11 Health, a medtech company based in the UK and California, has offered 12 weeks of free access to the Alfred SmartCare Platform, which allows for virtual peer and nursing support for patients with severe chronic digestive disorders, such as inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, and colorectal cancer. The offer is the company’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has meant that many patients are self-isolating and now have to focus more on managing their conditions at home.
Healthcare systems around the world are straining under the pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only are many hospitals and clinics overstretched, but healthcare facilities could pose a risk of COVID-19 infection for patients, meaning that it is often a better option for patients to avoid attending a hospital or clinic (depending on the advice of their physicians).
The Alfred SmartCare app aims to keep patients out of hospitals, and provides a range of services patients can utilize remotely. These include connecting users with nursing staff and patient coaches, who are people who also live with similar chronic digestive diseases, and who can provide support and advice.
The app can also be paired with the 11 Health range of sensors, such as the 11 Health smart ostomy bag, to remotely monitor patients for potential problems that could lead to hospital visits.
Medgadget had the opportunity to talk to Michael Seres, 11 Health Founder and CEO, about the technology the company provides to patients, and this latest offer in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Conn Hastings, Medgadget: Please give us some insight into how and why you started 11 Health.
Michael Seres, 11 Health: I was diagnosed with the incurable bowel condition Crohn’s disease at the age of 12. In late 2011, I was the 11th person to undergo a small bowel transplant in the UK at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford, and since then, I’ve had cancer five times. As a chronic patient myself, I’ve experienced the physical and emotional challenges many people with digestive disorders face and experienced first-hand that this space was not receiving the same technological advancements that other areas of health care were receiving. Unlike other areas of health care that have benefited from new technologies made possible by widespread smartphone usage and smart use of data, the care available to patients with severe digestive disorders hasn’t changed in decades, resulting in poor outcomes for far too many. Digestive disorders simply don’t catch the attention of innovators, and the patient population has had to suffer because of this. I wanted to do something about it.
I understood that building relationships with your care team and knowing you aren’t alone in your tough, life-long journey is critical to improving your quality of life. So, I founded 11 Health in 2013 to offer physical and emotional support for people living with chronic digestive disorders and ostomies. Through smart ostomy bags, remote monitoring and peer support, we’re providing quality care to a long-underserved patient population with the Alfred SmartCare Platform.
Medgadget: What challenges do those living with gastrointestinal conditions face? How could these be better served?
Michael Seres: Many people with colorectal cancer or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) require ostomy surgery and once they are discharged, they are given a simple ostomy bag and extremely limited support. 38 percent of ileostomy patients are back in the hospital within the first 30 days after surgery. Dehydration and infection are the primary reasons for re-admittance after discharge from the post-operative unit.
The emotional challenges can often be more intense than the physical challenges. Feelings of embarrassment and isolation often flood in, especially during special social events such as family gatherings and school events.
That’s why I feel strongly it is important for 11 Health to put just as much focus on the emotional support as the medical care.
Nursing support helps address the physical challenges and peer support is designed to emotionally uplift and support patients. When you need advice on how to empty your bag with a variety of social factors going on around you, someone with experience is going to help you more than a medical professional would ever be able to help you in that situation. We can’t ignore that there are multiple aspects of managing these disorders. Being a patient myself has helped 11 Health provide resources that are valuable to the end user.
Medgadget: Please give us an overview of the sensor technologies offered by 11 Health to aid in monitoring chronic gastrointestinal diseases.
Michael Seres: We designed the SmartBag to avoid the issues traditional bags have: leaks and skin irritation. Sensors in the bag monitor and alert patients through the mobile app of important issues such as leakage, skin irritation and dehydration. By alerting the patient of these issues we are preventing adverse outcomes rather than reacting to them. When we tie this technology with 24/7 physical and emotional support from professionals, we create a robust patient experience that helps keep people healthy, at home and out of the hospital.
Medgadget: How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed how those living with gastrointestinal conditions manage their conditions, and what challenges has this posed?
Michael Seres: Managing a chronic condition in a “normal” world isn’t easy, and navigating the challenges during a pandemic makes it even more difficult. With few medical resources available for non-critical patients and the risk of exposure to the virus, in-person care typically isn’t an option for these patients. Remote patient monitoring allows patients to self-manage their care with support from specialized digestive disorder nurses and peer support coaches. They receive the support they need at home, which helps keep them safe and unexposed to COVID-19.
When you consider the emotional stress brought on by a global health care crisis, our emotional support program is more important than ever. We are all stressed out and worried about this pandemic, and the emotional support our patients receive doesn’t end at their chronic illness. We’re all in this together and our patient coaches will provide support and empathy any way that they can.
Medgadget: How does the Alfred SmartCare Platform work with these sensors? Please give us an overview of the app and its value to patients.
Michael Seres: The sensors in the bag are connected to the mobile app via Bluetooth. So, when certain data are collected, the sensors will notify the patient through the mobile app. When issues progress, the system will trigger a nurse to help resolve the issue. In a recent analysis, 82 percent of escalations to a nurse triggered by the system were resolved at the first encounter and only five percent were redirected to their primary care practitioner, hospital team or ER. This led to a 48 percent reduction in acute care encounters overall including a 31 percent reduction in hospital readmissions.
The peer support aspect of the app provides users with 24/7 access to patient coaches who can help guide them through personal challenges they may be facing in regards to their digestive health. With this support, patients know they aren’t alone and they can tackle challenges they face with confidence. Our goal is to build relationships between patients and their health care support team, because when the two work together, the patient receives the best care and the provider can help in a customized and meaningful way.
Medgadget: Please explain the motivation behind 11 Health’s offer of 12 weeks free access to the Alfred SmartCare Platform.
Michael Seres: We want everyone with digestive disorders to be able to have access to care that will help them live productive, meaningful lives. Right now, the management of chronic illnesses unfortunately has to be put on the backburner as our courageous health care providers dedicate their time and resources to combatting this horrific virus. To do our part in supporting patients during this challenging time, we are offering free access to our platform for patients with or without ostomies to help ensure our digestive disorder family is being taken care of. Access to traditional routine care may be unavailable, but we are here. And we are ready to help and support those in need.
Link: 11 Health homepage…