In this interview we speak with Naser Partovi, Founder and CEO of Sanitas Inc., a privately held San Diego company that develops web and mobile software to help people manage their health. Here we learn about their Wellaho™ Personalized Outpatient Management System, an online treatment management system for patients and their physicians, and the Family Healthware™ service, which uses brief questionnaires to capture health and behavioral information about an individual and close blood relatives to predict certain illnesses that run in families.
Discuss the background and creation of Family Healthware.
Although my background is in venture capital and high tech, I got into healthcare when my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer and I took care of her for three years. When she passed away, I wanted to do something to help other people with major illnesses. So we introduced a tool two years ago called Wellaho (which stands for “well at home”), to help people with chronic diseases take better care of themselves in cooperation with their doctors and family. Then it occurred to me how much of our healthcare dollars are spent once someone gets sick, yet we spend very little on prevention. We recently launched Family Healthware to help people not only help themselves but to also help their family members become healthier and prevent major diseases.
Tell us about the Family Healthware questionnaire.
The length of the questionnaire depends on the size of your family as well as how much information you want to enter. You can also invite others to get involved. The questionnaire takes about 15 minutes to complete, and starts with information about your own health behavior and what kind of medical tests you might have taken. Then you enter your family health history, and you can invite family members to fill out their own information as well. The more family members that join in, the more accurate your health risk assessment is going to be. The information that is entered also remains absolutely confidential on our secure, encrypted and HIPAA compliant website.
Describe the overall health risk score and personalized prevention plan that Family Healthware provides.
The tool provides an overall health score, which is a measure of your health behavior as well as the possible genetic risks inherited from your family. Family Healthware also provides your detailed health risks for six common diseases: diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, and colorectal cancer. These six diseases combined equate to about 80 percent of all the healthcare spending in the United States, which is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) initially developed and tested this tool.
However, when the CDC developed this tool, they didn’t just want to identify risks for people — the next question is what to do about that risk assessment. Therefore, they created a second set of algorithms that allow creation of a personalized prevention plan with recommended medical screenings and lifestyle changes. So for example, if you find through Family Healthware that you have a high risk of getting breast cancer, your children may also be encouraged to get genetic testing for this disease.
How does Family Healthware compare with genetic testing?
There are quite a few research articles that say that having a documented family health history is much more predictive than genetic testing alone. For example, you may find out that your genetic sample has the gene for Alzheimer’s disease, but only 60% of people who have that gene will develop the disease, so that’s not very precise. Whereas Family Healthware was built based on evidence on the exact people who get those genes from their family. Therefore, we believe this is more precise. In other words, genetic testing can tell you if you have inherited a certain gene identified with a disease but it won’t tell you if you will actually get the disease. Family Healthware uses family history data to help people identify more specific genetic testing that they may need and get a prevention plan.
How can patients share these results with their doctor?
They can print out their results or even email the results to their doctor if they feel more comfortable doing that. This way patients can share their detailed family history with their doctor, identify risks, and discuss treatment options. We are also deploying Family Healthware through healthcare providers; we hope to announce very soon the first healthcare provider that is going to make it part of their patient portal website.
Tell us also about the Wellaho Personalized Outpatient Management System. How is it used?
We believe Wellaho is one of the first, if not the first, doctor-prescribed app, so it is like getting a prescription for medication or therapy from your doctor. When you are diagnosed with a major chronic disease, doctors can prescribe Wellaho to more easily manage your condition at home. We provide personalized, reliable educational material, including videos, which is approved by doctors and reviewed by specialists. We provide patients with a monitoring dashboard where we tell them what they need to monitor. Patients can do this on their cell phone or any other platform. Their doctors can also keep track of how their patients are doing and can intervene if necessary — for example, if you need to change your medication or exercise regimen, etc.
In what ways is this system beneficial to patients with chronic conditions?
It depends on the patient and what kind of disease they have — it’s a very personalized system. For example, a patient with heart failure can enter his or her medications, blood pressure, and weight on a daily basis. Wellaho monitors the changes and can send alerts to the doctors, who then intervene and either bring the patient into the office for a follow-up visit (instead of going to the ER) or call him or her to change their prescription. We just finished a clinical trial in heart failure patients at the University of California, San Diego. The population of patients using Wellaho had 77 percent fewer readmissions than those who were not using it.
Is Wellaho being used at other institutions as well?
Yes. We will be announcing the name of our latest healthcare institution adopting Wellaho in the next few weeks.
What type of feedback have you received about Wellaho and Family Healthware?
We have received amazingly positive feedback from both patients and clinicians. Patients tell us they like it because they don’t have to constantly worry about their disease — if something is out of line, their doctor will be notified and they will know what to do. It’s also very simple to use and the system allows for communication with other patients. For example, a group of diabetic patients in San Diego have built a list of all of the diabetic-friendly restaurants in San Diego. They help each other and have formed a group in which they get together and walk and stay active. From the patients’ perspective, they also get better care because they are in contact with their doctors and other patients as well as their family. From the doctor’s perspective, this helps them manage their patients better and with less effort, because now they can see on their iPad how a patient is doing and intervene only when necessary.
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