Outcomes4Me: Reclaiming Healthcare for Patients
At 38, Maya Said’s friend was diagnosed with advanced-stage breast cancer. She was shocked. Physicians typically recommend regular screening starting at age 40. Her friend was young, and the cancer was aggressive. If not for her own initiative, her diagnosis could have progressed unchecked. Maya was worried for her, but also wondered, “if her friend could be seemingly healthy and suddenly be diagnosed with this disease, could the same happen to her?”
Maya scheduled an annual physical. Though she had premium health insurance, she hadn’t been to the doctor in about 6 years. She was feeling fine and had no immediate cause for alarm. However, during the examination, her physician found a mass in her abdomen. The doctor ordered imaging and scheduled regular monitoring. For the first time in Maya’s life, she was a patient.
Navigating the health care system for Maya was a mess. Sourcing second opinions, finding the right specialists, scheduling appointments, and negotiating insurance policies was already unnecessarily taxing, but the stress of the looming outcome of her diagnosis was exhausting. The experience made her feel isolated, uncertain, and disempowered. This surprised Maya. She thought her academic and professional training might have prepared her for navigating her diagnosis. Maya is exceptionally science-literate and familiar with the health care system. She has a Ph.D. from MIT in Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, and Systems Biology and spent 12 years either consulting for or leading pharmaceutical companies such as Sanofi, Novartis, Transgene, and Pieris Pharmaceuticals. Her health insurance also privileged her with access to some of the best care possible in the US. Maya thought to herself, “if the health care experience is disempowering for her, how much more so is it for people without her privileges?”
Maya had to reassess. After more than a decade working in the pharmaceutical industry, she had convinced herself to believe that the sector was patient-focused. But after becoming a patient, she realized that the industry had no clue. She saw how patients have zero power regarding their own health care having no say over their treatment or the cost. Because of the misaligned incentives in the industry, health care is not accountable to patients. Though Maya eventually found out the mass was benign and her friend is in remission, she was forever marked by her experience.
Patients should not feel helpless, and Maya had to do something about it.
Though the issues in the health care system are complex, her mission was simple: empower patients. Because they don’t have the right information, patients are deprived of agency. If knowledge is power, she needed to find a way to provide the data required for 1) patients to be their own advocates, 2) innovators to design solutions, and 3) policymakers to build accountable health care systems. Maya also knew that doing good wasn’t good enough to survive in the industry. Noble ideas needed viable business models to reach those who need them. With this in mind, Maya set out to design a business whose interests were fully aligned with its users’ interests.
In 2017, Maya founded Outcomes4Me. Outcomes4Me is a HIPAA-compliant platform and consumer app that leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to positively impact care and accelerate research. The Outcomes4Me mobile app enables cancer patients to make decisions and take control of their care based on personalized information to their specific condition, including finding treatment options, matching to clinical trials, and tracking and managing symptoms. The platform also harnesses regulatory-grade, real-world data and patient experiences, generating deeper insights and better outcomes to improve care and accelerate research. Outcomes4Me has over 10,000 users and recently announced a successful fundraising round of 4.7 million USD from VCs such as Asset Management Ventures with the participation of Sierra Ventures as well as federal funds from the National Cancer Institute. Though the platform currently focuses on patients with breast cancer, Maya and her team have plans to expand to other complex diseases as well.
Maya’s work demonstrates how entrepreneurs can work to radically shift power from entrenched interests to marginalized voices.
By democratizing information, Outcomes4Me attempts to flatten the inequity of privilege and address the discrepancies in patient experiences “regardless of race, socioeconomic status, or geographic location.” Though health care claims to serve patients, often the opposite is true. Ventures like Maya’s are a chance for patients to take back that power.
This post was authored by Regie-Jesus Viacrucis Mauricio a project manager at the Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at MIT.