By Renee Moore.
Epharmix, a digital health technology startup, is redefining the phrase, “phoning it in.” Using personalized automated phone calls and text messages, Epharmix believes it is positioned to improve patient outcomes and deliver economic efficiencies for healthcare providers.
“Epharmix sits at the intersection of clinical research and technology,” says Blake Marggraff, CEO. “As an evidence-based digital health company, Epharmix uses true clinical research to demonstrate engagement, outcomes, time savings, and economic benefits for individualized, disease-specific digital interventions.”
Is digital health technology the next novelty or is it an adaptive innovation that places patient care directly in the hands of patients?
Rock Health, a venture fund dedicated to digital health, notes in its 2015 Year in Review report, “digital health is no longer a novelty.” The organization reported that the digital health segment saw $4.5 billion in total venture funding, ending the year slightly above 2014’s $4.3 billion mark.
iSelect Fund, an early stage venture fund based in St. Louis, recognizes the potential of digital health technology and is an investor in Epharmix.
“To improve quality in healthcare, the Institute of Medicine recommends a focus on six aims, one of which is timeliness. Medical interventions should be such that patients achieve their goals and benefit from treatment in the shortest possible timeframe. Epharmix’s unique and novel approach shortens the time for patients with diabetes to reach their blood sugar targets, and thus minimize the long term complications of diabetes.” explains Dr. Melvin Blanchard, associate professor of medicine at Washington University in St. Louis.
Prior to digital health technology, patients and providers would meet every three to six months. Unless the patient was extremely knowledgeable and proactive, he or she may wait through uncomfortable or dangerous symptoms until the next appointment.
Epharmix, says Marggraff, “helps physicians stay in touch with their patients automatically, with tools that ask patients the right questions at the right time. Let’s say you are a patient with heart failure. Your doctor would prescribe Epharmix to you and you would receive simple questions via phone or text message – questions about your disease. If something goes wrong, the physician or nurse can get in touch with you to make sure you are ok. If everything is fine, then from the doctor’s perspective, you are the best patient ever.”
The Journal of Medical Marketing published an abstract looking at medical technology innovation and the importance of comparative effectiveness research. It cites, “The development of convincing and credible evidence to support products and services has become a critical competitive issue. In some cases, it has become a requirement for new health technologies to gain market access, achieve and sustain premium pricing, and achieve targeted levels of market acceptance.”
Marggraff describes his vision of the future of healthcare. “Data, being gathered at increasing rates from medically underserved populations, will not only inform reactive care; it will also drive preventive care and enable healthcare providers to spend time and money more efficiently. Digital health technologies will help accelerate this trend.”
Digital health companies such as Epharmix use patient preferred communication technology, phone or text, to manage a patient’s condition while collecting disease-specific data for ongoing clinical research.
From heart failure to depression, Epharmix has 15 interventions for 12 healthcare specialties. The company has a national network of 50 physicians and nurses at ten universities who assist with both product design and research studies, including multi-hundred person randomized controlled trials.
Epharmix interventions have enhanced patient treatment optimizations, compliance and health outcomes.
“Roughly 99.5% of the time, Epharmix interventions run completely autonomously,” explains Avik Som, Chief Medical Officer at Epharmix. “However, when appropriate, the healthcare provider will engage and support the patient, as needed based on alerts by Epharmix’s clinically validated algorithms.”
From the patient’s perspective, a doctor or nurse using Epharmix is caring and responsive without being intrusive or burdensome.
This dynamic leads to increased efficiency and decreased overall costs. A provider with a large number of patients with chronic conditions suddenly becomes a manageable panel that is rank-ordered by importance or risk-level.
Beth Seidenberg from KPCB, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm, offers an optimistic perspective on digital health care: “With billions of dollars at stake, the U.S. health-care system offers entrepreneurs a tremendous opportunity to shake up one of the most complex sectors of the American economy.”