Helix Health harnesses data, aims to reduce cost of chronic care

Prevention is cheaper than cure, Anurag Patel said. That’s a sentiment at the foundation of his startup, Helix Health.

“The business of health care today is that if you’re sick, then you’re a customer of health care. If you’re healthy, then you’re not,” Patel said, describing a need for creating a business model that helps people stay healthy.

Helix Health aims to connect health care providers with preventive solutions for patients who suffer from chronic illnesses like diabetes, said Patel, co-founder and CEO of the Kansas City-based startup.

Part of the problem also lies in opaque payment models used by health care companies, added Aaron Deacon, co-founder and president of Helix Health and managing director of KC Digital Drive.

“You’ve got the insurance companies or the federal government as intermediaries. There’s no transparency of pricing sort of throughout that chain,” Deacon said. “It’s also hard for people to sort of make price choices as rational consumers, because there’s so much complexity in the system.”

Slowly but surely, the health care market is shifting from a “fee-for-service” system, in which health care companies are paid more to do more, to a “value-based” system, in which they are paid more to do better, he said.

“Doctors’ offices, which have been charged with keeping each patient healthy, are now being reimbursed and incentivized monetarily by how they keep their whole aggregate population healthy,” Deacon said.

Finding real-world solutions

Helix Health relies on artificial intelligence and data partnerships to create a data analytics platform for health care providers, Patel said.

“What we track is what happens in the real world,” Patel said. “We plug into this new environment by saying that we have the analytics or the tools that allow them to see which patients to focus on and how that would prevent downstream and expensive costs.”

The trajectory of treatment for each patient is different based on their socioeconomic background, Patel explained.

“Even though there’s a single set of treatments for diabetes, for example, the application outside of the clinic may look different for different people,” Patel said.

Consequently, the firm collects both clinical and non-clinical patient data, Deacon said.

“We bring multiple sources of data together to get more nuanced picture of what’s happening and understand different pathways diabetic patients take from diagnosis through treatment, to a certain result,” he said.

From Project Helix to Helix Health

The idea for the Digital Sandbox KC-funded startup was originally floating in a different form.

“We’ve been helping the health tech community get together to work on how to commercialize research into application for health purposes,” Patel said. “And at one point we realized that instead of trying to push people, we should just potentially do one.”

In 2018, Patel and Deacon paired up with organizations like Code for Kansas City and the KC Digital Drive to enter into an open innovation challenge sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“We ended up getting third place out of more than 60 companies nationally … getting $15,000 to do product development,” Deacon said.

Being able to deliver analyzed data on different platforms in a scalable manner has been a major pain point for Helix Health, said Deacon.

“Doctors are inundated with technology, and for all of the sort of upside of having electronic medical records, doctors generally hate them,” he said. “The question is how do we deliver information and insight in a way that is most usable for a customer?”

The startup’s primary customers are “payers and providers” which includes health care institutions, insurance companies and employers who provide insurance for their employees.

Value-based service is an opportunity to improve quality and efficiency, Patel said, noting key factors in the digital health evolution.

“I believe we need some innovation and disruption in the health care market,” Patel said, “especially on how we work with preventing diseases instead of always being reactionary.”

This story was produced through a collaboration between Missouri Business Alert and Startland News.

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