that iTriage is currently hiring, and the company is hoping to attract top-flight software development talent.
iTriage is one of an emerging cluster of health-oriented technology companies in Denver that includes WellTok, which just landed nearly $20 million in investments, as well as earlier-stage startups like MedPassage and CirrusMD, both of which are in the early stages of launches. 
There's a reason for all of the activity -- good health just makes good business sense -- and it looks like good news for Denver. The national push to streamline healthcare and contain costs could catalyze plenty of job growth locally.

Photos by Kara Pearson Gwinn.

Read more articles by Mike Dano.

Mike is a freelance writer and executive editor of FierceMarkets Telecom Group.
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