GenieMD, recently selected as one of three winners of IBM’s Watson Mobile Developer Challenge, is an emerging mobile health platform company. We spoke with CEO and founder Soheil Saadat. A veteran software entrepreneur, he turned his energies to healthcare, when, as a result of being a caregiver to elderly parents, he experienced the shortcomings in the healthcare delivery process.
Saadat firmly believes that mobility is the key to adoption of the company’s healthcare platform and that a secure cloud is a necessary component, in part because it is unwise to store personal medical data on a device.
While Saadat describes five “pillars” of the company’s mission, GenieMD has an interesting emphasis on assisting and empowering family caregivers. Saadat says this is vital because there is a growing number of caregivers in the U.S. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, as of 2012, there were 65.7 million caregivers, constituting 29% of the U.S. adult population “providing care to someone who is ill, disabled or aged”.
With the population aging, the number of caregivers is likely to continue to increase. Saadat points to the loss of productivity for employers of caregivers, which he estimates at about 8%. (The Alliance estimates even greater losses to the economy.)
The company offers a free iOS and Android app that allows an individual to enter all of their health and wellness related data and records, which can then be shared with caregivers and providers. The app contains features, such as: symptom check; medication tracking; tracking vitals; access to medical source information from the cloud.
The company is now absorbed with integrating IBM’s Watson into their app. The intent is to load Watson with a vast amount of information from medical journals and other sources, plus individuals’ information. They expect to have their first Watson-related release in three months. Eventually this is designed to turn GenieMD into a personal health assistant (PHA). The patient or caregiver could ask the system a question about health and receive recommendations.
Saadat points out that 5-15% of diagnoses are incorrect. He foresees this PHA as “the point of interaction for the doctor, another set of eyes looking at the data.” When asked how far a PHA can go in recommending solutions before it becomes involved in practicing medicine, he quickly responds that the company is aware of such issues and that its symptom checker, for example, always advises seeing your doctor.
Until recently GenieMD had a B2C strategy, promoting its app to consumers. However, they recently transitioned to a B2B strategy. Saadat states that they have developed a pipeline of opportunities – among providers, payers, employers.
This spring the Scripps Mercy Hospital San Diego released “myQcare” (short for My Quality Care) a free iOS app powered by GenieMD. In addition to the patient-enabling features, the app provides a listing of local doctors and the hospital is advertising it to doctors “to market your practice in an easier and more effective way.”
Saadat states that the next release of their software will “facilitate patient-provider” communications. Without being specific, he says that it will give doctors a more holistic view of their patients, “what they are doing outside the doctor’s office.” This will include some continuous monitoring of vital signs.
GenieMD has an admirable mission: Ideally it would like all of a patient’s health data to be collectable automatically, without any effort on the patient’s part. With the current state of proprietary EHRs, constituting silos of data, this is not yet possible. It wants to empower caregivers, which we view as a very interesting and attractive approach, by making patient data and medical information shareable and actionable. They hope to use Watson to add proactive power to their platform. And they want to facilitate ease of communications between patients and providers.
Saadat is basically optimistic that the growth of wearables will enable more patient and caregiver direct involvement in healthcare. He also believes that the stubborn problem of EHR silos and fragmentation of health records can be overcome. His company, in 2013, won the Blue Button Co-Design Challenge. (Blue Button is the government-sponsored movement to make health records available to patients that began with the VA and is now run by Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), part of the Department of Health and Human Services.)
Saadat also views optimistically Apple’s recent announcement at its WWDC of its HealthKit for developers and Health app for iOS 8. While he acknowledges that there will be a good deal of competition among health information platforms, he believes that Apple’s announcements have validated the entire sector and its long term future.