Italian Digital Health Startup PatchAi Debuts Smart Health Companion to Support Cancer Patients
Italian digital health tech startup PatchAi and healthcare giant Roche have debuted a virtual assistant to engage with cancer patients and improve care. The PatchAi for Smart Health Companion (SHC) is available on iOS and Android as a mobile app and includes a chatbot that helps encourage proper self-care and gathers relevant data for medical records that doctors can peruse as they continue to treat the cancer patient.
PatchAi worked with Roche’s Italian subsidiary to develop the SHC as a Patient Support Program (PSP) for when Italians undergoing treatment for hematologic-oncologic conditions, blood cancer, are at home. The app comes with a conversational AI in the form of a chatbot. The AI can start conversations with the patient around both physical and mental health. The AI assists the patient in tracking and maintaining a record of the patient’s medication schedule, nutrition plan, and general well-being. All of the information is organized into a form that healthcare providers can incorporate into the patient’s records, reducing the time needed for routine interviews and paperwork while providing more data for personalizing treatment.
The chatbot uses machine learning to internalize the interactions and improve how it conducts what PatchAi calls “empathic conversations” with the patient. Roche and PatchAi tested the SHC platform last July in a successful pilot before it officially debuted this month. The early results suggest PatchAi will be a major boon for long-term care. Up to 95% of patients using PatchAi stuck to their care plans, nine times higher than paper-based programs.
“Together with many public and private partners in the health ecosystem, we envisioned a solution enabling significant improvements in oncology and hematology care pathways. Our efforts led to SHC, the first digital health solution registered as a Medical Device and fully personalized for oncology and haematology patients in Italy,” Roche Italia integrated customer management director Elia Ganzi said in a statement. “The evidence collected show the capacity to consolidate more experiential and clinical value for the patient with a positive contribution to the healthcare system sustainability. These are very important results that we are proud of. As a stakeholder of the health system, we will make SHC available to all our public and private customers.”
COVID and Health AI
AI-assisted healthcare has been expanding for some time, but the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the pace enormously as medical professionals adopted chatbots and voice-based AI to manage the strain on the medical system. Coronavirus-focused virtual assistants to answer questions and perform triage proliferated, as has funding and acquisition of startups developing relevant technology like Saykara and Suki. Voice tech developer Nuance was inundated with enough demand that it developed an omnichannel virtual assistant platform for healthcare providers. PatchAi raised a little over $2 million in funding just last month, nearly a third of the approximately $6.3 million it has raised since 2018.
PatchAi and Roche’s SHC is similar in some ways to the Alexa skill published by clinical health tech provider Wolters Kluwer in November. The Emmi Care Plan skill is for hospital patients after they are discharged and enables the voice assistant to ask questions about their health post-discharge, with the responses sent to their healthcare providers. The AI-assisted telehealth is beneficial now as the pandemic has reduced in-person healthcare visits. The Italian Association of Medical Oncology found a 30% drop in diagnostic first visits and physical visits dipping by 36% during the health crisis.
“We are proud to have realized this project, working at the forefront and doing now what patients need next within the digital health space too. With this major achievement, we will work towards playing an active role in redefining and revolutionizing patient engagement within digital healthcare,” PatchAi CEO Alessandro Monterosso said. “To enable the transformation of the current health systems, we will be helping medical teams in rapidly and efficiently supporting patients and translate “patient centricity” into programs that demonstrate their reliability and effectiveness from a health-economic perspective based on data-driven results.”
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