A watchful eye

Anoo Nathan’s SmartMonitor detects, tracks and collects real-time data on chronic conditions – and even warns caregivers if there is a problem

 

Ritu Jha

 

Anoo Nathan still remembers the woman who drew her to healthcare.

It was on one Christmas, she recalls, that a single mother reached out to her. The lady’s 17-year-old son suffered epileptic attacks several times a week. He needed oxygen at these times, so his mother kept tabs by putting on an alarm every hour.

Nathan had no background in medicine. She is a mechanical engineer with a master’s degree in computer science from Santa Clara State University. She had worked in HP and been on the senior team of Intellivision, where her husband Vaidhi Nathan was president and CEO. Hardly the background to wade into healthcare.

Nathan already knew she wanted something to do of her own, and the mother’s plight convinced her to get going in 2009 with SmartMonitor, a company that put together an app to detect and track repetitive movements and otherwise monitors people with chronic health conditions – particularly those who suffer from convulsive seizures.

In 2013, the app was made first available for Android users in company’s own developed smart watch device. But from early this year it’s available in the Samsung’s Gear S3 and Gear Sports as well as for Apple watch users called SmartWatch Inspyre.

The SmartWatch synchronizes with a smartphone application (app) via Bluetooth to transmit seizure data to the user’s mobile phone. The app can be set up to alert family members and caregivers of any ongoing seizure. It also detects the date, time, location, and duration of the event.

The data is captured in a secure HIPAA-compliant server for review and analysis.

After that fateful Christmas, Nathan approached Dr. Robert S Fisher, professor of neurology at Stanford University and learned that many caregivers really needed an automated solution to detect unusual movements in various conditions.

Convinced, she began work on the app, aiming to develop an easy-to-use monitor. that would immediately notify a family member when the user needed help and launched the product for customers in 2013.

“Technology moves quickly, but not healthcare,” Nathan told indica and added that rigorous research and clinical trials were conducted first at Stanford University, then NYU Langone Medical Center, the Boston Children’s Hospital and the University of Virginia. The clinical study funding was possible with quarter million grant from the Epilepsy Foundation.

She said the kind of data generated was never available earlier, and neurologists welcomed it. Clinical trials were done on 800 patients before the app was launched for use on patients that included children as young as 3 years old.

“You cannot just announce the product…. You have to get the clinical validation done, and then you have a paper to publish and finally a valid product,” said Nathan. Not too bad for a girl from Coimbatore, who came to the US on the dependent H4 visa.

The use of smartwatches in healthcare is still in the nascent stages, according to Allied Market Research. The global smartwatch market is expected to pull in $32.9 billion by 2020. But the report said there is an upsurge in the demand for smartwatches in areas such as health, medicine and sports.

Nathan’s firm has some competition from Embrace System, which has a device that detects and alerts caregivers via phone when convulsive seizures occur.

Dr. Sanjaya Kumar, a serial entrepreneur in healthcare and chief medical officer and product strategist at SmartMonitor, told indica that wearable devices are now being developed by many vendors.

“I think the use of wearable [devices] to be able to collect data on an ongoing basis, … to serve as safety net for patients, and the fact that wearables connected with mobile devices like smartphones and the cloud actually provides a pretty powerful data platform on which a lot more can be done,” he said. “A key benefit is that doctors will finally have access to data never available to them before to guide them.” He said that the wealth of data meant that treatment could be customized.

Care is going to become more individualized based on the additional knowledge and insight from the data we will have,” he said.

Dr. Kumar conceded that smart monitor was not popular yet but expressed optimism that more people would adopt it.

“Patients that have these kinds of conditions prefer to have more knowledge … as opposed to the general population,” he said. “In the US such technology will begin to evolve as we have much more better utilization of these [data] and what we can do [to provide] better care.

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