The Center for Data Innovation spoke with Adam Hanina, chief executive officer of AiCure, a healthcare software company based in New York City. Hanina discussed the value of public sector funding in innovation and how AI can help patients adhere to medication and treatment plans.
Joshua New: You launched AiCure with funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Can you explain the role of government funding private sector startups in this space? What did it mean for your company?
Adam Hanina: Government funding is extraordinarily helpful in developing innovative technologies in healthcare, life sciences, and data sciences. Public sector funding helps to increase the quality of innovations as the rigorous regulatory requirements tied to these funds demand companies demonstrate clear health benefits. Innovations take time to develop correctly, and government funding gives researchers and startups valuable runway to develop these technologies the right way before heading to market.
At AiCure, we developed an artificial intelligence platform, which can easily be configured on computers and smartphones. Much like a nurse, our AI platform uses visual cues to assist patients in taking medicine, assess whether they took it, and interact with them to answer questions—all while ensuring high standards of care. The platform tracks and monitors patient data, allowing patients to stay healthier while enabling clinicians to see and interact with their patients remotely.
Funding from the National Institutes of Health allowed us to take a scientific approach to developing our technology and ensure we were able to demonstrate clear clinical impact. We used NIH funding to develop the AI algorithms that form the basis of our technology. NIH funding also helped us run our first clinical studies, which demonstrated that our platform improved patient behavior and treatment adherence, based on scientifically validated measures.
New: AiCure’s focus is on improving patient behavior. What does this mean exactly?
Hanina: A patient’s commitment and active participation in their own health has long been deemed critical to achieving the best possible health outcomes. Our current health system, however, lacks sufficient mechanisms to track and maintain a patient’s commitment to their treatments.
Thought leaders in the patient behavior domain have stressed several principles that define proper engagement and support. The AiCure platform was built to reflect these principles and address patients in the context of their lives, meet patients where they feel they are in the continuum of their disease, engage patients in progress reports (proper feedback supports morale and motivation), ensure trust and confidentiality, and support accountability and shared decision making.
AiCure reminds patients to take their medication, provides interactive assistance, and creates the ability for patients to communicate directly with their clinician. With its continuous interaction capabilities, the platform has had a positive impact on patients, who have expressed that they feel more in control of their treatment and that the platform keeps them on schedule with their therapy.
As a result, we are seeing average adherence rates of over 90 percent, both within clinical research and real-world deployments. At-risk populations are far more likely to complete their treatments with AiCure.
New: What could the impact of this approach be on the healthcare sector? Is it just about improving outcomes, or are there other benefits?
Hanina: AI has the potential to disrupt the quality and delivery of personalized care through data collection and analysis. We are only beginning to understand behavioral patterns and how patients respond to treatment, but we are already seeing AI’s potential. By leveraging AI’s capacity to interpret vast quantities of data, we can target the costliest pain points in the patient’s journey, preventing millions of unnecessary complications, and reducing hospital readmissions and treatment time.
This year, nearly one in six Medicare patients returned to the hospital within one month of discharge, costing the healthcare industry an estimated $25 billion. This number is expected to increase as the aging population grows and the number of people with chronic conditions rises.
AI is well-positioned to revolutionize how the industry views patient care, allowing us to go beyond traditional disease classifications and illness tracking and understand the patient more holistically. These insights will prove invaluable in improving patient care.
New: Could you walk me through an example of how AiCure’s approach works in practice?
Hanina: We recently completed a project with MagellanRx, a pharmacy management company, which suggested that deeper patient engagement has better results. Using the AiCure platform, patients being treated for Hepatitis C readily adopted the technology with a 61 percent opt-in rate and very positive feedback about the platform’s usability and value. 97 percent of patients completed their therapeutic regimen and 98 percent of patients adhered to therapy. Assisting patients to ensure they reach optimal outcomes is the core of our mission. In this case, we saw close to 100 percent cure rates for patients using the AiCure platform.
In a separate study published in the American Heart Association’s Stroke journal in 2017, patients using the AiCure platform to support adherence to their therapy showed a significant difference in drug blood plasma levels versus the traditional method of counting pills. All patients using the AiCure platform had plasma levels within the target therapeutic range versus half the patients in the control group. We’re continuing to collaborate on these types of studies to demonstrate how we can improve patient engagement and health outcomes.
New: Since you founded AiCure eight years ago, the potential of AI has advanced significantly. How prepared is the U.S. healthcare industry to adopt AI? Do you think it will be able to use AI effectively as possible in another eight years, or will there need to be significant changes?
Hanina: The human impact of AI will be vast. AI will prevent tens of millions of hospitalizations and accelerate drug development by decades. With an estimated shortage of one million nurses in the United States by 2020, along with a rapidly aging population, there is a huge need to fill the care gap: technology and adaptive tools will step in. The automation of healthcare tasks traditionally performed by humans and accessible to a select few will now be accessible to a much broader patient population.
Like all technologies, the impact of AI will be felt incrementally in the beginning but eventually will be adopted systematically across all of healthcare. As AI works up the value chain from decision support and analytics to full diagnosis and treatment, applications will become seamlessly integrated into treatment and the benefits quantified and clinically validated. Data-driven insights powered by AI will be our new standard of care.
The U.S. healthcare sector has already begun to adopt AI out of necessity. As the AI technology evolves and improves, it will fundamentally transform U.S. healthcare.