The smartphone has revolutionized the collection of healthcare data and with it the ability to personalize feedback to individual patients. The National Science Foundation estimates the internet will connect to 50 billion “smart” devices by 2020, but this ubiquity also makes the security, privacy and standardization of this data all the more imperative. Palo Alto, California-based artificial intelligence startup doc.ai, which named cofounder Sam De Brouwer its new CEO on Tuesday, has built the technical infrastructure to securely collect and process disparate data in ways that engage patients.
Doc.ai, which launched in 2016 and has raised $31 million to date, provides the front-end technology to capture data, such as an app on a smartphone, as well as the backend technology, including APIs and algorithms, that can securely process and analyze that data.
“The big mission we have is to unlock the value of health data,” says De Brouwer, who was previously the company’s COO. The strategy has received the endorsement of a major customer: America’s second largest health insurer Anthem. De Brouwer says Anthem has signed a five-year $100 million contract, following a successful partnership that began in 2018. “If you don’t scale, it doesn’t work,” says De Brouwer, adding that the earlier work with Anthem “enabled us to validate our technology and our products.” The insurer, which is also an investor in the company, declined to comment on the deal terms.
One of the products that Anthem is offering its members through doc.ai is called Passport, which helps employees safely return to in-person work during the Covid-19 pandemic. An employer decides on the parameters and each morning the employee answers a self-assessment that determines whether or not the app generates a unique barcode to enter the office building. But the key here is that the protected health information is never sent to the employer—it stays on the employee’s phone—and all the employer sees is whether the QR code was issued. De Brouwer likens it to “soft contact tracing,” where privacy comes first. The data is never uploaded to a server, but stays on the mobile device.
It’s the privacy and security components that make doc.ai’s platform most attractive to customers. “Rather than exchanging sensitive, personalized health information, we just want to understand the insights from each of our consumers,” says Rajeev Ronaki, senior vice president and chief digital officer at Anthem. “And then be able to federate those insights in order to create a composite view of what’s happening across the population.”
Doc.ai is an industry leader when it comes to “zero trust architecture,” says Ronaki. A standard system might verify a person one time and then automatically assume the data or application can be rerun, like when you save your login details on the computer. With a zero trust system, it doesn’t assume that applications can be run again and requires re-verification. Doc.ai has also worked with Anthem on a member-facing app, as well as building a predictive algorithm for allergies.
While the Anthem deal is doc.ai’s biggest contract to date, the company serves more than 80 customers across a range of healthcare businesses, including pharma companies, payors and providers. For example, doc.ai is working on a study to collect biomarker data from the voice and photographs of the face, which are indications or progression or regression of a rare disease, says De Brouwer. The company operates with a non-exclusive licensing model, so whatever technology it builds can be used by other future customers.
De Brouwer is taking over the role of CEO from her husband and cofounder Walter De Brouwer, who will become chief scientific officer. The duo have a successful track record of working together for more than twenty-five years, including Jobscape, one of the first employment websites for the Benelux region (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg), which was sold to Stepstone, and also InuiHealth, an FDA-cleared home-based urine test, among many others. Doc.ai has also hired Dr. Nirav Shah, who has a long healthcare track record at Stanford, Kaiser Permanente and as New York State Health Commissioner, as its first chief medical officer.
De Brouwer is excited to make the move from COO to CEO, and says it won’t be all that different, since she’s already “been in the trenches on engineering and product” alongside the company’s more than 60 employees. With this role she’ll take a bigger picture strategy view. “We are very focused on scaling our enterprise offering,” she says. “This is what I do best.”