Can a selfie help predict your health risks? The doc.ai app helps people to answer that question by applying artificial intelligence (AI) to health records provided by users. The company has attracted millions of dollars from strategic investors and uses novel techniques to engage customers.
The doc.ai platform uses AI to help people enroll in clinical trials, determine the healthiest places they have lived and eventually see what their genetic data can tell them about health and longevity. The startup has a major deal with Anthem, Inc. the nation’s second-largest health insurer, operating Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in 14 states. Together they are working with Harvard to enable consumer participation in studies best suited to their personal profiles.
Founder and CEO Walter De Brouwer is one of Silicon Valley’s new breed of data entrepreneurs whose goal is to engage consumers about understanding their health information. At a time when technology giants are expanding their reach into data mining by partnering with providers of electronic medical records (EMRs), some start-ups are using a different approach. These young companies are focusing on empowering individuals and are catching the attention of the insurance industry.
The AI health data mining market is expected to exceed $ 6 billion by 2021 and has been dominated by large companies along with some notable failures. It was recently reported that Amazon will sell software to hospitals and health systems to mine patient data so they can improve treatments and cut costs. Google Health was shuttered when its personal online records failed to attract users but the company is jumping back into the waters with its Google Cloud Healthcare Service geared towards big clients.
The health insurance industry is helping driving adoption of AI, a market growing 35% annually according to Accenture. Insurers have long used sophisticated analytical methods to manage costs, and now are turning to AI to help stay close to patients. UnitedHealth Group’s Optum is an investor in Buoy Health, a company started out of Harvard’s Innovation Lab and offers patients an AI-powered digital health assistant.
Doc.ai believes they will succeed by empowering consumers through cutting-edge computational science. De Brouwer has a PhD in computational linguistics and is a licensed investment banker who publicly financed multiple IT companies. He and his co-founder Sam De Brouwer envisioned a new startup based on the convergence of mobile networks, blockchain-based security, artificial intelligence and the rapid growth of healthcare data. “Evolution of health data has unprecedented value,” De Brouwer says. “We want to put all your data in one place so you can access it with the click of a button on your phone.”
Doc.ai has raised $ 17 million including $ 10 million in an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) token sale called neurons (NRN) under Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulations. The company has over 25,000 users who have uploaded personal information and provided access to health records.
In August doc.ai kicked off one of the largest observational trials called Can AI Predict Your Risks for Allergies? designed to better understand allergy triggers and help susceptible people avoid symptoms. Information is collected via blockchain and pieced together using AI. Within three weeks the company had over 2000 patients enrolled, which is significantly faster than industry standards. If doc.ai continues to demonstrate the ability to quickly enroll clinical trials it could significantly disrupt the $ 62 billion drug development industry.
Rajeev Ronanki is the Chief Digital Officer at Anthem and when discussing doc.ai says the insurer’s goal is to help empower consumers and demystify the black box of personal health data. He believes that people should be in charge of their own data in order to help construct a better healthcare economy. “The holy grail is to put interlocking data together and keep the patient in the center,” Ronanki says.
Doc.ai’s phenome medical selfie works with impressive speed and accuracy. Snap a picture and it reports back your physical characteristics such as age, height, weight and body mass index (BMI), as well as likelihood of experiencing conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Over time the system becomes self correcting as more users join and the algorithm delivers increasingly precise predictions. The results are ready in about 23 milliseconds using a network edge solution based on studying Tesla driverless cars. “When you’re driving you can’t wait on downloads from the cloud,” says De Brouwer, “so we use the same type of extremely fast analytics.”
De Brouwer urges the healthcare industry to embrace a new reality. Medical information is estimated to double every 73 days, which means all of today’s vast data sets will represent a tiny percentage of the information available in the near future. “We need to stop worrying about today’s data and begin figuring out tomorrow’s,” he says.