A Nashville startup has developed a mobile app that aims to help doctors spot warning signs in their patients before they cause complications.
NOV 08, 2012
A hundred years ago, doctors made house calls and knew many of their patients’ medical history by heart. In contrast, today, the average family physician has over 2,300 patients, and individuals often need to schedule office visits months in advance, getting less than 20 minutes of face time in each visit.
As the divide between patient and doctor becomes wider, important information falls through the cracks. A survey from Markle Foundation found that 94 percent of surveyed doctors believed their patients often missed or lost track of important directives; over a third admitted to losing track of critical information provided by patients. These errors and omissions can lead to serious health complications.
The doctor-patient relationship is ripe for innovation–and a Nashville-based startup,RoundingWell, may offer an elegant solution.
RoundingWell’s product is a mobile application that enables healthcare patients to stay connected to their providers. The app asks patients to check in regularly and answer a series of questions related to their health condition and lifestyle. Their doctors receive notifications if anything appears abnormal, and can immediately contact the patient for a follow-up exam.
“The goal is to be that essential service that connects patient, clinician and caregiver,” says RoundingWell CEO, John Smithwick.
For instance, the app would ask a patient with a heart condition for a daily weigh-in, making a note of sudden weight gain. On its own, that’s not always an indicator of a health problem–but subsequent responses, such as preferring to sleep in a recliner, can be a sign that the patient is experiencing fluid retention and needs medical attention. “Whatever intervention is required, we inform its delivery,” says Smithwick.
“The tool provides a way to alert healthcare providers to potential issues before they become serious,” says Smithwick.
The company, founded two years ago by Smithwick and partner Will Weaver, is heavily focused on refining the product, and has rolled out pilot programs among a number of high-risk patient groups, including kidney transplant and dialysis patients. “We were worried that patients wouldn’t commit to using the product, but so far, we’re seeing remarkable levels of engagement,” says Smithwick.
The pilot programs have helped clinicians find risks that wouldn’t have otherwise been flagged, such as confusion regarding how to take medication. “Almost none of the risks our tool has found have been dismissed.”
By identifying risks early, RoundingWell hopes to both improve patients’ health and to increase the efficacy of the entire medical world, bringing down costs by reducing the need for late-stage interventions.
According to Kaiser Health News, 75 cents of every dollar spent on health care in America can be attributed to spending on largely preventable and manageable chronic illnesses. If widely adopted, RoundingWell’s solution could drastically cut the costs of managing disease.
“I would think that an insurance provider would want to incentivize their members to use the tool, via lower premiums or whatever other approaches made sense,” says Smithwick.
“We’d absolutely expect to bend the cost curve–and ideally lower it.”