“It’s critical that you have all of the patient’s data, to be able to render effective treatment,” states Dr. Soheil Saadat, PhD, CEO of GenieMD.
Since 2012 GenieMD has been addressing the thorny issues involved both in: a) developing comprehensive individual patient data and b) enabling the data to be shared in timely fashion among numerous concerned parties – doctors and nurses, caregivers, patients, and others.
The Problem – Realizing The Potential Of Mobile Digital Health Systems
One of the areas of greatest promise for the Mobile Cloud is digital-based healthcare. We wrote about this as a prime potential area in our study “The Future Of The Mobile Cloud,” in 2012.
Yet, nearly four years later the industry is still at an early stage of development. A recent McKinsey paper stated about digital health systems, “Yet most have delivered only modest returns when measured by higher care quality, greater efficiency, or better patient outcomes.” (“How healthcare systems can become digital-health leaders” McKinsey 1/16.)
A 2015 survey by Research Now found that only 16% of physicians use medical apps with patients although 46% expect to use mHealth apps within five years. (“Are Mobile Medical Apps Good For Our Health?” 3/17/15.)
Close Relationship With IBM Watson
While GenieMD has established a number of partnerships, its close relationship with IBM Watson illustrates some aspects of the company’s approach to advancing the efficacy of mHealth.
We first wrote about GenieMD because they were one of the winners of the IBM Watson Challenge in 2014. (“GenieMD – MobileCloud IBM Watson Challenge Winner” 6/20/14) The company has been a leader in working with IBM to develop the potential of Watson in the healthcare field. “We’ve spent a lot of time and effort in training Watson on the use of our data,” Saadat told us recently.
The issue of training revolves around the fact that GenieMD is looking for deep analysis from Watson that relates to the condition of an individual patient. Watson clearly has extensive capabilities when it comes to analyzing massive data about large populations.
However, tailoring an answer to the individual involves a raft of specific questions. Saadat uses an example as simple as the question, “Can the patient eat broccoli?” If they are taking blood thinners, for example, the amount they can eat without impacting their blood test, is quite different from another patient who is not on the same regimen.
Saadat explains they are working through a process by which Watson will become more and more capable of answering questions for individuals that focus on certain very common conditions, e.g., diabetes, heart disease. “Then we will scale to other diseases,” he states.
“Personalization Is Everything”
“Personalization is everything,” he declares. GenieMD is able to pull data about an individual from a wide range of sources. The Blue Button+ program, originally associated with the VA, enables individuals to get access to their personal digital health records from EMR (electronic medical record) silos that have previously controlled patient data. The company also collects data from various devices, such as fitness trackers and other sources.
Saadat emphasizes their capability to deliver information to doctors in what he describes as an “asynchronous” mode. This means that GenieMD is capable of accumulating data, such as a patient’s report of their symptoms, then querying the patient – based on the historical profile of that individual’s medical history that is in the system – and bundling the symptoms and further information into a report to the physician or caregiver.
He points out that this creates a big step forward in terms of efficiency of care giving, since it minimizes the need for doctors or nurses to conduct initial extensive interviews and allows them to allocate their time to addressing the most serious problems.
Harvard Health Info – A GenieMD Partnership Project
GenieMD has had some very interesting announcements in the past few months. In February 2016 they announced the pilot of a new service with Harvard Medical School, IBM, and Anthem Blue Cross, called Harvard Health Info.
The program gives users access to an array of “pillars” of support. These include:
1) A Personal Health Record (PHR) – a repository of comprehensive health-related information about the individual, such as, their medications, known conditions, allergies, any vitals or fitness tracking data, etc.
2) A Care Team feature that links up the various parties concerned with the patient and allows rapid communications among them.
3) Various informational resources including: educational material assembled by GenieMD; a link to Watson for answers to health questions, which also includes information provided by Up-To-Date (a Wolters Kluwer company that is a major supplier of point-of-care clinical support information to physicians); a “symptom checker” with information sourced from Harvard Medical School; and “a directory of over one million physicians, pharmacies and hospitals.”
4) A Medication Adherence feature that provides reminders to the user as well as drug related information and a drug discount card. A Vitals Tracking capability that can accept information directly from certain devices, currently including FitBit, Withings and iHealth, as well as data input by the patient.
Other Alliances – Walgreens, MEDfx
Saadat mentions two aspects of GenieMDs partnership with Walgreens. First, a patient can order a prescription refill with a single tap on their phone. Secondly, GenieMD feeds information about patient metrics (e.g., blood pressure, glucose reading, exercise) that are integrated into the drugstore company’s Balance Rewards program, and earn points for discounts on later purchases.
In late 2015 GenieMD also announced a partnership with MEDfx, a company that focuses on interoperability of systems for interconnecting health professionals and patients to enhance data sharing. The two announced that they will integrate a “connected PHR” mobile app with the MEDfx Health Information Exchange (HIE).
Business Strategy – B2B, Telemedicine, Wearables
The company started with a consumer app. It then turned to addressing the home caregiver market. However, its current business focus is B2B – e.g., clinics and employers, with plans to also include insurers. Most of the focus to date is on patients with chronic conditions.
Saadat has been weighing other growth areas of mHealth. He is “extremely bullish” about the outlook for telemedicine. He points to studies indicating that for 40 common illnesses, about 50% of office visits were probably unnecessary. He has some reservations about the impact that another area – wearables – is likely to have in the near term for improving patient results. His concern revolves around the observation that so many people abandon the devices after a short period. Also he states that there are “things that really matter” such as blood pressure and glucose level that cannot be tracked by wearables at this time.
GenieMD is about a 20-person company. Saadat states they are close to breakeven and he expects a period of accelerated growth.
We’ve written several articles about emerging mHealth information services and are conversant with the issues set forth by McKinsey and others regarding the slow progress in this field.
We believe that GenieMD has been systematically addressing a two-sided key stumbling block, which is: 1) the need to have a comprehensive view of the patient; but 2) at the same time provide full connectivity to all of the interested parties, patient, doctors, nurses, other caregivers, pharmacies, etc. Its tie-in to Watson is a long-term potential asset.
Our confidence level in the company is reinforced by Saadat’s personal business record, which has included building a couple of successful companies, including exits through acquisitions by industry majors, including Microsoft and Agilent.