Boston Scientific, Google's contest winners highlight patient engagement, data's role in digital chronic care

Judges praised Nutrimedy's patient-dietitian connection platform and BreathResearch's connected lung health analysis device.
By Dave Muoio
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Nutrimedy's Director of Nutrition Services and Engagement Mallory Franklin. Photo courtesy of Boston Scientific.

Patient engagement and purposeful data implementation were common discussion points during the finals of a digital health pitch competition held last night inside Google’s Cambridge, Massachusetts offices.

First kicked off in October, the fourth annual Connected Patient Challenge — cosponsored by Boston Scientific and the tech giant — featured six startup finalists whose offerings were specifically focused on reducing the burden of chronic diseases.

Following pitches from each, a panel of four judges awarded the top prize and $30,000 of in-kind support to Nutrimedy, a HIPAA-compliant mobile and web service that connects patients to registered dietitians. The platform is backed by an algorithm that matches patients to professionals who specialize in providing nutrition guidance personalized to their specific chronic condition, as well as features to keep the patient engaged in their nutritional health such as photo meal logs, blogs, recipes and video or instant messaging with their counselor.

“We have a national network of registered dietitians that can provide nutrition care for any patient, with any condition, anywhere in the United States,” Mallory Franklin, director of nutrition services and engagement at Nutrimedy, said during her pitch presentation. “Our solution … can provide value across many areas of our healthcare system — we can work with health systems to provide programs for patient populations to better outcomes and improve their access to nutrition. We can work with biotech and medtech to pair Nutrimedy with pharmaceuticals and devices that patients are already receiving, and we can work with employers to design corporate wellness solutions for their employees.”

BreathResearch, the maker of a spirometer and lung sound analysis device that connects to a patient app and clinician-facing support platform, took home second place and $20,000 in supporting services. Of note, the company’s platform includes an artificial neural network that can gauge or predict the severity of a patient's condition, and then flag the relevant data for the provider.

Other participants in the contest included Control:Diabetes, which makes an app that helps patients predict a high or low blood sugar event and learn what factors may lead to it; EinsWorld, which is developing a machine learning algorithm to predict adverse cardiac events; RTM Vital Signs, which is designing an implantable vital sign monitor for continuous monitoring; and SpeechMED, which uses a take-home tablet and app to translate care instructions into the patient or their caregiver’s native tongue.

For David Feygin, VP of IT and chief digital health officer at Boston Scientific and one of the event’s judges, each of the finalists’ offerings seemed especially focused on tackling two major issues in digital chronic care: user engagement, and the intelligent deployment of the data being collected.

“How do you actually make healthcare more human, and how do you get patients to really want to care for themselves and treat themselves like they would treat their loved ones. The ability to do that with data and technology, and getting the right data to the right places is another incredibly important thing,” Feygin told MobiHealthNews as the event was winding down. “You’re also starting to hear the family and the caregivers around the patient coming out, and that’s an area that we’re starting to explore that’s really been largely under-leveraged. We really don’t appreciate how much time and effort people around the patient are spending to take care of that patient.”

To him, Nutrimedy and BreathResearch’s approach to these issues stood a bit higher than those of their peers.

“For the runner up [BreathResearch], this idea of first creating the data, of how well you’re breathing, and then communicating that — that directly solves that major hassle of not having the data at the right place at the right time,” Feygin said. “And for [Nutrimedy], it’s really about engagement — how do you get the patient to want to understand how they can improve their own care through nutrition? It’s this whole idea of how you use digital to enable the connection between the nutritionist, who knows this body of knowledge, and the patient, who can benefit from it.”