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Q&A: New technology for healthcare assessments (Includes interview)

Dr. Priya Kamani was a skeptic of functional medicine, until she was diagnosed with a chronic disease. Doctors kept on prescribing medication to her, until she was on eight different prescriptions and an inhaler. She found herself sluggish, unable to do her work quickly. In fact, she would spend up to 10-14 hours a day to finish the job that normally would take her 8 hours to complete.

She then discovered functional medicine and she was soon was able to decrease her prescription load from eight prescription medications to now two. Dr. Kamani determined that the big problem facing functional medicine was that it was a time-intensive bespoke approach and did not have a tool where nurses and doctors could access a global data network to refine their approach.

Her company, LivingMatrix, recently introduced a clinician-designed functional medicine platform that has been developed with over 600 licensed doctors and practitioners in eighteen countries. She explains what the platform is and the challenges faced by women in healthcare technology face, with Digital Journal.

Digital Journal: What is functional medicine?

Dr. Priya Kamani: Functional medicine is a personalized, systems-oriented model that empowers patients and practitioners to achieve the highest expression of health by working in collaboration to address the underlying causes of disease. The primary drivers of the chronic disease epidemic are the daily interactions among an individual’s genetics, environment and lifestyle choices. Functional medicine addresses these underlying causes of disease and equips healthcare practitioners to help their patients manage this complex, interconnected web using diet, lifestyle, nutrition support and if needed medications.

DJ: Is the idea of functional medicine widely accepted by the medical profession?

Dr. Kamani: Increasingly. Our partner, the Institute for Functional Medicine is the global leader in functional medicine education and trains thousands or practitioners every year. A significant number of functional medicine practitioners are medical doctors as well – they have gone through rigorous training in functional medicine so they can treat their patients in all manners of effectiveness.

Functional Medicine is effective in the treatment of chronic conditions, and it’s our intention with our partners to catalyze, build, expand and publish the evidence base with the Practitioner Research Network we launched in May 2018.

DJ: What are the downsides of the functional medicine approach?

Dr. Kamani: The typical medical approach to chronic disease takes a population-based approach and treats patients with a drug that has helped a certain percent of the population of patients as demonstrated by a randomized control trial. If you fit the diagnosis and you have similarities to the patients in the study population then great, the drug may work for you, but if you don’t then you are out of luck.

Functional Medicine takes much more of an individual approach to identifying the underlying imbalances that are contributing to causing the condition. So the treatment(s) for two patients with the same disease may be very different, making it much more difficult to study via randomized control trials and this is viewed as a weakness by some in Medicine.

DJ: Why did you set up LivingMatrix?

Dr. Kamani: As an MD, I have been troubled by our current medical system’s inability to address chronic disease effectively. I was inspired after I discovered Functional Medicine and made profound changes in my health using the principles of functional medicine. I went from taking many prescription medications and having difficulty thinking and working due to brain fog, to having enough energy for founding a start-up at an age that defies the norm. Through LivingMatrix we can help practitioners effectively work with their patients and often achieve life-changing outcomes.

DJ: How did you develop your new platform? What is the basis of the technology?

Dr. Kamani: We have a collaboration with the Institute for Functional Medicine and have incorporated the clinical tools of the Timeline and Functional Medicine Matrix into the platform. The system uses algorithms to map data provided by the patient into the Visual Timeline and Matrix, and the practitioners use the graphics to dialog with the patient a critical step in building the therapeutic partnership that initiates the healing process.

DJ: What are the key features of the technology?

Dr. Kamani: We’re building a visual language for health. Visual patterns graphs and sequential tracking of MSQs and PROMIS Global Health scores provide a comprehensive picture of patient’s health and trajectory. Tools like the Timeline and the Functional Medicine Matrix engage the patient in the process and help them get to the “Aha” moment of when their symptoms began. Clusters of symptoms appear, and patterns reveal themselves in the graphics. These are the basis for a meaningful conversation with the patient and medical detective work – to find the triggers. This is an important process when the average chronic patient has 30 symptoms.

Additional bells and whistles include online digital forms for the patients, algorithm-based mapping of data into the Timeline and Functional Medicine Matrix, Clinical Workflow tools, and a Functional Medicine Prescription with nutrition and other lifestyle recommendations like exercise, sleep, stress-reduction.

DJ: How do you measure success with the platform?

Dr. Kamani: We measure success by outcomes, specifically working to reduce the number of chronic symptoms in a patient as measured by the multiple symptom quotient, or MSQ, within the platform. Also, we have just added PROMIS-10, which is an industry-accepted, NIH funded, outcomes measure that tracks mental and physical health over time.

DJ: What has been the response from medics and patients?

Dr. Kamani: The response has been extremely positive, and we are filling a critical need. Our practices have been able to effectively scale to meet the fast-growing demand for Functional Medicine, which is 30-40% year over year.

DJ: What has the uptake been like?

Dr. Kamani: We are keeping pace with the growth of the functional medicine industry, arguably one of the fastest growing areas in medicine. Our goal is to help our practitioners deliver life-changing health outcomes for their patients. We have over 600 Practitioners and 40,000+ patients that have been supported by the LivingMatrix platform.

DJ: Do you feel your success can help inspire women thinking of entering technology or medicine?

Dr. Kamani: I certainly hope so, I think that women have much to offer in both technology and medicine and those of us in leadership roles need to nurture the next generation of women leaders.

In healthcare women are the primary health decision-makers in families and per Rock Health women constitute 78% of the healthcare workforce, but not necessarily at the leadership level. The numbers are even worse if you look at leadership in technology companies. We are very intentionally building a company that provides women with the flexibility to have families and yet for them to be able to have careers and continue to advance. Women are uniquely skilled in building great teams and companies, and I am passionate about encouraging women to pursue technology, medicine, STEM, entrepreneurship and everything else they want to do.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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