New startup springs from Singularity U

Announced at Exponential Medicine Conference, Sentrian plans to apply analytics to keep people out of hospitals
By Bernie Monegain
10:16 AM

Sentrian, which bills itself as "the remote patient intelligence company," launched today with a roster of industry leaders at the helm, $12 million in seed money, a focus on chronic disease and the goal of eliminating all preventable hospital admissions.

The unveiling took place at Singularity University’s Exponential Medicine Conference – fitting, it seems, since the idea for Sentrian was born out of one of the first Singularity University executive programs.

[See also: Remote monitoring market growing fast.]

"Millions of unnecessary hospitalizations that endanger patients and cost tens of billions of dollars every year could be avoided if we could spot deterioration in patients’ health earlier using remote patient monitoring analytics," Dean Sawyer, co-founder and CEO of Sentrian and a former executive at Allscripts and Physicians Interactive, said in introducing the new company headquartered in Aliso Viejo, Calif. "Our platform leverages the exponential growth in biosensors and machine-learning and is intended to detect the subtle signs that warn of an impending problem before the patient becomes acute and requires hospitalization."

Sentrian’s leadership team includes Chief Medical Scientist Martin Kohn, MD, who is recognized around the world as an expert in healthcare population analytics and the role of expert systems in the clinical decision process. Kohn was previously the chief medical scientist for care delivery systems in IBM Research, where he led IBM’s support for the transformation of healthcare, including the use of the Watson supercomputer in healthcare.

Kohn has worked in healthcare, as he puts it, "in one way or another," for 48 years. He started as an academic researcher and bio-medical engineer in the 60s. As a physician, he practiced clinical emergency medicine for more than 30 years. He was a healthcare executive, a healthcare policy analyst and researcher.

About 15-16 years or so ago, he realizedm that "a lot of what we were doing in healthcare was not valuable, a lot of it was wasted."

A study authored by CMS Administrator Don Berwick confirmed that for Kohn, who said he engaged rapidly with the concept of clinical decision support.

"How can we help all the people engaged in healthcare make better decisions and make more personalized decision?" he asked himself. "That's the only way we're going to decrease that waste, improve the outcomes and total cost once people understand enough about each patient that we can help make decisions that are more beneficial for that individual patient," he said. "If we treat everybody as one of a group, we're going to stay in the old model of kind of scatter shot."

So, while Kohn was absorbed in his work at IBM and had learned a lot over his nine years there, his experience teaching at Singularity University and the pull of working even more directly on a new approach to patient care at Sentrian with a group of like-minded entrepreneurs captivated him.

He wanted to be part of a group contributing directly to a system in which doctors were not being paid for how much they do, but paid for how well they do it, he told Healthcare IT News.

"The dominant system in the U.S. is still fee-for-service – the more you do, the more you get paid with no attention to are you making a difference," he said.

Sentrian wants to help both the care providers and the patients, he added.

"Seventy-five percent of all healthcare costs are around chronic disease, and the largest contributor of those costs are hospitalizations," Sawyer added. "As it turns out, a lot of those hospitalizations could be prevented especially in a patient population with complex chronic disease."

As Peter Diamandis, founder and chairman of the X Prize Foundation and co-founder of Singularity University, sees it, Sentrian "is a great example of how small teams leveraging accelerating technologies can make a massive impact," as he put it in a press statement. "Sentrian is very well positioned to impact the problem of chronic disease, which is crippling economies and causing an unquantifiable amount of human suffering."

[See also: Engaging patients: 5 things providers can learn from payers.]

The $12 million in financing Sentrian has raised includes $4 million in seed funding and $8 million in a recent Series A round led by Reed Elsevier Ventures, Frost Data Capital and TELUS Corporation.

"As healthcare moves from volume to value-based reimbursement, tackling preventable hospital admissions becomes an imperative," said Kevin Brown, general partner of Reed Elsevier Ventures, in a press statement. "Sentrian has assembled a dream team of entrepreneurs, technologists and physicians and has developed the only analytics platform we’ve seen capable of taking advantage of multivariate remote patient monitoring sensor data at scale." Brown will join the Sentrian Board of Directors.

"There is an extraordinary opportunity and need today to apply exponentially accelerating advances in biosensor technology and human-augmented machine learning to finally make remote patient management an affordable and effective reality for patients, payers and providers alike," Jack Kreindler, MD, Sentrian’s founder and chief medical officer, said in a news release. "Sentrian is turning the unprecedented stream of data from remote sensors into foresight and intelligence, bridging the chasm between patients at home and providers in clinics and hospitals – transforming the very way medicine manages disease, and helping to solve a grand challenge in healthcare."

Sentrian’s platform is currently being tested by large health insurance plans in controlled studies involving thousands of patients. The company expects to announce the results of those studies in 2015.

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