“AI-as­sisted data mining to save lives by re­duc­ing ef­fort and time”

BioSpectrum (India) - - BIO CONTENT - Ab­hishek Shah, Co-founder and CEO of Wellthy Ther­a­peu­tics Dr Man­beena Chawla man­beena.chawla@mmac­tiv.com

Ab­hishek Shah,

Co-founder and CEO of Wellthy Ther­a­peu­tics

2017 has been a come­back year for health tech star­tups with in­vestor sen­ti­ment pick­ing up to touch $162 mil­lion as com­pared to a pal­try $84 mil­lion in 2016. In to­tal­ity, healthtech star­tups have raised over $912 mil­lion across 269 deals since 2014. Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent re­port by Deloitte, In­dian health­care mar­ket, which is worth $100 bil­lion, is likely to grow at a pace of 23 per cent CAGR to reach the mark of $280 bil­lion by 2020. From the pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ments with which the healthtech in­dus­try has started this year, 2018 will likely see many more healthtech star­tups flour­ish­ing.

Re­cently, Dig­i­tal ther­a­peu­tics firm Wellthy Ther­a­peu­tics has raised $2.1 mil­lion from Ran­jan Pai’s fam­ily of­fice Ma­ni­pal Ed­u­ca­tion & Med­i­cal Group (MEMG) fam­ily of­fice LLP along with Apoorva Patni led Cur­rae Healthtech Fund, Sin­ga­pore-based Beenext Ven­tures, GrowX Ven­tures, IIFL Se­lect Eq­uity Fund amongst other in­di­vid­ual in­vestors. The Mum­baibased firm that plays into dig­i­tal ther­a­peu­tics, en­ables treat­ment of type-II di­a­betes us­ing a hy­brid of AI and hu­man paramed­i­cal coaches to im­prove health lit­er­acy and fa­cil­i­tate be­hav­iour change for bet­ter out­comes in pa­tients. It’s first dig­i­tal ther­a­peu­tic for type II di­a­betes has been en­dorsed by Asia’s largest di­a­betes as­so­ci­a­tion, Re­search So­ci­ety for the Study of Di­a­betes in In­dia (RSSDI). BioSpec­trum got in touch with Ab­hishek Shah, Co-founder and CEO of Wellthy Ther­a­peu­tics, to find out about the plans the com­pany has in store. Edited Ex­cerpts-

Con­grat­u­la­tions on the re­cent in­vest­ment boost. What are the fu­ture plans?

Dig­i­tal health in­ter­ven­tions are a ne­ces­sity to en­hance the ef­fec­tive­ness of cur­rent chronic dis­ease care. Our prod­uct suite di­rectly boosts out­come ef­fi­cacy in in­cred­i­bly sig­nif­i­cant ways, well be­yond what cur­rent health­care is able to do. Cur­rently, the plan is to use the cap­i­tal to en­hance the ef­fi­cacy of the ex­ist­ing di­a­betes dig­i­tal ther­a­peu­tic while de­vel­op­ing so­lu­tions for other dis­ease ar­eas for which clin­i­cal tri­als are set to be­gin in the sec­ond half of 2018. Nearly 1 in 3 pa­tients who have di­a­betes also have hy­per­ten­sion and heart com­pli­ca­tions. We al­most don’t have a choice in the mat­ter; we must care for this huge seg­ment of the pop­u­la­tion. How­ever, we will con­tinue to build our ther­a­peu­tic ca­pa­bil­i­ties slowly and surely, with proven out­comes and val­i­dated pro­to­cols of care es­tab­lished be­fore we com­mer­cialise.

What po­ten­tial do you fore­see in rev­o­lu­tion­iz­ing health­care tech­nolo­gies with ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence (AI)?

AI is al­ready aug­ment­ing med­i­cal imag­ing and di­ag­nos­tics, by help­ing di­ag­nose a pa­tient bet­ter, cor­re­lat­ing it with their med­i­cal history and de­liv­er­ing the best treat­ment op­tion in cer­tain ar­eas of health­care like on­col­ogy. This will not only cut down the ac­cess to treat­ment time for the pa­tient and of­fer per­son­alised treat­ment but also help doc­tors make bet­ter de­ci­sions, and free up con­sid­er­able, and pre­cious, time of the doctor to at­tend to more crit­i­cal pa­tients.

AI-as­sisted data mining of pa­tient data is al­ready hap­pen­ing to un­der­stand trends and iden­tify most suc­cess­ful treat­ment op­tions. Apart from enor­mous time sav­ing, this data mining will save lives by re­duc­ing the ef­fort and time for re­search­ing dis­eases and their treat­ments.

Then there’s AI that can give you im­me­di­ate feed­back and ac­tion points. The ben­e­fits of this are be­ing seen in emer­gency care, in hos­pi­tal pa­tient mon­i­tor­ing, and in life­style dis­ease man­age­ment by giv­ing real time feed­back on pa­tient data points like blood sugar or meals, thereby ed­u­cat­ing the user in real time and en­sur­ing im­me­di­ate, real time pa­tient care, fur­ther aug­ment­ing the Health Care Pro­fes­sional (HCP).The Wellthy Di­a­betes App is one such de­ployed dig­i­tal ther­a­peu­tic; it has an AI-pow­ered chat­bot and real-time feed­back en­gine that gives im­me­di­ate guid­ance to users upon re­ceiv­ing data in­puts from them such as that of their meals, blood sugar or weight, as well as real time de­ci­sion sup­port to help the treat­ing HCP and the paramed­i­cal staff make bet­ter de­ci­sions.

Although ma­jor­ity of con­sumers are will­ing to re­ceive care from ad­vanced health­care tech­nolo­gies such AI & ro­bot­ics, do you think lack of hu­man el­e­ment can pose as a ma­jor chal­lenge?

I don’t fore­see a fu­ture over the next 10-20 years where hu­mans are com­pletely re­moved from all ma­jor as­pects of pa­tient-fac­ing health­care. How­ever, I do see a world very soon where the hu­man is aug­mented by AI in de­ci­sion mak­ing, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and in mining health­care data. I fore­see a lot of back­ground work be­ing taken over by the AI. I see ro­bots, con­trolled and pro­grammed by HCPs, to be able to lead some types of surg­eries. That be­ing said, there are other places where we are far away from a ma­chine-dom­i­nated health­care fu­ture, e.g. it will take time for AI or ro­bots to be able to make eth­i­cal choices. More­over, the hu­man touch is ir­re­place­able in a lot of cases.

How is your as­so­ci­a­tion with RSSDI go­ing to make a dif­fer­ence to di­a­betes care in In­dia? What are the main ef­forts be­ing taken in this re­gard?

With the sup­port of RSSDI, we are tak­ing on the re­spon­si­bil­ity of build­ing aware­ness and im­prov­ing adop­tion of dig­i­tal ther­a­peu­tics, a new cat­e­gory of medicine in In­dia and South Asia: some­thing we are com­mit­ted to for the next decade. Our as­so­ci­a­tion will see in­cred­i­ble pub­li­ca­tions, stud­ies and real world data com­ing out of it, which will help de­fine the stan­dards of care for di­a­betes in the years to come. Our ran­dom­ized con­trol trial is one more step to not just build cred­i­bil­ity for the cat­e­gory, but a step to make In­dia shine as a global leader in di­a­betes care.

Do you think con­sumer cen­tric de­vices will take con­trol of the health­care mar­ket in the com­ing years?

Con­sumer cen­tric de­vices like smart­phones are al­ready paving the way for ac­cess to most ser­vices the cus­tomer wants. Health­care will be one more cat­e­gory to en­joy the priv­i­leges and chal­lenges of be­ing ‘on de­mand’. How­ever, I don’t see the smart­phone ‘tak­ing con­trol’ of the health­care mar­ket any­time soon. Health­care isn’t about dis­counts and ac­cess, it’s about out­comes and care.

With the ad­vanc­ing health­care tech­nolo­gies comes the prob­lem of af­ford­abil­ity. How do you plan to en­sure that your ser­vices reach the max­i­mum num­ber of peo­ple?

Born in In­dia, we are com­mit­ted to help ev­ery part of the pyra­mid. We are in­spired by Tesla in their ap­proach to build cheaper prod­ucts for their cus­tomers by us­ing data and learn­ings from the early adopters to bring the cost of the in­ter­ven­tion down, with­out com­pro­mis­ing qual­ity. Our AI ca­pa­bil­i­ties, our ma­chine learn­ing ar­chi­tec­ture, and our clin­i­cal and be­hav­ioral sci­ence prod­uct team help tremen­dously in this re­gard.

THEN THERE’S AI THATCAN GIVE YOU IM­ME­DI­ATE FEED­BACK AND AC­TION POINTS. THE BEN­E­FITS OF THIS ARE BE­ING SEEN IN EMER­GENCY CARE, IN HOS­PI­TAL PA­TIENT MON­I­TOR­ING, AND IN LIFE­STYLE DIS­EASE MAN­AGE­MENT BY GIV­ING REAL TIME FEED­BACK ON PA­TIENT DATA POINTSLIKE BLOOD SUGAR OR MEALS, THEREBY ED­U­CAT­ING THEUSER IN REAL TIME AND EN­SUR­ING IM­ME­DI­ATE, REAL TIME PA­TIENT CARE, FUR­THER AUG­MENT­ING THE HEALTH CARE PRO­FES­SIONAL (HCP).

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