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HIStalk Interviews Drew Schiller, CTO, Validic

May 9, 2016 Interviews No Comments

Drew Schiller is CTO and co-founder of Validic of Durham, NC.

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Tell me about yourself and the company.

I’m the co-founder and chief technology officer at Validic, the leading platform for directing patient-generated health data from digital health apps, wearables, and in-home medical devices into the healthcare system.

What is the level of interesting in integrating patient-generated information with enterprise systems?

The level of interest is really strong. In fact, it has been growing quite substantially over the last 12 to 18 months. There has been, in general,, a lot of questions around the usability of the data. Now we’re starting to see a lot of great use cases and examples, which is driving further interest in the market.

Is collecting the data a given and now it’s more of a matter of deciding what the business rules should be to use it?

That’s exactly correct. Getting the data from all the disparate sources is a known quantity. There are places like Validic where you can go and access data from many different sources. Now the question is, how do I get the right data at the right time in order to inform the right action to take for better patient care?

We’ve been very fortunate from a timing perspective. We started with a lot of traction in the wellness space, more the preventative health space. Now we’ve been moving in to more of the traditional healthcare system, along with patient care, remote patient monitoring programs. Also into the clinical trials space and the pharmaceutical market.

Capturing fitness tracking information hasn’t been valuable, but is the next level of maturity patient engagement and chronic disease management, to capture a more complete picture of someone’s health?

That’s exactly right. Fitness trackers are still interesting. They will become more and more relevant as the device manufacturers start to incorporate new kinds of data. For example, most of them now contain heart rate information. I know a lot of them in the future are looking toward other types of data they can collect that are more clinical in nature. But Validic also connects with blood pressure monitors, glucose meters, pulse oximeters, weight scales, a lot of other devices that can be used for chronic disease management as well.

Would the company have an interest in integrating information that doesn’t necessarily originate on a phone app, such as critical patient monitoring?

I look at the phone as a gateway or a hub. You can connect devices through that portal in a variety of ways. Through a Bluetooth connection, you can connect devices like blood pressure monitors.

We also have a product called VitalSnap that works with legacy medical devices. These are devices that people traditionally use in the home to monitor conditions like type 2 diabetes and hypertension. One of the problems that we found was that when physicians want to measure and monitor patients with these chronic conditions is that a lot of the devices that the patients were using are not connected. That’s why I call them legacy devices. 

VitalSnap enables us to grab — using the camera on the phone — a digital image of the reading from the device, turn that into a digital asset, and deliver that through our system to the healthcare provider. That enables real-time data transfer for even these legacy devices.

Where I see the industry going in general is very much toward a patient-driven, remote patient monitoring, disease management future where you’re only going into the hospital to see the provider for regularly scheduled appointments or for acute management of conditions.

What are the secrets to motivating consumers to take measurements like weight and blood pressure and then report them back?

Consumer engagement is going to continue to be a real struggle. One of the more interesting things is that we have big players from the consumer electronics space entering the health market. We have Apple, Google, Samsung, and Microsoft all entering the health market in a very real way. 

What these companies excel at is consumer engagement. There’s a real opportunity for us in healthcare to leverage the engagement that these consumer electronic companies know how to create with their consumers. We can create a more engaged healthcare consumer by leveraging the fact that maybe these consumer companies are able to engage the patients in a way we’ve never been able to before. That’s a really interesting trajectory that I see the market taking.

What do you think about Nokia acquiring Withings?

I think it’s phenomenal. It’s a sign of the maturation of the industry. Nokia was sitting there trying to understand how they could get into healthcare. Withings is a very solid, stable player in the market. They’re going to be able to do even better things with the power of Nokia behind them.

The only brands I recognize in the consumer area are Withings, Omron, and Philips. Will the big players look at what Nokia did and worry that all the good consumer digital health assets are are being grabbed?

There’s still a number of good assets out there. IHealth is a great company that does work in that space. There’s a company out of France called BewellConnect that we work with that’s really good. There are a number of newer device companies that are coming out that are OEMing blood pressure monitors and weight scales and blood glucose monitors as well. The connected health ecosystem is expanding daily. It’s certainly not consolidating.

For consumers using multiple Validic-integrated devices, would you aggregate the information or package it up in some way?

If the patient connects multiple devices for the same healthcare organization, we can certainly package those three data streams up and provide as much context around that as we can. Really we view our job as, first and foremost, being the data conduit. But then additionally, providing the ability to understand and contextualize the readings that are made available. We don’t make the decisions on the data, but we want to make the data more actionable.

What are drug companies doing with patient-generated data?

Pharmaceutical companies are really interested in collecting more data during the drug development process in order to prove efficacy of the drug. It gives them one more feather in their cap to show that the drug had a certain effect.

Another thing that’s very interesting is that there are current things going on in healthcare, such as remote patient monitoring, that can provide drug companies with new avenues for research. For example, if you have a number of hypertensive patients going through a remote patient monitoring program, it’s very possible that a new drug to treat hypertension can then be used for a certain percent of that population. You have a built-in control. You can start to see if this new drug is effective or not for these people. There are number of opportunities in the clinical trials space for digital health.

What about continuous monitoring of patients?

Patients are very willing to do things that are unobtrusive to their lives. If all the patient had to do was put something on their wrist and wear it, or put on a patch and wear it, they could go about their lives normally otherwise. They would be very interested in doing that. One of the biggest challenges that we see with consumer engagement is that we’re asking consumers to modify their behavior outside of something they typically do. That’s where we  see challenges with engagement.

What are you hearing about ResearchKit and CareKit? Will those products affect your business?

It’s not having any effect on our business. In fact, it has jump-started a number of conversations. I think it’s fascinating. First and foremost, by having the world’s largest consumer electronics company in the healthcare space, and continuing year after year now for the last three years to double down, is a huge asset to everybody who’s trying to improve patient care. It’s driving better consumer awareness, which is awesome.

In terms of ResearchKit, it’s a phenomenal jump-start kit for getting informed consent into an iOS app for a research trial. CareKit is another really interesting tool. If you are building an app for remote patient monitoring, it’s a very, very good framework for jump-starting that process on iOS.

Do you have any final thoughts?

I see Validic as fundamentally being the fabric through which digital health data flows. What we’re trying to do is become the network to act as the future of digital health. 

Where I see this industry going is that it’s not enough to just have the data. We also need to be able to provide context and be able to show the right information to providers at the right times to take the right actions. The future of our company is going to be built on is being able to provide that context.

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