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How AI-based healthcare can make a difference




How AI-based healthcare can make a difference

Edward’s family knew deep down that something was wrong. After months of chemotherapy and battling his stage 3 throat cancer, doctors had suggested he try a new biologic drug. This had brought some success, but lately he had become very weak. He had been suffering from stomach problems for weeks, which did not get better. Despite many calls to the doctor, no one seemed to have a good answer. It wasn’t until he had several bloody stools and was admitted to the hospital that he was properly diagnosed. The new biologic had the adverse effects of colitis in some patients – and he was unfortunately one of them, leading to a lengthy hospital stay and wreaking havoc on his fragile 81-year-old body.

Unfortunately, side effects are not uncommon with many treatments used in cancer therapy. But could there have been a way to shorten the delay in Edwards’ diagnosis? What if patients with a similar diagnosis are connected so they can share stories, essentially “crowdsourcing” symptoms, potentially leading to a shorter timeline and thus earlier intervention?

“Healthcare innovation and AI advancement have the potential to make this a reality. One such company with a vision of better and faster diagnoses through connection and AI is BandHealth. This company takes a page from online dating apps and matches patients on similar characteristics, such as age, gender, geography, symptoms and diagnosis, to create community information sharing. Zach Gotlib and Jared Firestone, co-founders, created this vision based on their own experiences. Zach had to undergo multiple surgeries as a young man. He initially underwent open-heart surgery at the age of 20 for a congenital heart condition. Six years later, he found himself back in the doctor’s office and told his life would change again due to a debilitating orthopedic injury that required multiple surgeries. With chronic pain, he turned to the internet for support from fellow sufferers, but he found very few solutions he could turn to for that connection. He was lost, scared and alone. These difficult life events led him to decide to help others – by creating a program that could make a difference for a patient, by building connections.

Currently, 133 million people suffer from a chronic disease, and this is predicted to reach 230 million by 2030. And if they lack social connection, it can increase the likelihood that they will not only be readmitted, but also suffer from premature heart disease and stroke. Selfie Health has already made significant progress in engaging nonprofits such as the Mended Hearts, SCAD Alliance and Triage Health and in the next steps hopes to engage hospitals in helping patients navigate their pre- and post-hospital journeys with a community.

“People facing health problems are often dealing with the most difficult times in their lives. Our goal is to make sure they know they are not alone. The only way to do that is to connect with others with whom they have a lot in common and who really understand. By connecting people based on more than just health issues, we make people feel more comfortable sharing what they’re going through, and when people can share more freely, they get a lot in return,” said the Lord Gotlib.

Another such company that is empowering patients while addressing the issue of rural inequality is Sanguine and their AnemoCheck anemia management platform. Obtaining a laboratory test for a patient who has anemia is time-consuming. Anemia can lead to fatigue, low energy and, in severe cases, cardiovascular collapse. Driving to the doctor to get a prescription for lab work, then going to a lab to get it and then waiting for days for the results can delay diagnosis and treatment. With 1.6 billion people affected worldwide and 80 million people in the US at high risk, speeding this up is essential. Healthcare deserts in rural America require solutions that enable patient-centered diagnostics for both preventive healthcare and chronic disease management. Sanguina is positioned to unlock this.

Erika Tyburski, the founder of Sanguina, herself suffered from iron deficiency anemia. It was difficult to determine whether the fatigue was due to the anemia or other problems, and she suffered from it constantly. Creating an at-home testing kit and a smartphone app for tracking was a vision that aimed to help accelerate care for millions of people, many of whom live in rural areas. With these accessible tools, the patient is active in achieving earlier diagnosis or detection, improving access to care. Her hope is to make the technologies available in rural areas, point-of-care settings, complementary businesses, standalone clinics, grocery pharmacies and through partnerships with telehealth companies. Specifically, physician supervision via telehealth has the ability to provide diagnosis, consultation, and treatment as needed, provide on-demand care, and improve outcomes.

Another pressing health issue that requires a patient-centered approach is pregnancy and postpartum care. Maternal mortality and mortality in the US have continued to rise and we rank lower than many developing countries in this regard.

This is personal for Mohamed Kamara, who lost his sister to preeclampsia and his aunt to preeclampsia. The lack of a healthcare system was a key element and through his shock and grief, Mohamed decided to make a difference for other women so that their families would not suffer. Through an easily accessible app, he connects the elements of technology and human interaction for a holistic medical care and support system. Virtual touchpoints, wearable data sent directly to the patient record, and access to doulas and community connections are just a few elements of this groundbreaking ecosystem surrounding maternal care from pregnancy to delivery. An example of how this type of platform has helped is the 18-year-old Spanish pregnant patient, who was unable to attend her antenatal appointments due to financial constraints. But through the InovCares app and transportation option, she arranged a 40-minute ride, allowing her to get to her appointment and then get home safely. Another patient, a 25-year-old African American patient, was treated via the InovCares telehealth video consultation for nausea and vomiting, arranged by her Doula via text message. With a pivotal study recently launched with BlueCross BlueShield of Texas, HHM Health (an FQHC in Dallas, Texas) & Brownsville Community Health Center (an FQHC in South, Texas) and Holy Family Services (a birth center in South, Texas), Mr. Kamara, the CEO and founder of InovCares, says: “I hope to empower patients and optimize care for every mother by surrounding her with many aspects of the care she needs. I want every family and every baby to receive the best possible care.”

Patient-centered care and closing the gaps in our healthcare system are essential to improving outcomes and addressing disparities. Artificial intelligence, real-time data, technology and better connectivity between people and the healthcare systems that currently exist can hold these keys. There is certainly optimism for the future as passionate founders and CEOs contribute to better health for many of us.