Improving the way to improve cancer using a digital medicine platform that engages the motor system
Thanks for tuning in to the Outcomes Rocket podcast where we chat with today’s most successful and inspiring health leaders. I want to personally invite you to our first inaugural Healthcare Thinkathon. It’s a conference that the Outcomes Rocket and the IU Center for Health Innovation and Implementation Sciences has teamed up on. We’re going to put together silo crushing practices just like we do here on the podcast except it’s going to be live with inspiring keynotes and panelists. To set the tone, we’re conducting a meeting where you can be part of drafting the blueprint for the future of healthcare. That’s right. You could be a founding member of this group of talented industry and practitioner leaders. Join me and 200 other inspiring health leaders for the first Inaugural Healthcare Thinkathon. It’s an event that you’re not going to want to miss. And since there’s only 200 tickets available you’re going to want to act soon. So how do you learn more? Just go to outcomesrocket.health/conference. For more details on how to attend that’s outcomesrocket.health/conference and you’ll be able to get all the info that you need on this amazing health care thinkathon. That’s outcomesrocket.health/conference.
: Welcome back once again to the outcomes rocket podcast, where we chat with today’s most successful and inspiring health leaders. I welcome you to go to outcomesrocket.health/reviews where you could rate and review today’s podcast because we have an amazing collaborator in health. His name is Brian Harris. He’s a co-founder and CEO at Medrhythms Incorporated. He’s a passionate motivated leader and entrepreneur who strives to make the world a better place by helping others. He’s demonstrated that these amazing qualities by building world class digital medicine companies and developing the arts and neuroscience group at the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine. His company Medrhythms focuses on digital medicine that uses sensors, music and artificial intelligence to build evidence based neurologic interventions to measure and improve walking. That’s a mouthful right there but that’s because Brian does a lot. And so what I want to do is open up the mic to him to fill in any of the gaps of the intro and we could kick off this podcast. Brian, welcome to the show.
: Well thanks for having me. It’s certainly exciting for me and honor for me to be here so I appreciate that very much.
: Absolutely. So tell me Brian you’ve got a lot of interests. You’ve done a lot of really interesting things. Why did you decide to get into the medical sector?
: Yeah it’s been a really exciting journey thus far. You know getting into health care and growing Medrhythms and it actually started you know when I was growing up I was a musician. Music was a passion of mine. Played a lot of bands a lot of different scenarios that way and I knew that music needed to be a part of my life long term more than just a hobby. But I knew that music education wasn’t going to be for me. It just did. I didn’t have a calling to it in the performance world I didn’t have a calling to have either. And I learned about the idea of music therapy of using music to help people when I was in high school and I said you know this makes a lot of sense to me. But when I was in college I took an online class in music therapy I’m from the state of Maine took this class at the University of Maine and I had this opportunity one summer to intern with at the time the only private practicing music therapist in the state of Maine.
: How did you find them?
: So luckily he actually was the one that had been contracted to teach us on my class that I had taken and so I reached out to him and you know I had this opportunity and during that summer he was working with severely developmentally delayed children and adults and I had the opportunity the very first session that I ever observed of music therapy of an actual board certified music therapist who would work with an 18 year old boy who was functioning cognitively and physically at about a 1 year old level. So a very very low functioning boy and this music therapist began doing music with him and within the first 10 minutes in the presence of this music therapy session this boy was cognitively functioning at a higher level than what anybody had ever in his life. Wow. So I distinctly remember his family the people that work with him in his day program who came into the room and were literally in tear because they couldn’t believe how this boy was functioning. And it was at that moment that I said A. that this is my calling in life and I need to you know devote my life to this and B. was while this was a magical and beautiful thing to witness this boy that there was a reason why he was having this response neurologically. Something was happening in his brain and that if we could answer that question of why that it then we could really harness that power of music and replicate it to help a lot of people. And so that’s what got me focused in on music therapy and what was actually called neurologic music therapy so really explaining these things through purely neuroscience. So fast forward I became a board certified music therapist and with advanced training in the neuroscience of music and how that can be used to help people recover things like movement language and cognition following any sort of neuro disease or injury. And I actually started the program as a clinician as a hands on board certified music therapist operating much like a physical therapist or an occupational therapist a speech therapist would at Spaulding Rehab Hospital in Boston and what we were seeing particularly in gait training or improving walking after injury that people were getting better faster with greater results. And sometimes music was the only thing that worked. And we said to herself why doesn’t everybody have access to this. And how do we bring this to more people. And at the same time the field of digital therapeutics and digital medicine was beginning and getting a lot of weirdness around that and it was really good timing and we became committed and said what digital medicine and digital therapeutics is the path forward to bring this intervention to everybody who needs it.
: Brian this is such a touching story and it definitely like when your passion hits you or your calling hits you, you know. And when you were in that room with that boy that 18 year old boy and that’s when it grabbed you and you haven’t looked back since. And it’s really a really great story. Thank you for sharing that.
: Well yeah, thank you and I appreciate that. It is one of those moments. And you know I distinctly remember it happening and I you know honestly felt so fortunate to be sort of early on in a career and have one of these moments and I said this is really about something that’s much bigger than you know right here in this room with this boy that the only way that we can go forward with this is figuring out how we bring this to more people. And to me that was always through something like neuroscience because that’s what you know medicine appreciates that’s really how we’re going to move forward with this. And you know it has been one of those things where it’s been very focused journey so far and we’re trying to keep going without looking back into the future as well.
: That’s awesome. And listeners, you know the power of music with healing. We had a guest, you guys probably listen but if you haven’t. His name is Walter Warzoa. He’s outcomesrocket.health/walter I don’t know if you know Walter from Los Angeles from HealthTunes.
: I actually listen to the podcast I haven’t met him before myself but I did listen to that.
: Oh you did. Cool I’ll have to connect you guys because you guys are on the same wavelength.
: Yeah he’s doing some very interesting stuff. I would love to be connected to him.
: Yeah. And so so you know no doubt listeners. Music is powerful and if we go back to the beginning ages just when humans first got on earth you know music moves people, music heals people and I love what you’re doing Brian because it gets down to the science of it and it’s just so powerful so. So tell me a little bit about Medrhythms and some specifics about how you guys are improving health outcomes.
: Yes, we have built a digital medicine platform that replicates one of our standardized interventions in neurologic music therapy that’s called rhythmic auditory stimulation and essentially what that is is using rhythm to improve walking. So what the research actually shows is that from a neuroscience perspective at a high level is that when we listen to a rhythm in our environment that it activates the auditory system because it’s inhibitory input but also because it’s rhythmic that it automatically engages the motor system. Subconscious level and those things actually begin to fire at the same time. And that process of aligning the motor system and the auditory system is what we term entrainment your brain entrains to an external rhythm and that is something that happens in 97 percent of the human population regardless of age, culture, ability or disability. Everybody is brain neurologically responds the same to music in this way. And so what we see especially even in people that have damage to that motor system so something like Parkinson’s disease or Huntington’s disease or stroke that affects the way that they move we can actually use music or rhythm as an external cue to engage that damage motor system to help them move more appropriately. And what they’ve also shown is that when you exercise to music or when you move to music over time that it aids and that process of neuroplasticity of your brain’s ability to heal or strengthen connections throughout your life. And so what we’re doing is we are using a digital method platform we have sensors that connect to the shoe. They collect all of the data about walking so that symmetry strides like cadence x y the plane of your foot in real time. We feed that into our algorithm that’s software based mobile phone and then we change music in real time guided by those neuroscience principles of how music can improve walking. And what we’ve been seeing it through the research that’s been done on the intervention itself over the past couple of decades is that primarily in gait speed that we’re able to improve gait speed by .3 to .4 meters per second. Over the course of therapy and what we know is that we look at other outcomes other than just for helping people to walk faster and safely. We also know that gait speed is also correlated to things like falls which is a huge burden to the healthcare system and also connected to things like annual medical costs. So while we are improving just you know mobility and helping people to be more independent through improving the way that they walk. We also see there’s a really big value here and also potentially being able to prevent things like fall and decrease medical costs over time because we’re keeping people healthier.
: Now that’s super interesting. And Brian thank you for sharing that very fascinating way of getting to these improved outcomes and you’ve not always had a working solution. Can you share with the listeners a time when you had a setback or a failure and what you learned from it.
: Yeah you know that’s a really great question and certainly you know in this journey of entrepreneurship there’s often times where things don’t go as planned and you know it’s interesting. We actually started the company as a therapy company where we were hiring board certified music therapist to provide this care in person. What we quickly found and as we know as we started to grow it was primarily people paying out of pocket for this. But we quickly found that a scaling up services business takes a lot of capital takes a lot of time and there quite frankly aren’t many people as you can imagine who are trained in this area.
: And there’s a lot of variability too right.
: Oh certainly a lot of variability here as well even within the field of music therapy there’s a lot of variability even in terms of how people are trained and where they practice and what their skill sets are. And we came to a turning point where it says what is the future of the company look like. Because this isn’t accomplishing the objective that we’ve set out. And while we are helping a lot of people in the area we aren’t making the impact that we wanted to make. And that’s when we really had to make that decision that well the path forward is actually not necessarily just in services or in people providing this care but it’s actually in technology and digital therapeutics to be able to do this and the field actually has advanced such and the technology that such a technology can do.
: That’s interesting. And thank you for sharing that. And listeners, a thing that you’ll notice other folks that we have on this podcast are the ones that have taken the courage to create and to build and it’s not always easy and you always have to be managing two businesses. Number one the business that you’re in. And number two the business that you’re becoming. And Brian, thank you for sharing that because it’s something that every entrepreneur goes through especially if you’re going to be successful and so if you had to pull out a nugget from that learning what nugget would you share with the listeners?
: Well I would say you know one of the most important things about this process for me has really been be open to change. Being open to taking in the information that you have and being willing to make decisions and important decisions and commit to them. And so while we thought that we were going to be a services company going forward that’s not who we are now and that’s not who we’re going to be into the future. And when you make a decision you really have to sort of go all in when you have to commit to it in order to be successful in that area.
: Very cool. Very cool. And part of what you guys are doing in this pivot Brian is is using artificial intelligence. Can you share with us how you’re applying it?
: Yes. As you know by virtue we’re still early early on in the development of our product. We’re still working on building that out. But what we’re looking at is all of the data that we’re collecting about walking about gait and how people move we’re getting real time data or real world data of how people are acting in this space. And so with that data what we’re doing is we look at our ability to be able to A. make our algorithms better over time with the data that we’re collecting and then B. potentially to be able to look at even prognosis or diagnostic capabilities to say well how is the disease progressing. And so looking at taking that data and saying well somebody who has Parkinson’s disease that affects their movement we can actually see how the disease is progressing over time and using AI to unlock those features and also being able to potentially diagnose when somebody is at risk for fall racing and how their gait declining etc.. So we look at our AI to 1. make our algorithms better and 2. to potentially be able to unlock a predictive and diagnostic capability
: Super exciting man. I’m very curious on what’s going to happen there man make sure that you reach out to me again when you get things going because I’d love to hear how things are improving outcomes with artificial intelligence.
: Yeah we certainly well you know we are as I said we’re at the beginning stages of this. We’ve started to use this with potential clients and we’ve seen some really incredible outcomes so far that we get really excited about. So I look forward to seeing when we start to incorporate the AI going forward. You know how that even takes us to the next level.
: So Brian share with the listeners a time when you had an amazing success. One of the most proud leadership moments in medicine that you’ve experienced to date.
: That’s a fantastic question. And you know I mean for me I’m a clinician by training and you know sort of a clinician turned entrepreneur and so the things that excite me about leadership in this space is really talking about how we are impacting the lives of those that we serve. And you know the reason that we exist as a company and the reason why obviously I think of most healthcare companies exist is because they want to help people improve. And there’s one particular client that comes to mind that really was sort of the inspiration for Medrhythms and for metals as a company in terms of improving walking and also for us to build this device. It was a guy named George who had had three weeks of physical therapy. Five days a week at Spaulding and had been walking with a cane and he had just begun walking with a cane and was walking very slowly and he was unstable and we began doing this intervention called rhythmic auditory stimulation. It was me as a clinician and in one 45 minute session George was able to walk without a cane for the first time since his injury he walked twice the speed that he had walked at the beginning of the session and walks six times in the distance. Over one 45 minute session. Amazing. And for me that was the point where I said this is something that the world needs and the world deserves to have. And as we’ve been testing our device now to replicate that intervention that we were doing then actually just last week we were doing some product testing and we had a stroke survivor who came in who had her stroke 20 years ago. In 1997 she had a stroke and we actually did about 30 minute session with her every day Monday through Friday last week and she showed a 25 percent increase in her gait speed over one week from the beginning of Monday to the beginning of Friday. Her baseline speed had increased by 25 percent. And so these are landmark moments for me to say that A we can do that B it’s working and C something to get excited about going in neutral.
: I love it. Brian there’s no doubt that you keep the patient at the center of everything you do. And I think that is a very key part of your success to date and why you’re going to continue to be very successful in this space moving forward.
: Well thank you. You know I think you as I said one of the things that we hope that all people in that are building companies is health care at the crux of it all is that it has to revolve about the patient it has to be about improving those outcomes. And while we need to certainly get the business right in order for us to be successful which is you know there’s many challenges in and of itself that we focus on at the end of the day. People need to enjoy it. People need to use it and people need to show improvements. If we’re going to be successful.
: Absolutely. So Brian this is the part of the podcast where we take a dive into a horse that we’re going to build it’s a syllabus for the listeners. It’s the 101 course on how to be successful in medicine. The Brian Harris Crash Course. OK I got more questions for you lightning round style followed by a book and a podcast that you recommend to the listeners. You ready.
: All right.
: All right. What’s the best way to improve health outcomes?
: Best way to improve outcomes is to be collaborative with all the providers payers customers in health care. You’re bringing people together. That’s the only way that we’re gonna improve outcomes in healthcare for working together.
: What’s the biggest mistake or pitfall to avoid?
: I would say in this area is trying to go it alone and being isolated and not you know taking feedback from other folks.
: How do you stay relevant as an organization despite constant change?
: Well I think we’re number one as being true to who you are and listening to your customers and making sure that you’re providing value to them. I will allow you to be sustainable over time.
: What’s one area of focus that should drive everything in a health organization?
: I think we’ve hit on this a few times today but I think that it really needs to be centered around the patients and their outcomes and what value you can provide to them.
: What book and what podcast. Brian would you add to this syllabus.
: That’s a good question. One of my favorite go to books actually that’s not necessarily related to healthcare but to business in general is a book called The go giver and it’s something that we have all of our employees read as well. And it’s really a book about it’s a play on the word go getter but the go getter is actually seems self-serving for the giver. It’s about how much can we give and add value to other people and therefore value will be added to our own life. And it’s a book about sales but it’s really life lessons on how to be a go giver. And so I suggest that book and a podcast. I apologize all about this but I have to say I really appreciate what you’re doing here in sort of being on the leading edge of bringing people together. I’d say people should go back and listen to all of your previous podcasts as well because you really crossed the domain in this space and bringing a lot of different points of view here. So I would certainly suggest people do that.
: Thanks brother I appreciate the plug and man The go giver. I love that.
: It’s a phenomenal book. And you know I’ve read it a number of times and every time I read it it gives me a new perspective on how to be an effective leader and you know how to really make a difference in the world. I would certainly suggest checking that book out.
: Man that you spoke to me right there Brian because so every every year I choose a theme for my business or my life. And so my theme this year I chose two words and those two words are faith and giving. And that title just it was delivered to me by the universe through you my friend.
: Well you know I think that those are two important points in life. You know faith and giving are two things to be focused on so I’m happy to hear that. And you sent me a mailing address and I’ll send you the book.
: You’re the man. Brother I appreciate that. I will definitely do that. All right. Major major gem’s here major words of wisdom by Brian. Don’t worry about writing it down. Just go to outcomesrocket.health/HARRIS That’s Brian’s last name and you’re going to be able to find it there. So Brian before we conclude this has been a ton of fun. I love if you could just share a closing thought with the listeners and then the best place where they can get in touch with you.
: Great. Yeah. You know I think for anybody that’s listening out there I think that now is a really exciting time to be in this field of health care and to be innovating in health care because I think we’re going to see a lot of exciting things going into the future and I think the more that we learn about technology from my perspective the more that we learn about music and how music affects the human condition that it will change the landscape of healthcare as we know it. And so that’s what I get excited about and I hope that you get excited about those types of things too. And being innovative and being open to change and open to make a difference in the lives of those that we serve. If you’re looking forward to getting in touch with me I welcome people to reach out. You know I’m always open for collaboration and having conversations about how we can tackle this problem in health care together. You can check out our Website now at www.medrhythmstherapy.com which actually is focus a bit on our therapy practice. But you know my email is email@example.com and I do hope you’ll reach out.
: Brian this has been a ton of fun and listeners. Again you want to get all the information the links, Brian’s web address, as well as the things that we talked about the links to the go giver and the show notes. Just go to outcomesrocket.health/Harris harris and you’re going to find everything there. So Brian just want to say thank you so much. Really appreciate you taking the time to share your passion and your words of wisdom with us today.
: Likewise. Thanks so much for having me. It was really an honor to be here.
Thanks for tuning into the outcomes rocket podcast if you want the show notes, inspiration, transcripts and everything that we talked about on this episode. Just go to outcomesrocket.health. And again don’t forget to check out the amazing Healthcare Thinkathon where we could get together took form the blueprint for the future of healthcare. You can find more information on that and how to get involved in our theme which is implementation is innovation. Just go to outcomesrocket.health/conference that’s outcomesrocket.health/conference be one of the 200 that will participate. Looking forward to seeing you there.
Recommended Book and Podcast:
Best Way to Contact Brian: