Finding Hope During the COVID Epidemic

The fight to contain COVID-19 is going to be long, difficult, and painful. As CEO of a healthcare startup where hard work is required even in normal times, I have to remind myself and my colleagues that we need to pace ourselves. I wish we just had to run one marathon.  I think we’ll have to run several. We owe it to ourselves and each other to remain strong, healthy, and focused.

This is not just a matter of working sustainable hours and making sure to exercise and sleep. A positive attitude is also critically important. As someone who lives and breathes health statistics, I find it is easy to get caught up in a bleak picture of impending COVID cases, hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and deaths. It might be easy to succumb to discouragement, but it’s not helpful. We need to find grounds for hope, both to continue to enjoy life and also to maintain our intensity.

We can draw inspiration from the millions of talented, creative professionals who are working around the clock to do what they can to end the COVID epidemic. People with full workloads are volunteering at night and on weekends; competitors are working together; companies are doing everything they can to help while they struggle with challenges to their core businesses.

Here are just a few of the innovative examples that have inspired me and given me optimism that we will get through this.

  • Tracking disease. It is difficult to pinpoint how fast COVID is spreading and what communities are at greatest risk. Kinsa Health manufactures smart thermometers that transmit fever readings back to the company. They have developed a dynamically updated map that shows how patterns of fever radiate across the country. Lately the map has shown improvement.
  • More, faster testing. Numerous organizations are jumping in to provide the testing capacity that has been sorely lacking.  A team of 40 at the Broad Institute has retooled its genetic research operations to provide COVID testing with a capacity of 2,000 tests per day and turnaround time that will soon reach 12 hours. On March 27, Abbott introduced a point of care testing device that should be able to provide positive results in roughly five minutes.
  • Safe, convenient access. COVID tests need to be delivered safely. Engineers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital have built freestanding booths for COVID testing. The booths are constructed of polycarbonate panels with two cutouts for built-in rubber gloves. Located in tents outside of the hospital, the booths protect clinicians as they administer tests to patients while reducing the need for extremely scarce personal protective equipment.
  • Increased ventilator supplies. The United States currently has about 160,000 ventilators, which is woefully short of what will be needed as surges of critically ill patients hit community after community. Nectar has developed a simplified ventilator that will cost about $10,000 with monthly production of 40,000 units projected by June. A group of volunteer programmers and engineers has mobilized to create Project 95, a clearinghouse that links hospitals requiring ventilators (as well masks and isolation gowns). It will take time, but I am hopeful that we will eventually have enough ventilators in place to provide excellent critical care to all who need it.
  • PPE Supplies – Masks. We’re seeing heartbreaking stories about health care workers becoming infected as they treat patients, in part due to a lack of N95 respiration masks. Minnesota-based 3M normally produces 50 million masks a month. In two months, the company doubled its production, with roughly 50,000 workers continuing to show up for their factory jobs. Within a year, production capacity will reach 2 billion.  Until the manufacturing giants reach capacity, smaller operations are stepping in. Kaas industries is a furniture maker in Seattle. Owner Jeff Kass converted his factory into a protective mask manufacturing operation, using materials provided by Providence Health System. In their second day of production they produced 4,000 masks.
  • PPE Supplies – Face Shields. Masks are more effective if they are complemented by plastic visors. Budmen Industries is a small 3-D printing company outside of Syracuse New York, owned by Isaac Budmen and Stephanie O’Keefe. The company, based in Isaac and Stephanie’s basement, has suspended all sales to produce protective polyethylene visors in their basement on March 22nd and is in the process of relocating to a 50,000 square foot facility donated by Greater Syracuse Sound Stage. The visors are sanitized or replaced between uses.  The couple is making their files available to other printers and established a network of companies to produce and distribute them. Their GoFundMe page is here.
  • Teamwork. The energy in the health care analytic community is palpable. Most of the analytics company CEOs I know are determined to do whatever it takes to help our country. Some of the smartest organizations in the world have come together to form the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition to improve the flow of relevant information and bring advanced analytics to bear.  A wide range of organizations are committing resources, including for-profit companies that are normally direct competitors.  Participants include EHR companies (athenahealthEpic), tech firms (Amazon Web ServicesSales ForceMicrosoft) providers (the Mayo ClinicIntermountain Healthcare) startups (BuoynferenceOura), and other organizations.  The coalition aspires, among other goals to connect “the best sources of information from around the world to provide data, analytics and insights to all.”

Every analytics company in health care is asking what they can due to play their part in ending the epidemic. It is therefore important to reflect on what your company can contribute that is unique.

Here at Health Data Analytics Institute (HDAI) we are focused on battling COVID by leaning on our core competence: building analytic platforms and constructing complex predictive models to benefit patients. We currently have four workstreams in process.

  • Drug analysis. Using our full suite of AI risk adjustment models, we are rapidly analyzing the efficacy of numerous drugs in treating influenza infections and respiratory failure over the past 20 years. This could shed light on which compounds might be worth investigating for their effects on COVID.
  • Making risk models available to academic researchers. Over the last several years, we have developed predictive models that can help academics adjust for potential confounding factors in isolating the impact of particular interventions. In essence, our models adjust for the impact of age, sex, geography, and the timing and combination of health problems that individuals have experienced. Working with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we are preparing to make these predictors available to academics at no charge.
  • Measuring the effects of disruption to the health care system. As of this writing, physical primary care has come to a near standstill: at-risk patients with chronic disease are experiencing disruptions to care as we pivot to a delivery system that leans much more heavily on virtual access. Cancer screenings are down precipitously. Many COVID-negative patients that would normally require hospital care or the emergency department are staying away while care is being disrupted for those who are admitted. In short, any number of factors could lead to worse medical outcomes for non-COVID patients. HDAI is measuring these impacts to help hospitals and medical groups focus on non-COVID patients at greatest risk.
  • Supporting patients and families. I have had many conversations with middle aged adults anxious about their parents and other family members. These caregivers are trying to get a better grip on their loved ones’ interactions with the healthcare system so they can advocate for them more effectively. We are developing an app that will make it much easier for seniors and their caregivers to access their personal medical histories and understand their risk profiles. Stay tuned for more on this soon.

If you have questions or perspectives on these topics, or if you are an academic interested in accessing our models for your work, we would love to hear from you. Please reach out to my colleague Josh Gray at [email protected].

I don’t know when it will be, but I am confident that with the world’s energy focused as intensely as it is right now, we will turn the corner on this devastating disease.

In the meantime, stay safe, focused, and close to your family.

 

Nassib Chamoun

Founder, President, & CEO

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George Pace

VP Business Development, Payer Markets

George has over two decades of consulting, business development and client success experience in health care, working with both providers and payers to address their most pressing challenges. The bulk of his healthcare career was with The Advisory Board, Optum, Premier and Verisk Health, with a focus on risk mitigation, value-based care and population health management. He is deeply passionate about helping healthcare organizations do their best for their patients and beneficiaries. 

When he’s not working, you will find him playing guitar, riding his bike or spending time with family, friends, and his dog Luna.  

Summer Kramer
VP Clinical Programs

Summer is a clinical pharmacist with over 15 years of experience in the healthcare industry, including hospitals, payors, and start-ups. Summer has focused her career on clinical program development and healthcare analytics with a constant drive to improve patient outcomes.

Residing in the pacific northwest, Summer enjoys hiking, camping, sailing, and traveling. She received her PharmD from the University of New Mexico, College of Pharmacy.  

Laura Clote
VP Provider Operations

Laura has over 14 years of experience in value-based care operations, working closely with and for health care systems and start-ups to drive operational change.  Outside of work, she loves to spend time in the great Oregon outdoors with her Bernese Mountain Dog, Bam Bam.  She received an MPH in Health Care Management from Harvard School of Public Health.

Karan (Kay) Mansukhani
VP Business Development

Kay has a decade of experience in population health analytics.  Starting his career in Maryland’s state-designated HIE – CRISP,  he was entrusted to set up the infrastructure and data elements needed by health system to achieve CMMIs Triple Aim. Kay is a trained epidemiologist who has a passion for preventive medicine, psychology, and anthropology. Kay enjoys spending lazy days with his wife Sonal, and son Avtar on the beach.  Kay also enjoys listening to podcasts, playing the guitar and badminton. He received his joint MPH MBA from Johns Hopkins University.

Kevin Sampson
VP Finance

Kevin is a CPA with 25 years of executive and managerial experience in accounting, corporate finance, and operations in a variety of industries including medical device, biotechnology, and pharmaceuticals.

By listening and connecting with people, Kevin understands that accurate timely information is vital for everyone in the healthcare system. He received a BS in Accounting and an MBA in Finance and Entrepreneurial Studies from Babson College.

Paul Manberg
VP Clinical and Regulatory Affairs

Paul is an innovative, pragmatic leader with over 40 years’ experience in the medical device and pharmaceutical industries. He has directed clinical trial programs and regulatory activities supporting the successful market introduction of numerous impactful products. He spends his leisure time on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, body surfing and fishing. He received a PhD in pharmacology from The University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

Scott Greenwald
Chief Scientist

With over 25 years’ experience in healthcare research and innovation, Scott is an unprecedented leader in his field, focusing on improved care for everyone. He is an author of over 10 US Patents and over 100 peer-reviewed abstracts and manuscripts. While he’s not immersed in research, you’ll find him playing a mean round of mini golf. He received a PhD in Medical Engineering from the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST).

Josh Gray
VP Analytic Services
Josh has 30 years’ experience in healthcare, including The Advisory Board Company, athenahealth, and Boston Consulting Group. Across his career, he has used a wide range of conventional and unconventional data sources to understand and teach the keys to top performance among the nation’s most innovative health systems and physician groups. Josh enjoys music, hiking, traveling, and watching his daughter take part in synchronized skating competitions. He received an MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and an undergraduate degree from Brown University.
Carola Endicott
VP Customer Engagement, Marketing

Carola has 30 years’ experience in healthcare, including HMOs, hospitals, and start-ups. Her knowledge and optimistic outlook in operations and leadership, and her passion for making healthcare workers’ lives easier is what drives her devotion to customer engagement. She received an EdM from Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

David Clain
Chief Product Officer
David has vast experience with healthcare customers from his time at The Advisory Board Company and athenahealth. His expertise and passion for statistics, strategy, and innovative analytic insights is unrivaled, as is his devotion to the Duke Blue Devils. Looking for that “aha moment” of positive change is what drives him. He received a BA from Duke University.
Mike Bertrand
VP Product Development

A hard-working go-getter and outdoorsman, Mike has over 30 years of experience in Healthcare IT. Mike is a seasoned product guru with broad experience across the healthcare software spectrum. He received a BS in Computer Science from Westfield State University.

Margie Ahearn
VP HR

Margie has 25 years of experience in HR leadership. An avid boater, Margie has received numerous awards for excellence in HR and is always looking for challenges to grow professionally and personally. She graduated with an MBA from Southern New Hampshire University.

Nassib Chamoun
Founder and CEO and cheerleader-in-chief

Nassib is a data scientist, lover of logistical regression and serial entrepreneur. Outside of work he enjoys hosting and honing his cooking skills – specializing in Middle Eastern and outdoor feasts. He received an MS from Boston University.

Phil Devlin
COO

Phil has 30 years of experience in executive leadership. Along his journey he’s made effective and profound change in science. Little known facts about him — he loves traveling with his family, he was in the MD Engineering program at Harvard Medical School and owns 15 patents. He received an MS from Northeastern University.

What guides our culture

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Phil Devlin
COO

Phil has 30 years of experience in executive leadership. Along his journey he’s made effective and profound change in science. Little known facts about him — he loves traveling with his family, he was in the MD Engineering program at Harvard Medical School and owns 15 patents. He received an MS from Northeastern University.