Originating as a solution to educate health workers in developing countries, emocha is now a powerful platform that allows researchers and clinicians to use mobile data capture, health education, and communication to address the challenges of adherence, linkage to care, and patient data management across a myriad of use cases. Sebastian Seiguer, CEO and Founder of emocha, and Morad Elmi, Director of Marketing, spoke with us about the latest from this Baltimore-based startup.
Michael Batista, Medgadget: Let’s start with your backgrounds, where were you both before emocha and specifically what was your experience in healthcare and technology?
Mr. Seiguer: I’m a lawyer but I left law in 1999 to start a coffee shop chain in Germany. 12 years and 25 coffee shops later I sold the business and moved back home to Baltimore. The Seiguer family has many doctors, so I have a lot of respect for the healthcare profession and I wanted to be involved in the business of medicine. Selling coffee was great but I want my work to make a real difference. Through the process of getting an MBA in Healthcare from the Johns Hopkins Carey School of Business and working at the Hopkins Technology Transfer office, I had a two-year runway to assess Hopkins technologies for licensing. During that time, I analyzed the emocha mobile health platform carefully and decided to run with it.
Mr. Elmi: I worked in the House of Representatives during the healthcare reform debate and saw firsthand how dramatically the healthcare industry was changing. I wanted to be a part of a company and an industry that can positively impact peoples’ lives. I also went to the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School for the Healthcare MBA and that’s where Sebastian and I met. I worked in marketing for a few start-ups and then joined up with Sebastian to launch emocha.
Medgadget: Who else is on the emocha team?
Mr. Seiguer: Jeff Daley is our CFO, and Sharon Kong, a MICA graduate, is our design and user experience expert. Jeff moved to Baltimore from Colombia, South America to be a part of emocha, and Sharon moved here from San Francisco. Pau Varela, is our Senior Engineer and been growing the platform since 2009. Morad is Director of Marketing and I’m the CEO.
Our Advisory Board is comprised of world-class healthcare and technology experts. Dr. Larry Chang, Dr. Bob Bollinger, and Jane McKenzie-White from the Hopkins Center for Clinical Global Health Education (CCGHE) invented emocha and consult in project planning. Dr. Alain Labrique is the director of the Global mHealth Initiative, Gorkem Sevinc manages the Health Information Technology Development Center at Johns Hopkins, and Ben Seo is an operations and planning expert from Johns Hopkins Medicine International.
Medgadget: Tell us about the emocha story, where did the idea originate?
Mr. Elmi: The technology was created by Johns Hopkins as an innovative solution to educate community health workers treating HIV in Uganda in 2008. It grew organically from there with features being added at every new project. Eventually more than 15 applications were deployed in ten countries. At that point Johns Hopkins began the search for a commercial partner. Sebastian was in the right place at the right time and saw the chance to repurpose emocha as a remote patient management platform. He started emocha Mobile Health and licensed the technology.
Medgadget: emocha recently launched the miDOT Project. Can you tell us more about it?
Mr. Seiguer: emocha is working with the city of Baltimore and a tuberculosis (TB) expert from Johns Hopkins, Dr. Maunank Shah, to manage TB patients. The current standard of care for TB is Directly Observed Therapy (DOT). A healthcare worker actually has to watch a patient take his or her medication every day for six months.
miDOT allows a patient to use her mobile phone to record herself taking her medication. The video is securely sent to a clinician who assesses the video and can then manage the patient’s medication regimen. This increases the efficiency of treatment and improves the patients’ adherence.
Medgadget: What about your efforts in South Africa?
Mr. Elmi: In South Africa, emocha will be used to help manage the country’s multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) population. We will educate 10,000 healthcare workers to treat MDR TB and help link the more than 16,000 patients testing positive to a specialized clinic for care.
Specifically, we are targeting the 7,500 patients that are diagnosed with MDR TB but never make it to the clinic for care. This is a really big project and we bear a great deal of responsibility. It is also a complex job as we will interface with the National Health Laboratory Service of South Africa in order to capture the positive diagnoses in real time.
Medgadget: What other projects are coming down the pipeline?
Mr. Seiguer: We have landed seven total projects and three pilots since we’ve been in the Dreamit Health accelerator. The projects include securely capturing images of plastic surgery patients for quality review and text-messaging programs for weight loss and smoking cessation.
One of our pilots, where we see tremendous potential, is in helping reduce complications and readmissions post-hospital discharge. We are building an application with the Director of the Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Hernia Center to capture patient data from the moment they leave the hospital. This is especially promising because this remote patient management app can be easily configured to multiple post-discharge use cases, not just hernia surgery. Hospitals now have an incentive to keep patients engaged in their care plan and improve their follow-up procedures post-discharge. That’s where emocha can help.
Medgadget: What sets emocha’s systems apart from other disease management solutions?
Mr. Elmi: emocha stands apart because of the breadth of features on the platform. No matter how diverse the medical issues, all applications access our core technology, which is organized into suites that facilitate data capture, education, and communication.
Medgadget: Do emocha’s solutions require regulatory compliance?
Mr. Seiguer: Our platform is HIPAA-compliant. With the number of emocha applications, which capture and transmit photo and video data, this standard is extremely important. emocha was built by security experts to ensure HIPAA-compliance from the mobile device to the web interface, and everywhere in-between.
Medgadget: What does the future look like for emocha?
Mr. Seiguer: We are facing increasing demand and it has come earlier than expected. We already have cash flow, which is fortunate, but we need to take our operation to scale. We’ll expand our technology to handle significantly increased business and begin to build out our technical and operations staffing. Of course we will need investment to keep pace. We have a great opportunity to act as a mobile innovation platform for remote patient management, taking academic medical center projects and turning them into commercial products.
Medgadget: If any of our readers are interested in more details or getting in touch how can they reach out?