An 'elementary' approach to remote care

From the mHealthNews archive
By Eric Wicklund

Sherlock Holmes wouldn't have been the successful sleuth without his faithful sidekick Watson. A couple of mHealth startups are taking that same approach as they look to combine advanced analytics with the latest in mobile technology.

Sentrian announced its presence at the recent Singularity University Exponential Medicine Conference in San Francisco with $12 million in seed funding and a pair of high-profile executives. Billed as "the world's first remote-patient intelligence company," Sentrian looks to combine biosensors and wearable devices with machine-learning to help chronic care patients and their healthcare providers identify medical issues before they require a trip to the hospital.

Dean Sawyer, a former senior executive at Allscripts and Physicians Interactive and co-founder of Sentrian, and Martin Kohn, MD, MS, a former chief medical scientist at IBM who's taken the same role at Sentrian, told mHealth News they're not looking to prevent hospital readmissions, but to prevent admissions in the first place. Sawyer said at least 4 million hospital visits per year could be prevented through a combination of home-based monitoring and advanced analytics.

Sentrian looks to target what Kohn calls the "pretty sick" patients – those with a history of chronic issues, who are using home-based monitoring devices or are candidates for the technology. Data from those devices can be fed into a machine-learning platform such as IBM's Watson supercomputer (with which Kohn worked while at IBM), identifying instances where an intervention is necessary to prevent hospitalization.

"There is an extraordinary opportunity and need today to apply exponentially accelerating advances in biosensor technology and human-augmented machine learning to finally make remote patient management an affordable and effective reality for patients, payers and providers alike," Jack Kreindler, MD, Sentrian's co-founder and chief medical officer, said in a press release. "Sentrian is turning the unprecedented stream of data from remote sensors into foresight and intelligence, bridging the chasm between patients at home and providers in clinics and hospitals – transforming the very way medicine manages disease, and helping to solve a grand challenge in healthcare."

Kohn emphasized that Sentrian isn't interested in consumer-facing wearables, as the myriad fitness bands and smartwatches now on or nearing the market are being used by those who are already healthy and plan on staying that way. Instead, he said, the company is targeting the chronic care population that's pushing up the national healthcare bill with repeated trips to the hospital and home healthcare bills. By using the latest in passive and active sensors and combining that with an analytics platform like Watson, he said, providers can be alerted to step in before a health crisis occurs.

"You're identifying a need for intervention, then designing a path for care," he said.

For those who are using fitness bands and smartwatches to keep tabs on their health, an intriguing new startup is planning to draw on Watson's expertise to send consumers personal health tips and updates – whether they realize they need them or not.

Serial entrepreneur and self-professed "health nut" Michael Nova, MD, hinted at the launch of the Pathway Panorama smartphone app in a recent blog. A product of his Pathway Genomics company, the app would "make it possible for individuals to ask questions in everyday language and get answers in less than three seconds that take into consideration their personal health, diet and fitness scenarios combined with more general information."

Nova said the app would combine Watson's language processing and cognitive abilities with "information from a host of sources," including individual DNA and biomarker analyses provided by Pathway Genomics, a six-year-old San Diego company that offers "individual health reports delivered primarily through individuals' personal physicians."

In his blog, Nova said the app would not only allow consumers to quickly access the personal health information they need, but provide insights on health concerns they might not know about. As an example, he said a diabetic visiting a city that he or she has never visited before, eating a pastry for which he or she has no information on carbohydrate content, could quickly learn how much insulin to take and get information on the nearest specialized healthcare providers in case of an emergency.

Nova said Pathway is raising venture capital funding now – they're looking to reach $80 million in funding since the company’s launch, and have IBM as an investor – and should have something on the market sometime in 2015.