Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Speaker Spotlight: Naser Partovi, Founder and CEO, Sanitas Inc.

Naser Partovi
Partovi has over 25 years of management, corporate development and operating experience. Last year, he established Sanitas Inc., a mobile health technology company that helps patients with chronic conditions manage their treatment. This year, Sanitas is testing its Wellaho product in heart failure patients.

Prior to starting Sanitas, Partovi was president and CEO of SKY MobileMedia, a leading provider of multimedia applications framework for cellular handsets and new generation of connected multi-media devices. Before that, Partovi was a managing director at Enterprise Partners Venture Capital based in San Diego, where he managed a portfolio of companies in the communications industry, including Ascendant Systems, DragonWave, Inc., Quorum Systems and ReliOn, Inc. Before joining Enterprise, Naser served as vice president of strategy and business development for Nortel's optical networks business.
Partovi graduated from Canada’s McGill University with a master’s degree in electrical engineering.

Q: Tell me a little about your background.
A: I am an engineer by training. I graduated from McGill University. Then, I was working at a company called Nortel, a telecommunication company. I was the vice president of business development and strategy at Nortel when I left in 2000. I was recruited from there and joined Enterprise Partners, which was the largest venture capital firm in Southern California. I was a general partner there until 2006, when I left to run one of the companies I had invested in based in San Diego, SKY MobileMedia. We sold SKY in 2008, and, then last year, I started this new company, Sanitas.

Q: Describe, simply, the product that Sanitas is offering.
A: Wellaho is a product to help patients with chronic conditions to manage their treatment. The way we differentiate ourselves from what is out there on the market is what we call the three pillars of our treatment plan. One is education. One is monitoring of progress. And one is getting support from your friends and family and your doctors. There are other companies who are providing bits and pieces of these services. To the best of our knowledge, Wellaho is the only one that’s providing all the three services combined as a continuity of care system.

Q: Monitoring of progress … is that where mobile health technology comes in?
A: Yes. When you or your loved one is diagnosed with a chronic condition, you can do a Google search and you will hit 1 million sites and you need to figure out what is reliable information and what is not. We look up the patients’ own health record. We find out exactly what their diagnosis is, and what their treatment plan is, and we dynamically build a tailored education plan for the patient. Either your primary care doctor, or, in the case of heart failure, your cardiologist, will decide the signs and symptoms they want you to monitor. They set up the parameters.

For example, if I have heart failure and I’m pretty healthy otherwise, they might say, “Okay, your resting shortness of breath should be at this level, and, if you have walked a mile, it should be at this level.” Patients fill in information about themselves using a cell phone or they can do it on their iPad or iPhone or Android application. We bring up the information and say, “Okay, what is your level of shortness of breath?” or “How far did you walk?” “These are your medications. Which one did you take today?”

We tailor monitoring to each patient’s needs based on what their cardiologist wants to know. And the cardiologist can see this information immediately or they can see it the next time they log in, which could be a week. We’re not a real-time monitoring system.

Q: Besides heart health, does this application apply to other conditions, such as cancer?
A: The first module we introduced and the one that we are conducting the field trials on is heart failure. We will announce other modules as they become available. The reason we are introducing different condition modules in a sequence is because we go very deep inside each condition. For example, in heart failure we have over 350 modules. A lot of other applications targeting the conditions go an inch deep, miles wide. We are at the other end of the spectrum. We are going an inch wide and miles deep because we believe that for each condition you need very detailed information on how to treat, what diagnostics options are available and so on and so forth. We have modules scheduled for the next three years to come.

Q: You have a unique perspective as a mobile tech investor. What can you tell me is most influencing investments in the mobile healthcare space?
A: In mobile health, there are a lot of really good companies coming up with a lot of products. My biggest worry about this is who is going to pay for it. The reimbursement mechanism is not out there and insurance companies are not paying and the government is not paying for it. There are a lot of issues around liabilities because, if this is real-time monitoring and the doctor misses that information, what happens? So, I think there are a lot of elements of this mobile health area that need to be figured out.

These things take a lot of time in the healthcare. You need to have a lot of clinical trials, prove the efficacy of the system, go back to the insurance companies, and go back to CMS to convince them that this is improving outcomes. We have tried to take the low-tech route to helping patients because, for example, with heart failure, if we can even improve 1 percent of readmissions to the hospitals by a combination of education, monitoring and support, then that is lots of money saved by hospitals and insurance companies.

Q: What are you looking forward to hearing about at the CHI mobile health event “Take this Pill and Tweet Me in the Morning?”
A: What I would like to learn from other speakers as well as the audience is their experience in dealing with patients, patient adaption, how often patients actually stick with it. How do we convince the insurance companies and the government that this is as important as medication and surgery? So, this is a big cultural change that needs to happen.

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