How Biofourmis Utilizes an FDA-Cleared SaMD Analytics Engine to Maximize Access to Care
Update: We had no idea this was happening, but on the same day we released this video, Sheeza was listed in Becker’s Women in health IT to watch in 2022. Congratulations Sheeza!
At HLTH21 in October, we sat down with Sheeza Hussain, the Chief Commercial Officer of Biofourmis, to discuss the future of virtual care and her experience with taking hospital-at-home and remote patient monitoring to the next level. Utilizing predictive analytics in a customizable, robust solution, her goal is to revolutionize virtual care delivery for chronic and acute care patients alike.
Previously a software engineer, she comes into her role of CCO as someone with a knowledge of both the software and the user sides of the business, working with providers, physicians, and potential partners to maximize Biofourmis’ impact. We spoke with her about her goals for their platform, as well as the specifics of their comprehensive solution, from devices to demographics and from software to support.
You can also listen to the audio by searching for ChilCast in your favorite podcast app or with the embedded player below:
AI-generated transcript below:
John Moore III: [00:00:14] Hi, everyone, welcome back to the Chilmark Research channel. Today we are broadcasting from the HLTH 2021 conference and I’m sitting with Sheeza Hussein from Biofourmis. And she is the Chief Commercial officer of this new company. So, Sheeza, can you tell us a little bit more about what you do at Biofourmis?
Sheeza Hussain: [00:00:29] Sure. So, at Biofourmis, what I do is I’m their Chief Commercial Officer. Which, simply put, the way I like to describe it is I work with providers, with physicians, with hospital groups and pharma companies to make sure that they know what we can do from a virtual care perspective and that they choose us. And a lot of what I’m involved in is also working with other partners across the industry, other companies where we can come together and really provide a great value proposition to our customers, as well as then, of course, providing input into our product roadmap. Really looking at the market, talking to customers and making sure that we’re feeding that back into our product team to enhance our solutions.
John Moore III: [00:01:04] And can you tell me a little bit more about what your unique or specific offering is in this broad space of virtual care?
Sheeza Hussain: [00:01:11] So what Biofourmis does–and it’s a great question that you asked about exactly what it is in this broad industry–because the definitions for remote patient monitoring hospital at home, all these areas are still in formation. So the core of what we do is we have an analytics engine that’s FDA cleared. And simply put, it does three things. What we do is three things: we capture a baseline on each patient. So your baseline is different from my baseline. Then we adjust that baseline, as our powerful machine learning algorithm learns each patient, and then we notify when there’s deviations from that baseline that are significant, right? When there’s a risk that something’s going to happen to you.
Sheeza Hussain: [00:01:46] But the beauty of it is that we have the analytics engine. We have the applications, meaning a clinician dashboard and the patient app. We can provide the sensors as well, right, that provide that continuous data that feeds the engine. And we have all the services and support to stand up a solution. We have licensed clinical care teams, logistical support teams. So, what’s unique about us is that whether it’s for hospital at home, remote patient monitoring or specialty care, we have a platform that does all of it and all of the inputs and the support and services to stand up a complete solution.
John Moore III: [00:02:18] Okay, that sounds very powerful and very relevant to the kind of context of the health system that we’re operating in today, especially following the pandemic and all the shift from in the traditional in the four walls of a care setting and moving that as you’re talking about to the home. So is there a specific niche within this kind of remote monitoring and remote care that you’re operating under? Or are you going after a specific disease area first, like cardiac or diabetes or one of those big common ones? Or are you trying to be more broad? And just if there’s a sensor for it, you want to be serving that?
Sheeza Hussain: [00:02:51] It’s a great question. So the way that we talk about our business is in three areas, two of them are more disease agnostic. So, hospital at home. Think about the patient who should be admitted to the hospital. And they are, for all intents and purposes, but they shouldn’t be in a physical bed. We should be saving those beds for patients who need them most, right? That patient gets to go home and it could be any number of disease areas, but they are still in the hospital, still seen by a clinician or physician every day there the hospital home platform. So it can be any number of diseases.
Sheeza Hussain: [00:03:18] Remote patient monitoring: so think about 30 days up to 90 days of monitoring. You’re trying to prevent those readmissions and from a patient perspective, keep them safe, right, and cared for in their home; again, disease agnostic. There’s many different areas that we could use the platform for. In both of those, we have care paths that we provide for heart failure, COPD, etc., but they’re very disease agnostic. But to answer your question, we also have specialty care, and we recently received FDA Breakthrough Device Designation for our heart failure therapy solution.
John Moore III: [00:03:48] Congratulations.
Sheeza Hussain: [00:03:48] Thank you. I appreciate it. I’m very proud of it. And so heart failure is where we’re starting. But as an example in that area, think about the patient who’s living with a chronic disease. So I always use–and he’s fine with me using it–my dad as an example, as a heart failure patient.
Sheeza Hussain: [00:04:01] He is, you know, chronically ill, but most of the time he’s fine. But if he was monitored continuously, we could make sure that he was on the optimal dosage of the optimal medication, which if you talk to cardiologists, one percent of patients are optimized today because you see them a couple of times a year, right? And you know you want them on what they say is guideline directed medical therapy GDMT. And so we can help with that. And so we have licensed clinicians. We have physicians who can help co-manage patients, heart failure patients. And then in my dad’s example, I don’t end up in an ED because he’s having chest pain because well before that there are signals that they’re seeing. We have a bio vitals index that signals, you know, can catch arrhythmias, up to 20 arrhythmias and many other things that it looks at to get him on the right dosage of the right medication at a given time. We’re looking at other care areas as well, but heart failure is the first one that we have stepped into with our breakthrough device designation. But there’s many others that are on our roadmap with a lot of care needed for heart failure is a hot one, right?
John Moore III: [00:05:04] I mean, that’s actually very relevant to my own family history because my grandmother had heart failure. She had–I can never remember if it was scarlet fever or whooping cough, it’s something that caused a heart problem when she was really young–and she just never fully recovered from that. So as she got older, it became more of an issue and she definitely had CHF and she had a home nurse and they were just doing the daily kind of check-in. But having a continuous monitoring tool would have been really helpful, I think would have been able to preempt certain issues. So when we’re looking at what’s happening in the big space of health care right now and all of, I guess, all industries, AI is starting to become more prevalent because we actually have the computing power to start doing proper machine learning and all that fun stuff.
John Moore III: [00:05:42] But one of the big issues that we’re seeing, especially with all of the racial issues, are all the, I guess, race data that’s been incorporated into these training sets that may not actually be relevant to the outcomes. I mean, how are you guys navigating the trust and the reliability of the AI and the machine learning that you’re providing to your clients? And how do you actually get the buy in from the end user that they can rely on, right?
Sheeza Hussain: [00:06:06] Yeah, it’s a great question. And honestly, I think everyone in the industry is trying to level up and the more data that we have as we get more data, we only get better at that. So the analytics engine is really powerful. We do have close to 40 data scientists in our company of almost 400, so there’s a big focus on continuing. I mean, 10 percent of our company being data scientists is pretty powerful. And it’s because we grew up in that, and that’s why I started there when I was describing the company because that is core to what we do. Now, we do a couple of things when we are establishing a baseline for a patient, we are using some population health data that we have access to because in those first few hours, I don’t know you, I the analytics engine don’t know you as well as I know maybe the general population, other people suffering from the same disease that you have or other people with your demographics. But as it learns you, it becomes more personalized to you.
Sheeza Hussain: [00:06:54] Now in terms of, how do we get race equity across geographic areas? Honestly, it’s about building our data because when we work with hospital systems, health care systems, we still have access to all of that data and we use it to make our algorithms more intelligent one automatically right because of how it’s built.
Sheeza Hussain: [00:07:13] Then number two, because our data scientists are assessing all of that data all the time to be able to try to improve the algorithms we work with. We do have hospitals and health systems who are home health, who are more rural areas who are. So we have some of those customers and they’re going to be able to help us through their data to be able to become more intelligent about it. But I wouldn’t say that we or anyone else are where we need to be from that perspective. I mean, so I’m not claiming that, but you know, you started with AI. I would also say that many people in the industry are talking about AI and machine learning, and I would say that there’s many people who still have a long way to go in terms of true AI and machine learning.
John Moore III: [00:07:55] A lot of rules engines.
Sheeza Hussain: [00:07:56] It is, and you’ve got to get there first before you can populate it with all the data to drive that equity. And I’d say the fact that this company six years ago was built on data science gives us a great foundation to be able to take all of that data as an input and drive that over time.
John Moore III: [00:08:11] And try to screen out any of the confounding factors that may not be true indicators.
Sheeza Hussain: [00:08:14] Exactly, exactly.
John Moore III: [00:08:16] Okay, so you mentioned that you are also in charge of helping develop the strategy and the partnership program with Biofourmis. So could you tell me when you’re looking to either work with clients as partners or other vendors, as partners, what do you look for as far as a successful partnership? And I’d like to hear about both of those categories.
Sheeza Hussain: [00:08:35] So when we’re partnering with hospitals and health systems, for example, right, the people who are using the platform, what we’re looking for, I mean, first, we’re looking for a way to help, right, with virtual care. So we’re not really at the point where we are de-selecting as much as we are picking the right partners who are looking at this as a platform through the pandemic. And self-admittedly, a lot of hospitals and health systems stood up hospital home programs, RPM programs, just did it quickly. And they might have picked a vendor for one and a different vendor for another or home grew their third area.
Sheeza Hussain: [00:09:05] And what they’re realizing now is that they really need a platform. They need fewer partners–this is not new in health care, right? You need fewer partners because you can’t manage that many vendors and you need really an ecosystem. And so we’re looking for people who recognize that. So we’re working with a medical center in the West right now who are going to be standing up hospital at home and remote patient monitoring, working in concert together with us. And then they want to look at the specialty care. So for us, that’s the sweet spot because patients don’t only stay in one of those areas, right? You may be chronically ill and with our specialty care platform, you end up in the hospital, right? Hopefully, we catch a lot of those things, but there are going to be times that you have to end up in a hospital now you’re in hospital at home, potentially, then you might be on remote patient monitoring, then back into specialty care or chronic care.
Sheeza Hussain: [00:09:50] And so we love the partners who look across that entire continuum or those three parts of it and say, Look, we need a solution and a partner who can help with all of those. So that’s that’s one in terms of other people who we can partner with in the industry. We look at: we have the analytics engine, we are always looking at other sensors and other people who create great solutions for continuous input into our analytics engine, because that feeds our analytics engine, it only makes it that much more powerful. So that’s one.
Sheeza Hussain: [00:10:18] The other is the clinical, the licensed clinical care teams that we have today, are virtual. They’re available by text, talk and video, but we know that our partners also need someone who’s walking into the home. And so we look at partners who can help in areas where that is not our core strength, but is a natural complement to what we do.
Sheeza Hussain: [00:10:37] And then finally, it’s about getting to as many patients–and I truly mean our mission is about predicting disease before it happens. We need as many patients on the platform to be able to do that right. I go back to my personal. My dad is a heart failure patient and I need him to not I need him to not have to sit for 12 hours or twenty four hours in a hospital, in an ED, waiting for a bed. When I can see he looks fine, right? If he could be monitored at home–he is in his seventies. I need him at home and comfortable. And so that’s what personally drives us too, is we want to get more patients on the platform. And if there are partners–and health systems can be our customers, but also our partners, that can help us get to a broader population. I mean, that’s really what we’re trying to do, so we can impact more lives.
John Moore III: [00:11:23] Yeah, I mean, that’s a great mission. Great vision. So getting into that part, it sounds like that’s one of the things that motivates you at work. But what motivates you? You get into health care and actually start addressing this issue in the first place. I know we were talking earlier about how you were at Hilrom before, so you know, you’ve been in the field for a little while. So can you tell me what first prompted you to really get into it?
Sheeza Hussain: [00:11:43] It’s a great question. So I started my career as a software engineer, and so it was about building things. It was about building technology, and I never thought I would get into health care. I mean, early on when I was in college, I thought about it, and I wish I had, to be honest. Because one of the things, the beauty about working in health care, is we wake up every day helping people, and that is a gift. And so when I look at nurses and I look at doctors and I look at everybody who works within the four walls of a hospital or outside of it, I honestly believe that they are very fortunate to be able to help people every day. Their jobs are hard. But they get to do that.
Sheeza Hussain: [00:12:15] At the end of the day. Working in health care, we do too. I get to go home every day, no matter how hard the day was, exciting the day was, and know that hopefully I took a step forward in helping people, so that’s why I got into it. Now I get to marry in health care technology, I get to marry my engineering foundation with my communication skills, hopefully. Because at the end of the day, I want to go out to hospitals, health system, pharma companies, payers and say “we can work together to help people.” That is what we do. And so I have a good technical foundation to be able to take what is and historically has been somewhat daunting, confusing technology and take it to people who are clinically experts and say, “Look, I know technology, I know AI and machine learning. And you know how to take care of patients and improve outcomes when we come together.” That’s powerful. And at the end of our hopefully long lives, we’ve done really good work and we made some change. So that’s what drives me.
John Moore III: [00:13:11] Yeah, I always love asking people in the community that question because I mean, most of the people I’ve met through working in this field have been, they’re just great people, and it’s always nice to see or hear what they’re motivating drive is that actually got them to make this because health care is a mess, like there’s plenty of money in it, but I feel like most people aren’t in it for the money, even though there is plenty of money to be had there in it for the right reasons overall.
Sheeza Hussain: [00:13:34] I tell people who are getting into health care on the business side or technology side, be careful because you’ll never leave, you’ll never be able to. There’s so many great roles in technology outside of health care, but once you have used technology to help people, it’s hard to pick anything that then does not do that and do that as you’re, you know, even to make a living, independent of how much money it makes. There is that especially I feel like I’ll age myself. But as we get older, we’re looking for something also that we’re really giving back, and there’s only so many hours in a day. So if you can do that as a core part of what you do every day and go back to it, that’s a gift.
John Moore III: [00:14:06] I don’t think that’s aging you at all.
Sheeza Hussain: [00:14:06] I’m going to say hopefully not, right? We’ll see where I am 30 years from now, right? Hopefully even more.
John Moore III: [00:14:12] When you’re looking for partners or where the company is at right now, what are you actually looking for from people right now?
Sheeza Hussain: [00:14:22] Now partners in terms of other vendors or organizations we would work with? I think it’s natural complements to what we do to build out the solution better. Going back to my example of walking into the home, right? And you know, there are people who do that really well, that is not where we are today or necessarily where we’re going to go. We’re also looking for technology partners. There’s a lot of technology built into our platform that our customers should never have to see. We use solutions for voice, video, tax. We use solutions for for storage, for data storage. We use solutions for cellular connectivity. There’s many others right with it to do EMR connectivity, and there’s a lot of vendor names in that too.
Sheeza Hussain: [00:14:59] But who can make us even stronger at a couple of things? One, either the analytics themselves, being able to predict disease. Number two, the connectivity. The communication into our platform to caregivers, to patients. And then number three, all the integration points that makes the job of a physician or a caregiver easier. We have no desire–like most people who know what they’re doing in this industry–to throw more data at the caregivers and physicians. So it’s about, yes, delivering insight in a way that’s easy to understand and appropriate and effective and actionable. Doing it at the right time, right? Not just throwing it at them at any given time, but also doing it in a way that makes them want to use the platform where it’s something that they’re proud of because it’s enhancing the care they’re delivering. So going back to your partner question, we’re looking for even the people who are inside our solution and don’t need to be, you know, visible to our customers, but are still enhancing the solution that we take.
John Moore III: [00:15:57] So can you tell me a little bit more so getting away from just the direct clinical side and getting more into the patient side of things? How much does the patient engagement and the communication– how you’re actually engaging the modality of communication with them–how does that affect the results that you’re seeing? And how does that directly influence the amount of impact that you can have?
Sheeza Hussain: [00:16:12] Yeah, it’s a great question. So there’s a few different ways, a few different things that I’ll talk about. So one from the patient engagement perspective, a little bit different on the engagement. But let me first talk about connectivity.
Sheeza Hussain: [00:16:21] The beauty of our solution is, you know, you’ve got a continuous monitor on a patient and then they have a mobile device that they are using, and that’s what they’re using for the patient application. All of that is pre-paired, connects automatically. We need to make sure the 90 year-old patient can connect as easily as the person who maybe has a 6th grade education as easily as the person who’s tech savvy. So I think that’s important because before we even get to the patient app, if this technology feels like a barrier to them, then we have a problem, right? And so one of the things that we’re very proud of, is we have high patient compliance scores in terms of using it because it is that easy to use and because we have teams available to talk patients through it, right? Because you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable and we have teams who are trained, you get that phone call, we’re going to walk you through it. We’re going to make sure that you feel like you are being monitored and that someone is taking care of you. So that’s number one.
Sheeza Hussain: [00:17:12] Number two, the design of the patient application is so important and ours is beautifully simplistic. It’s meant to be. You don’t need a complex app. They’re not seeing alerts, they’re not seeing trending. They’re not seeing anything like that. What the patient sees is a few things. One, they see their vitals. So why is that important? Because when I put on my continuous monitor and I see my heart rate and respiratory rate and SpO2 changing, I know it’s working. And that gives me confidence that I put it on right and that someone can see if there’s a problem. And so you think, like, do they really know like what’s a good blood pressure? Or maybe not. But the point is they know that it’s it’s tracking, right? It’s it’s going somewhere.
Sheeza Hussain: [00:17:50] Number two, the care teams can feed questionnaires to the patient. So let’s say the care team sees something in our smart alerts for the heart rate, respiratory rate or our bio vitals index. That feels not quite alarming yet, but concerning. They can push questionnaires that are specific to to care paths to that patient. So if I’m a COPD patient, have you been coughing more than normal? Do you have any phlegm that’s coming up? What color is it? It’s kind of gross, but it’s these are the things you ask, right? Have you used your nebulizer? It gives that caregiver a little bit more context, but it also shows the patient that this is specific to me right in what I am, what I’m dealing with. And those questions change.
John Moore III: [00:18:26] And there’s somebody on the other end.
Sheeza Hussain: [00:18:28] There is, exactly. Someone watching it.
John Moore III: [00:18:30] They’re not just doing it for no reason.
Sheeza Hussain: [00:18:31] Exactly. And then the care team can also put tasks and reminders on the patient schedule. Things like take your meds, things like take this specific medication, things like activity based, water based, you know, I drink your water, take your blood pressure. If they have more episodic type devices that they’re using and those reminders pop up and they’re not things the patient can just push away, they have to they have to take care of it before they do it. So that’s another. And then finally, we have patient education as well. And so that is we build off of whatever the hospital or health system wants us to use or through H.R.. We license education there as well so we can build that in. And one other thing I’ll mention, you can also by text, a voice or video, interact with your care team. And so we’ve all these different things that make sure the patient feels supported and yet not overwhelmed. And if you looked at our app, it’s really simple. And that is the beauty of it. And what we get really great feedback on doesn’t need to be complex.
John Moore III: [00:19:25] My wife’s a user experience designer, so I have a fond appreciation for good UX.
Sheeza Hussain: [00:19:29] I think she would love it, but you should absolutely show it to her.
John Moore III: [00:19:32] Yeah, OK. So I guess in closing, how can people reach you if they want to find out more?
Sheeza Hussain: [00:19:38] We’d love to talk to you more about our solutions. Reach out to us at Biofourmis.com. We have some great content on the website that will help you learn more. And a really simple form you can fill out. And there’s a number of us who look at those we’ll absolutely reach out and would love to dive deeper into how we can help with virtual care.
John Moore III: [00:19:54] All right. Well, thank you for joining us today, Sheeza, and thank you for joining us, community, and we look forward to sharing more content with you from this event.