Is There More Talk Than Action in Clinical Wearables?

Amanda Pedersen 1

July 7, 2017

4 Min Read
Is There More Talk Than Action in Clinical Wearables?

Spry Health Co-Founders PJ Cobut and Elad Ferber are often asked about the competitiveness of the clinical wearables market, but the reality is there are a lot more people talking about the space than actually partaking in it.

Amanda Pedersen

The co-founders of Spry Health (formerly EchoLabs) are used to being asked how they plan to differentiate their medical-grade wearable product in such a competitive space. But the reality is, the true clinical wearable market isn't that competitive at all yet, says Pierre-Jean "PJ" Cobut and Elad Ferber.

"There's definitely a lot of talking," Cobut told Qmed. "It feels like wearables are everywhere. You hear a lot of people talking about the availability of biosensors, and the reality is if you're a healthcare organization looking to integrate some form of a biosensor for the home-setting, or some form of wearable, there's actually not a lot out there you can just go and get."

There are a few companies that are doing interesting things for specific clinical use cases, such as patients at risk of stroke, Cobut said. But for the most part, he said, the majority of current wearables are still targeted to the health-conscious consumer, rather than the patients with multiple chronic conditions who need real help outside of what the traditional healthcare system can provide.

"I think there's a big difference when you develop a technology for a [consumer] application versus when you develop something that is clinical-grade," Ferber said. "You have to go through significant clinical trials, and you have to really be very careful about what you're predicting."

Spry Health has certainly done that legwork already and recently raised $5.5 million in an investment round, led by Grove Ventures, to support the commercial launch of its Loop system.

"We were blown away by Spry's technology, which is the only solution to demonstrate medical-grade accuracy in a large scale human trial," said Guy Resheff, a partner at Grove Ventures.

The Loop wristband is designed to continuously collect cardiovascular and respiratory parameters from chronically ill patients without requiring input from the user. The data is streamed to the system's analytics platform for tracking and analysis in an effort to pinpoint the earliest signs of patient deterioration in advance of any new symptoms noticeable to the patient. The idea is that the data, which is fed back to the healthcare organization, will enable providers to intervene earlier.

That, in a nutshell, is what motivated Cobut and Ferber, who met as grad students at Stanford, to start the Palo Alto, CA-based company now known as Spry Health. In 2013, during their first year at Stanford, the pair were listed in Business Insider's "Stanford Business Students Who Are Going To Change The World."

"We realized that healthcare, in a sense, can be fairly unscientific," Cobut said.

In other words, he said, most patients with chronic health conditions see their doctor three to four times a year, during which time the doctor will get their vitals and ask them how the past three months or so have been.

"When you think about the data that's being used to make decisions on this person's health, it is really a tiny amount of data," Cobut said. "You can't really understand a person's health if all you've got is 'how have you been' and then 'let me do a few tests.' It's just not enough."

And so, Spry Health was born.

The company has grown from just its two founders in 2014 to having 15 employees. The company has developed an extensive set of machine learning and expert systems algorithms that help contextualize real-time, continuous physiological data and pinpoint signs of deterioration, Ferber said.

"We decided we want to flip the model on its head and make it a more continuous experience," Cobut said.

The idea is if the company can track clinically-relevant data continuously, or even semi-continuously, in the patients' day-to-day lives, then they would be in a position to really understand them, understand if their treatments are working and if their condition is improving or worsening. By looping that information back to the healthcare system, the clinicians would be able to intervene as soon as something looks a little off, Cobut said.

And that, he added, would enable the healthcare system to be proactive, rather than reactive as it has traditionally been. Such a system would be better for patients, better for physicians, and better for payers, Cobut said. "So the need is pretty obvious for everybody."

Spry evaluated its technology in more than 250 participants to prove the clinical equivalence of Loop against the standards of care for blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen saturation, respiration, and CO2 monitoring. The company has submitted its data to FDA and anticipates receiving clearance for Loop by early 2018.

As Loop reaches more patients, Ferber said, Spry will work to provide broader monitoring capabilities across more conditions.

Amanda Pedersen is Qmed's news editor. Contact her at [email protected].

[Image credit: Spry Health]

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