Lotan Levkowitz October 15th, 2020

Family Physicians: The AI Generation

How two founders who formed the IDF AI Lab joined forces to transform healthcare, starting with Primary Care. The Navina Story.

Navina, the developer of an AI-driven platform for primary care physicians, announced today the completion of a $7 million Seed funding round led by Grove Ventures.

Today’s milestone is the latest in a journey that started back in 2018. I had the privilege of meeting co-founders Ronen Lavi and Shay Perera soon after they had finished a significant service in the Israeli intelligence. They worked side-by-side for over a decade building AI capabilities for the IDF, and were even awarded with Israel Defence Prize for their achievements in establishing the IDF’s AI Lab. When I saw their knowledge, enthusiasm, and the spark they had in their eyes, I knew immediately that they were the perfect candidates for an ‘Entrepreneur in Residence’ program my partners and I decided to initiate at Grove Ventures that very same week.

Ronen and Shay already had the support from industry veterans and serial entrepreneurs Uri Alter and Naty Davidi, and the desire to leverage their AI expertise to solve large scale challenges and make the world a bit better. We happily assisted in this non-trivial road of finding a problem for extraordinary entrepreneurs to solve. We examined different verticals, markets and ideas, and eventually decided to focus on primary care (you’ll have to keep on reading to find out why;).

Although when it comes to healthcare startups it is common to recruit veteran founders with clinical experience and vast understanding of the complex US health systems, we believe that a fresh and different perspective may shake up the market and solve one of its most pressing needs. Partnering with entrepreneurs like Ronen and Shay, who have a new outlook, may prove crucial to tackle a long-attempted, intractable issue.

After we had a fit between the team and the problem they aim to solve, we focused our efforts on building an all-star team with Navina. After all, one of our core values here at Grove Ventures is People First. In the past two years, we have managed to assist this then-young company to sign incredible talents from our very closed networks. 5 out of 7 of the company’s first employees, KfirMaorRotemRoeyand Ehud, are close friends of key members of the Grove Ventures team.

The Problem: Primary Care Physicians’ Time is Valuable. It Should be Spent on Giving Care. Instead, it is Wasted on Documentation and Manual Data Crunching

Primary care is the front door of the healthcare system for many patients. In the past few decades, data and research revolutions pushed the medical world forward, but the primary care physicians (PCPs) were left to deal with much harder tasks than what they were used to, without adequate tools to do so.

Despite the fact that primary care physicians carry the majority of the burden of patient visits (52% of ~1B annual outpatient visits), only 5–8% of overall healthcare spend is allocated to primary care (according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, AAFP). This results in a situation where a physician needs to go through piles of unstructured data (sometimes 30% of the time is wasted only on chart reviews) before every engagement with a patient to fully understand their medical history. This, in turn, contributes to ~50% of misdiagnoses and increases the danger of mistreatment.

The EHR/EMR systems that physicians use today to track the medical history of their patients provide data storage and inter-connectivity of data points. However, these are challenging interfaces for a family physician who needs to provide fast and accurate care. Primary care physicians simply do not have time to dig through so much data and analyze it accurately and fast. Today, 20–30% of physicians’ time is allocated to documentation and compliance related work. 33% of the PCP time spent on tedious activity as chart review. Doctors are overloaded with data, facing growing technological and medical demands and they are not receiving compatible resources to deal with these challenges. This results in short visit times, burnouts, and errors.

A doctor’s time, needless to say, is extremely valuable. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, it was estimated by the AAMC that the US will suffer from a shortage of 21,000–55,000 primary care physicians (PCPs) by 2023. With smart technology solutions, Navina is able to address this deficit by redirecting time resources of those PCPs to actual treatment.

The Solution: Utilizing Data Science Capabilities to Empower Primary Care Physicians

So we’ve covered the fact that PCPs lack time, and that this time is of the essence in treatment. The question remains why did no one solve it before? Most modern healthcare tech solutions are currently focused on either the insurance company or the patient. Navina has a different, disruptive approach.

To improve patient outcomes and reduce the insurer’s cost burden, Navina focuses on the doctors themselves. Each time a PCP engages with a patient, they must study all of their data points within a few minutes. This is an energy, time consuming and complex task, which often leads to misdiagnoses and result in mistreatments.

Navina’s AI-backed solution frees up the PCP, allowing them to focus on their real mission — taking care of the patient and making them healthier. The company developed what they call “medically-informed AI” to replace chaotic patient data with an intuitive “Patient Portrait” — a logical grid that makes it possible for primary care physician to assess even the most complex cases in minutes. Navina goes through multiple patient resources and provides the PCP with a concise summary of existing conditions, general information and potential diagnosis. The product was designed in close collaboration with several US ACOs and the feedback from users so far is great: physicians say it results in better treatment, reduced missed diagnoses and enhanced financial performance for providers and payers.

Their solution pushes the healthcare system towards an ultimate alignment of interests, both clinical and financial. Clinically, Navina’s use of AI provides a faster and holistic analysis of the patient’s data and medical status. PCPs can provide more consistent diagnoses, patients receive better treatment and the healthcare system will be able to serve more patients. Financially, Navina’s solution saves money for insurers and for the healthcare system, since patients who previously got misdiagnosed and mistreated can now be directed to the appropriate treatment that fits the condition they actually suffer from. Fewer days hospitalized and less cases with tragic results also mean less money spent per patient. In addition, in order to prevent the inflation of healthcare costs due to excessive provision of treatments, the US healthcare system is transitioning to a value based model called pay-for-performance (a payment model evaluating the quality and efficiency of the service provided, while also charging healthcare providers for poor medical outcomes, medical errors and high costs). Navina supports this transition by allowing PCPs to provide greater value faster and prevents their penalization in the new scheme.

The U.S. government believed that digitalizing American medical records would result in a better and cheaper healthcare system, but this digital revolution took a bad turn (in some cases, we’ve even witnessed sloppy technology and software glitches; user interface problems; drug combination alerts not functioning properly; failures to use standard drug, lab and diagnostic codes) that endangered countless patients and cost tens of billions. But the main issue is that EMRs were not meant to be a medical tool, but rather more similar to an admin tool that collects the records, helps with schedule, etc. Navina’s solution is placed on top of these existing EHRs, building a new operating system for primary care. This allows PCPs to focus their attention and expertise on promoting, maintaining and restoring health of their patients, instead of dealing with time-consuming paperwork. We believe that this is the next phase that completes the digitalization revolution of medical records.

Taking the Market by a Storm

At an early stage, Navina’s solution has already been selected by the Northern Ohio Medical Specialists organization (NOMS Healthcare), and the company is also collaborating with the AAFP Innovation Lab. In a short time, Navina has proved that their disruptive approach is working, showing sizable added-value to primary care physicians. We can’t wait to see what’s next.

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