‘CONTINUOUS MONITORING IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO’
What if a conversation could be used to detect the hidden beginning of Alzheimer’s?
Or if the type of mobile phone or smartwatch you use could reveal how adherent you are to certain medications? What if the wearable data you compile could show changes in the spread of the flu virus across the country?
These are some of the questions that Evidation Health seeks to answer.
The Santa Barbara-based company, at 15 W. Figueroa St., does cutting-edge research using data from smartphones, wearables, and medical devices to uncover new ways to understand how everyday behavior and health interact. The research is made possible through a data platform that can analyze and process large-scale sensor and behavior data.
The technology was developed in Santa Barbara and is maintained by a local data science team.
“Our data platform enables the passive collection and deep analysis of continuous behavior data alongside traditional healthcare information, empowering individuals and innovative companies to understand and influence the everyday behaviors that create better health outcomes,” the company’s website states.
The research projects take on a wide variety — from quality of life, sleep and social patterns, multiple sclerosis, heart defects, disease progression, anxiety, behavior data and more.
Some of the data used for the research is produced by devices like Fitbit, Apple Watch or smartphones. The data can be used in various ways, such as how to better understand the power and precision of medicines for various ailments, how to track and monitor the recovery period from a surgery, or even what sleep patterns can tell you about your overall health.
“That’s the power of the devices and the data they produce right now,” Alessio Signorini, one of the company’s co-founders, told the News-Press. “You would be surprised how much data a smartphone would produce for health. Good kind of data.”
The devices in use produce millions of data points.
“There are all these opportunities that before we didn’t have,” said Dr. Signorini. “There is all this history of you, which is awesome to understand how you really feel, what is going on in your life and (helps) to try and predict what is next,” he said.
The group was formed in 2012 by Dr. Signorini and co-founders Christine Lemke, Luca Foschini and Mikki Nasch. Each had a job in artificial intelligence and machine building, and all had a different reason for entering the medical field.
After moving to Santa Barbara, the co-founders spent the next year or so at a house on Voluntario Street as they sought to make changes in the health-care field. They were examining how they could access data and provide various methods, and even considered making their own product in order to do so. Then, companies like Fitbit, Apple and Garmin came out with their own devices and the Evidation group began searching for a way to use data those companies compiled.
More than 3 million people nationwide have allowed Evidation Health access to their data. The group offers an “achievement platform,” an application that promotes healthy living.
Users can sign up and connect any devices they choose. Each time they do a healthy activity, they receive points that can be exchanged for money. When a user accumulates 10,000 points, they receive $10, Dr. Signorini said.
When users sign up, they are also asked to participate in other studies. Evidation does research for various groups, such as the Alzheimer’s Association, the Michael J. Fox Association and AARP. Users are compensated if they choose to take part in the studies and Evidation covers the cost of any additional requirements such as blood work or saliva testing.
“The reason we are here is to advance medicine,” Dr. Signorini said.
Many patients only visit the doctor when they are sick or for an annual checkup. This provides the doctor with a limited number of data points to diagnose and treat the patient. Evidation offers additional data points that could improve treatment.
“Everyone is starting to realize that one single data point here and there is not the best way to do research and it’s not the best way to help health care for people,” said Dr. Signorini. “Continuous monitoring is the right thing to do.”
The co-founders spent countless hours researching ways to build the data platform and have stayed with the company, something that can be rare for startups.
“Financially, there is incentive for us to work and do something else … however none of us would rather be doing anything other than what we are doing here — and that’s why we’re still here,” said Dr. Signorini. “When myself or someone I love is sick, I want (the doctors) to have all this data.”
Over the past few years, the company has grown and now employs more than 140 people in three offices. Dr. Signorini said it’s not a tough sell to get people to come work in Santa Barbara.
“When I’m hiring people, I can tell you — we are going to improve health care, we work in artificial intelligence, in Santa Barbara,” he said. “People generally come.”
Dr. Signorini compared the human body to a vehicle that is equipped with hundreds of sensors to alert users of any abnormalities.
“Right now, we are basically the most complex machine … and we are just going until we break,” he said. “Maybe we could fix or prevent a lot of diseases — we are just not listening to the right signals. I can’t tell you all the signals you should be listening to, but with the advancement of computers … the power is not the problem.”
For more information on the company or to view its current and completed research projects, visit www.evidation.com