Artificial intelligence for Remote Patient Monitoring with Charles Herman, Venture Partner at Digitalis Ventures
Episode 562

Charles Herman, Venture Partner at Digitalis Ventures

Artificial intelligence for Remote Patient Monitoring

Our guest today in Outcomes Rocket podcast is equally adept in the boardroom as in the operating room, in quantitative financial modeling as in reconstructive surgery.

Dr. Charles Herman is a Venture Partner in Digitalis Ventures. He is also the President and Chief Medical Officer at Somatix. In this interview, he discusses how diving into venture investments and being actively involved in the next generation of technologies can improve the lives of patients and communities. He also talks about employing artificial intelligence and predictive analysis to make data clinically useful. Dr. Herman shares great insights for both the health and venture space, so don’t miss this episode!

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Artificial intelligence for Remote Patient Monitoring with Charles Herman, Venture Partner at Digitalis Ventures

Episode 562

About Charles Herman

Dr. Herman is a senior medical executive board-certified plastic surgeon, entrepreneur, and award-winning researcher and author. He’s an active academician as well as a clinical surgeon. He is the editor of four major medical textbooks and on the faculty of two medical schools. He’s well versed in the business of health care. Dr. Herman has served in a senior medical executive role at Northeastern Pennsylvania’s largest health system and has served as chair of its foundation board and secretary of its management board Has served as chief consulting editor and one of the world’s largest medical publishing companies and has served as a consultant and adviser to several private equity venture capital, medical consulting and management companies being involved in all phases of multiple biotechnology and medical device startup life cycles, as well as in service and health care I.T. investments that include an AI and machine learning.

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Saul Marquez:
Welcome back to the podcast. Saul Mark has here. Did I have the privilege of hosting Dr. Charles Herman. He’s equally adept in the boardroom as in the operating room, in quantitative financial modeling, as in reconstructive surgery. Dr. Herman is a senior medical executive board-certified plastic surgeon, entrepreneur and award-winning researcher and author. He’s an active academician as well as a clinical surgeon. He is the editor of four major medical textbooks and on the faculty of two medical schools. He’s well versed in the business of health care. Dr. Herman has served in a senior medical executive role at Northeastern Pennsylvania’s largest health system and has served as chair of its foundation board and secretary of its management board Has served as chief consulting editor and one of the world’s largest medical publishing companies and has served as a consultant and adviser to several private equity venture capital, medical consulting and management companies being involved in all phases of multiple biotechnology and medical device startup life cycles, as well as in service and health care I.T. investments that include an AI and machine learning. We’ve got a lot of amazing work being done in health care and today with some of the issues we have going on with the pandemic, the rising need for innovative solutions has never been greater. And so today we’ll be diving into venture investments, virtual monitoring and some of the sweet spots that he’s seeing a lot of progress. And so with that, I want to give Dr. Herman a warm welcome. So glad you could be with us today.

Dr. Charles Herman:
It’s a pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me.

Saul Marquez:
Absolutely. So, you know, you’re a venture partner at Digitalis. You’ve got several you know, you are several hats on different boards. You’re actively a clinician. What inspires your work in health care, Charles?

Dr. Charles Herman:
That’s a great question. And many things at many different levels. I went into medicine, become a doctor to touch patients lives. And what I found in the last 15 to 20 years is it’s been incredibly rewarding to touch individual patients lives by being surgeon. It’s also rewarding in new and different ways to touch patient lives by being an executive in the health system. We’re now sort of touching one patient at a time. We can help hundreds of thousands to tens of thousand patients at a time by helping with all the initiatives, by building new business lines, by interacting with the community. Bridging the gap between the health system and the community that it serves. And most recently, which inspired me to get involved in venture capital. And what inspired me to go back a few years ago and get my MBA was the realization that the way is touching millions of patients lives is to be actively involved in the venture space and be actively involved in the next generation of technologies and services that are going to improve the quality of life of patients, not only in the local community that I serve but in larger geographies nationwide and international.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, that’s great. You know, you’re sort of spending time both on the front line, but also with those future building companies here, sort of have one foot in where the puck is and where it’s going. And so I think that’s a great way to sort of spend your time in health care. What would you say? Maybe we could hone in on Digitalis for now, the venture firm. How are you guys adding value to the health care ecosystem? What are you doing that’s different?

Dr. Charles Herman:
So Digitalis is a great company. It focuses on several different areas in the health care ecosystem, in particular, how to leverage digital health proofing patients lives and solving complex problems through leveraging new digital technologies. I’ll give you an example that we can pivot to a little bit as a case in point, as one of the companies in our portfolio is called Somatics and Sematic has it’s only of its kind artificial intelligence algorithms that can monitor patients remotely purely through the gestures of a wearable on their wrist. We can tell purely from risk movement with our algorithms whether the patient is smoking, how much they’re drinking, and whether they’re at a risk for dehydration, how much they’ve been sleeping and how robust sleep analytics, how much activity done during the day, and whether that’s different than the baseline that they’ve demonstrated over the past several days, two weeks, whether they fell down or the risks are falling. How many cigarettes they smoke. And we can do this with incredible sensitivity and specificity purely through a wearable with no other external technologies necessary. So it’s a prime example of how artificial intelligence can actually take data and make it clinically useful and clinically insightful. And I think that that’s very, very valuable, because what we’re seeing right now is finally, after years of promises, we’re finally starting to see artificial intelligence start to deliver value to certain areas of health care that we’ve been looking for for many years. But finally are realizing that the example I gave you is just one you’ve probably seen in the news recently, how some artificial intelligence that’s helped improve X-ray readings of the chest detect whether they’re abnormalities in chest x rays. Detection of breast cancer in patients who are undergoing screening for breast cancer, being used in ophthalmology exams to detect in the retina of the eye whether there’s adisease occurring there, that is often more accurate than just the human eye. And I think that’s where, you know, the value is starting to finally manifest itself. And that that’s very exciting to be part of.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, and I definitely agree. You know, finally putting things into action around the AI and all that stuff that, you know, at one point we’re just kind of in a hype cycle. We’re starting to see more use of it practically. You know, Somatics being an example of it. So they just had a mapping, kinetic movement to certain activities.

Dr. Charles Herman:
So the technology uses gesture detection where we can take the three dimensional vectors that are involved in gesture and be able to differentiate between them. What’s interesting is that technology is not just A.I. it’s also what we call adaptive machine learning. So it actually learns the individual patient. Think about, you know, the baseline activity level, sleep pattern and drinking of a nine year old patient and let’s say a nursing home versus a 50 year old patient who is just discharged from the hospital. Vastly different baselines that the software needs to learn. So it adapts itself to the individual and then it can use these gestures to actually tell you insights into that patient purely through movements of the wrist. That includes things such as geo fencing. This is a big deal for nursing homes where we can establish safe zones and try to alert real time if someone’s wandering off the premises to more granular insights such as how much is that person slept? What’s the quality of their sleep? We have all sorts of rating scales that can help influence the medications of patients getting what their sleep and that times are during the daytime. We can trend activity levels and tell whether someone’s activity level is dropping, whether that might be predicting earlier clinical deterioration in that patient might not be seen from traditional vital signs such as temperature and blood pressure, whether they’re getting dehydrated because we can actually track how many sips of a drink and milliliters they took during the day. So these are the really granular insights that we can generate purely through risk movements by tracking what that person is doing, by monitoring their risk.

Saul Marquez:
Fascinating. Very, very cool. There’s so many interesting things going on. And a lot of times it’s about finding them, you know, a lot of systems and even larger strategic struggle to really understand what’s going on out there and how is it making an impact. I’d love to hear from you maybe your perspective on that question, but also maybe you can cover somatics or another example in one of your other roles of how you guys have done things to improve outcomes or make business better.

Dr. Charles Herman:
Sure. Well, I can start with somatics and continue on the same theme. We’ve tracked outcomes after use of the wearable through remote patient monitoring now at several sites. I brought one of my old professors from Wharton School of Business who’s a guru in data analytics to help us out with our outcomes measures. And one of our first clients was a partnership with the Catholic Church, believe or not. We partnered with the Catholic diocese in eastern Pennsylvania and our technology has been used now for over a year, and they’re independent living, assisted living and nursing home facilities. And we’ve demonstrated in the past year that we’ve been able to reduce readmission rates to the hospitals that those facilities serve by 17 percent. And we’ve reduced all rates and urinary tract infection rates by over 30 percent. So very, very tangible outcome benefits. We’ve demonstrated, which makes it particularly rewarding for me to see that our technologies are actually helping patients in a real, tangible way. And, you know, in terms of the larger picture, it helps everyone, not just the nursing home. Because it helps now the hospitals that suffer both operationally and financially from getting patients readmitted after they’ve left in terms of penalties and reduced reimbursements. The patients, of course, are suffering if they’re all they could otherwise have been improved and we could have picked up on disease earlier in the disease process, intervene sooner and hopefully have prevented that readmission. The nursing homes benefit because they can provide better care.

Dr. Charles Herman:
This crisis we’re going through now is a perfect example of tying it into what we’re experiencing now with the coronavirus epidemic is that before this even happened, one of our facilities had used our technology to help quarantine patients and isolate them, quote unquote, social distancing in their facility during a recent flu influenza outbreak. So it was a sort of a give us an example of what the technology could do before we had the current crisis where they’re using our technology now. And so I think the current crisis has done is it’s amplified technologies that have been able to provide benefits that may not have been as appreciated a few months ago and now all of a sudden are suddenly on the radar. And that particularly includes telemedicine and remote patient monitoring, which now are hot topics in medical technology.

Saul Marquez:
Now, that’s fascinating. Thanks for that background. So let’s dive in to setbacks. You know, it’s like we learn more from those setbacks. Dr. Herman and maybe even some of the wins we’ve had? Can you share one in particular that stands out as one that you learned a ton from and because of now are so much stronger and know more about what you do?

Dr. Charles Herman:
Of course. Well, I think, you know, whenever you’re bringing something new into the market and it’s potentially a game changing technology that hasn’t been tried or used before, there are going to be setbacks. And so I became involved with somatics about a year and a half ago when the company was about to go to market because it was at that time primarily a technology company. And so we anticipated multiple setbacks and we actually were entering the market because it’s one thing to try something in simulation, in a math lab or in close controlled environment. It’s another thing when you actually take a technology and you implement it in a real setting on real patients. And so the first several months of going to market with a company were overcoming those hurdles of operational issues, making sure our algorithms were accurate. And I think we overcame what otherwise could have set back companies, you know, significantly by anticipating them and by putting in key performance metrics that allowed us to do very quickly and objectively gauge the performance of our products. How are our algorithms performing? What was their sensitivity and specificity? Why were they working or not working and being critical about them and not being resistant to feedback when paying attention to the product and experience it was delivering? And so very, very quickly, we updated our algorithms. We improved the technology. We improved the user interface. We kept measuring outcomes constantly to make sure that we were improving the technology and the product. I think the key take home from that is to make sure that you can try to front load that into the process as much as possible. There are certain things we didn’t anticipate, perhaps that later on we learned that we should have built in. But I think because we had a strong key performance indicators in place before we started, we were able to track our experience and overcome setbacks. Whenever you take a new product to the market that you’re going to face and make the product better at the end of the day.

Saul Marquez:
That’s great. I mean, putting those KPI together is just critical. And it’s hard to do Right. because what KPI is do you choose and how do you know they’re the right ones?

Dr. Charles Herman:
Absolutely. Well, I think for me why I feel like I bring a lot of value to the investors that I work with, as well as the startups and growth companies I work with, is that I’ve worn a lot of hats, as you said at the beginning of the podcast. And I can really tell and have insight into where something may or may not be able to provide clinical benefit and health care. That’s obviously that’s the Holy Grail right there. A lot of great technologies out there. Unless you can move the needle on making patients lives better in some way, the other outcomes are not as well. And so the outcomes that are most important is how are you proving a patient’s life? Are you improving their health outcomes and how are you measuring? And so coming up with those measurement tools at the beginning is absolutely critical to measuring that outcome. And as you said, without them, you really don’t know what benefit you’re providing.

Saul Marquez:
Love that. That’s fantastic. What would you say you’re most excited about today?

Dr. Charles Herman:
I’m excited about a lot of things that I’ve become involved in. In terms of the next generation of medical technologies and breakthroughs that are going to change the future. I mean, that’s really what I spend a lot of my time doing now is trying to look for companies and sourcing and evaluate companies through due diligence that may have those technologies that are going to be the game-changer for tomorrow. And I think, you know, I’ve gravitated toward the digital health space because artificial intelligence machine learning now is starting to move the needle. We’re starting to see unique applications of it that are actually demonstrating clear benefits to patients. We’ve seen it particularly in artificial intelligence that pertains to image recognition because the computer can often very quickly and more effectively detect patterns, trends in images than the human eye can, and obviously incredible speed and quantity that’s just not humanly possible. And that’s why we’re seeing some of the breakthroughs, like in remote monitoring, where gesture detection, we’re picking up signals from each individual patient and analyzing about five hundred thousand data points per person per day. And so just imagine trying to manually look at gestures like that. It just wouldn’t be humanly possible. But the computer can process that amount of information. But it’s also the technology around the fact that, you know, the bandwidth on the Internet and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth is much greater than it was in recent past, which is allowing this. We have proprietary data compression algorithms that allow the data to be compressed. So you’re transferring less through the Internet and through Wi-Fi and then up into the cloud and then what would have been a couple of years ago. All of those other advancements really are synergistic with what we’re doing. I think finding those synergies is really, really exciting when we find one technology that can help another and then deliver even more value to a patient’s life is really what excites me and where I spend a lot of my time on the venture investing side and working with companies like somatics that have something unique.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, that’s pretty cool. You know, once you have the IP, how else can you use it and where else can it be used to. Yeah, it’s just that’s, that’s, that’s fine. That is very exciting. And with the companies in the portfolio, I mean pretty exciting plays and bets that you guys have placed. Folks, if you’re curious, Digitalis Ventures, dot com, check them out. They’re doing some fascinating work in our space, a company that you should definitely be keeping your eye on. Gosh, you know, I’m always curious what health leaders like yourself, Charles, are reading. What would you recommend as far as reading material for? For the listeners?

Dr. Charles Herman:
I think the last great book I read, which I recommend to everyone, was a book by Walter Isaacson about Leonardo Da Vinci, a highly rated book. I’ve probably not. Unsurprisingly, I try to move away from medical books in my spare time. You know, Da Vinci, we’re talking about innovation and it’s, you know, for me, a passion. Eventually, of course, is arguably the most inventive and innovative scientist, mathematician, architect and painter and sculptor in history.

Like just the total renaissance, man.

Dr. Charles Herman:
Your definition of a renaissance man. So what was was so great about the book is that just before this crisis, I read the book, which was incredibly crafted book there. I don’t think have been one done in such a such a very, very detail manner diving into all aspects of his art and a science. And then actually grateful for the current crisis manifested the end of last year. I actually took a trip through Italy and France to some of the places where it eventually lived and worked during his life and including his home that he spent his last several years living in the south of France. And now it’s now a museum sort of tracing the steps that I was reading about in the book as I was taking a trip. So it was amazing book. And then even more amazing to actually trace the steps that I was just reading about in the book. I was traveling them, even stumbled across some of his manuscripts that happened to be housed in a chateau in France while I was there and see them in person. So recommend that book really, really highly. Certainly very stimulating. And one of the most innovative minds I know in the history of mankind. So if you have we all have a little bit extra time on our hands now. It’s a good way to put it to use.

Saul Marquez:
And that’s great. And I am a big fan of Isaac’s and I read that Steve Jobs book, Bam! And I mean the Right..

Dr. Charles Herman:
It’s great, you know, I mean, there’s an Einstein book I read not too long ago, you did amazing book about Albert Einstein. So yeah. Great authors, great book and I highly recommend it,

Saul Marquez:
Leonardo Da Vinci. I’ve got that one on my notepad here. Charles with two stars on it. Right. picking it up. And listeners, definitely one that you can pick up here while you’re quarantined and looking for other things to inspire you to continue building and making our world better. So really, really grateful for our time together here. Dr. Herman, can you give us a closing thought? And then the best place for the listeners to get in touch if they want to continue the conversation?

Dr. Charles Herman:
Of course. Well, most importantly, we’re recording the middle of a crisis. My thoughts go out to everyone who’s potentially suffering from the disease and wishing everyone the safety and health as we get past this in the next several weeks. And so for me, it’s most important thought that I can communicate. If you want to read more about what some of the things I’m involved in the website. You mentioned Digitalis Ventures dot com go over some of the portfolio companies in the venture fund and somatics. S O M A T I X dot com is the artificial intelligence power remote patient monitoring platform. You can go to that Web site. There’s contact information on both of those Web sites. If someone wants to get a hold of me directly who is interested in speaking with people who have similar values and interests to mind. So appreciate this opportunity today and grateful for the time it took to speak about some of the things that I’m passionate about.

Saul Marquez:
Love it now. It’s been a true pleasure, Charles, and I’m sure listeners, you’re enjoying this. Hit the rewind button. There’s some good shares there, but also go to Digitalis Ventures or, you know, find ways to connect with Dr. Herman. The opportunities ahead of us are big. So, again, we appreciate your time here and look forward to staying in touch.

Dr. Charles Herman:
Thanks a lot. Appreciate it. Your time as well.

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Things You’ll Learn

  • To touch individual lives by being a surgeon is incredibly rewarding. It’s also rewarding in new and different ways to touch patients’ lives in being an executive in the health system.
  • What the current crisis has done is amplified technologies that have been able to provide benefits that may not have been appreciated a few months ago and now all of a sudden are on the radar.
  • Keep measuring outcomes constantly to make sure you are improving the technology and the product.
  • We are starting to see unique applications of artificial intelligence machine learning demonstrating clear benefits to patients.

References:

https://digitalisventures.com/

https://somatix.com/