Hello! See a doctor right now

Hello! See a doctor right now
Mr Kuldeep Singh has a medical wearable strapped to his arm and is showing the caregiver’s platform for beatHF, the integrated solution for post-acute monitoring of cardiac patients.
PHOTO: Kuldeep Singh

Patient X has just undergone a cardiac procedure and requires post-acute care after his discharge from hospital.

With the help of a medical wearable that uses data analytics and cognitive technology from start-up Biofourmis he can rest assured there is a nurse watching over him remotely and will take action when she is given an alert that something is amiss.

The dashboard, which the nurse looks at, may prompt her that patient X is at risk of being re-admitted to the hospital within the next 24 hours.

She then calls the patient or makes a house visit to check him and advises him to take precautions.

According to the symptoms she records down, she decides if patient X needs to go to the hospital immediately or is required to see a specialist within the next 48 hours.

There are 12 such nurses who work in a local hospital that Biofourmis has tied up with to monitor patients who require post-acute care after discharge.

This new approach of remote monitoring and predicting a patient's health deterioration "well-in-advance" was developed by Kuldeep Singh and his team at Biofourmis.

The Biovitals analytics engine collects continuous stream of physiological data such as heart rate, respiration rate, blood oxygenation, blood pressure, sleep, activity, electrocardiogram and various other derivatives from clinical-grade medical wearables.

It then uses advanced machine learning techniques to learn the correlation between them, taking context into consideration and builds a personalised health model to detect subtle physiological changes which may be a precursor to a patient's cardiac health deterioration.

Mr Singh, 29, told tabla! that it was in 2013 when he discovered that there was a big change happening in the market for biosensor technology.

"Wearable devices are becoming commoditised in the health and fitness industry and people are carrying monitoring capabilities in their pockets. These devices generate a large amount of data and as they become a trend, the amount of information available to the clinicians will completely overwhelm their ability to understand and react.

"So how can we take this tsunami of data and make it understandable and actionable to the whole healthcare community - ranging from payers to providers, was really the vision with which I founded Biofourmis," said Mr Singh, who is from Belgaum, Karnataka.

He came to Singapore in 2013 to pursue a PhD in electrical engineering with a major in neurotechnology at the National University of Singapore, but dropped out to start the company in 2015 with a PhD student he met during his time at the university - Dr Wendou Niu, 32.

Interestingly, Biofourmis is not without meaning.

Said Mr Singh: "Fourmis means ants in French. Ants have the strongest and precise sensing capability and we at Bioformis aspire to be the best predictive analytics engine for a patient's health deterioration."

The founders started the company with their savings and eight months later, they raised their seed round funding (a form of securities offering in which an investor invests capital in exchange for an equity stake in the company) from SpesNet, a South African based healthcare IT and services company and Eden Strategy Institute, a strategic healthcare consulting company in Singapore.

Since inception, they have raised US$1.5 million (S$2.1 million).

The end-to-end solution called beatHF enables healthcare payers and providers to proactively monitor their cardiac patients for post-acute monitoring to prevent hospital re-admissions.

The start-up charges a monthly subscription fee of about $150 per patient for a 90 days' programme, which includes wearables, a mobile app, biovitals analytics engine, a 24/7 cardiac care team and health coaching.

The patient goes home with a wearable continuous physiology monitor along with a mobile app, beatHF.

The mobile app features medication management, personalised activity and diet goal setting, secured messaging between the caregiver and more.

It also has an event-report tab to alert the nurses of any noticeable symptom or side-effects for proactive intervention.

Biofourmis also partners with medical wearable companies and device manufacturers to enhance their product offering using its real-time optical and electrical biosignal interpretation algorithms and health deterioration predictive engine - Biovitals.

The start-up works with partners including Changi General Hospital, National Heart Centre Singapore, PPS Healthcare Administrator in South Africa, Biovotion AG, iHealth Labs, CuroHealth South Africa, hospitals in the US and some large global pharmaceuticals.

For Mr Singh who leads a team of 15 employees in Singapore, South Africa and the US, "starting a company is all about believing in yourself, the idea and taking risks".

He added: "We faced initial challenges in funding the company. However, we ourselves funded the company initially to get it off the ground.

"Building the right team is also crucial. It takes time and effort. It's challenging, especially for a company like ours which needs data scientists with narrow expertise."

Despite the rough road, "seeing patients use our solution and seeing it give them a sense of satisfaction, that there is somebody taking care of them 24/7 - that's most rewarding".

Biofourmis has also earned itself a spot on the Singapore Business Review's list of Singapore's Hottest Startups 2017.

He admits he doesn't get time to de-stress often, as his days are packed managing clients and teams in the US and South Africa in a different time zone.

But when he gets some free time, he plays tennis with his friends. "Even then, it's once in three months," he said with a laugh.

amritak@sph.com.sg

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