How two Seattle startups are helping doctors uncover hidden trends in COVID-19 cases

MDmetrix is offering its software free for COVID-19 tracking. While these charts look at the broader COVID-19 patient population, a physician could look at patients ages 20 to 45, for example, and how they respond to certain protocols vs. older or younger patients. (Image: MDmetrix)

It’s critical for doctors and other health care providers to see the underlying trends in COVID-19 cases, to understand what’s working and what isn’t in the fight against the pandemic.

Two Seattle startups, MDmetrix and TransformativeMed, are working together to offer these insights to hospitals free of charge for COVID-19 cases. The idea is to help doctors see, for example, how patients ages 20 to 45 respond to certain treatments versus older adults, or to understand the average time period between person-to-person vs. community spread of the disease.

MDMetrix, a Seattle Children’s spinout, provides technology for tracking and analyzing healthcare outcomes. TransformativeMed’s electronic record keeping application screens COVID-19 patients, monitors symptom checklists, tracks lab results and test status, then submits that information to the department of health in each hospital’s home state.

The systems are now in use for COVID-19 cases at University of Washington Medicine, including Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Because both companies were already distributing their technologies to UW Medicine, they joined forces to find a COVID-19 solution that would best fit patient screening, tracking, and help paint a clearer picture of the crisis.

With Washington state surpassing 2,500 cases and 130 deaths as of Wednesday, clinicians tackling the pandemic need all the help they can get.

Dr. Dan Low, an anesthesiologist and co-founder of MDMetrix, in the operating suite inside Seattle Children’s Hospital. (GeekWire Photo / Clare McGrane)

MDMetrix, which has raised more than $4 million to date, was started in 2016 after Dr. Dan Low, an anesthesiologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital, was surprised by the challenges he encountered when trying compare the efficacy of two different drugs in patients, as chronicled in this episode of the GeekWire Health Tech Podcast.

MDMetrix CEO Warren Ratliff

Warren Ratliff, the company’s CEO, was previously co-founder and COO of Caradigm, a healthcare joint venture between GE Healthcare and Microsoft. MD Metrix has raised $4 million in funding.

TransformativeMed started as a University of Washington Medical Center project in 2010. It was similarly inspired by the experiences one of its physician co-founders, Dr. Erik van Eaton, a trauma surgeon who saw an opportunity to tailor electronic medical records systems to the needs of different physician specialties. The company raised $5.8 million in funding last year.

MDmetrix is offering its subscription, dubbed “COVID-19 Mission Control for Emergency Medicine,” for free, as is TransformativeMed with its Core Work Manager application, dubbed “CORES.”

“The more data that we have from across health systems, the better we can become at implementing best processes and practices learned during and after this crisis, so that we’re better prepared if and when another pandemic occurs,” said Doug Cusick, CEO of TransformativeMed.

“It’s become the record of truth,” he added. “Clinicians are so overburdened, because in many cases they’re spending so much time in their computer system hunting and pecking for data, and really trying to do their best to gather as much information as possible, so that they can make the best clinical decisions.”

Medical staff now have access to tools that make tasks such as sorting, messaging and collaborating simple among hospital staff. Rather than building applications on top of the electronic health record, the companies’ software is embedded directly within it.

From left: TransformativeMed CEO Doug Cusick with co-founders David Stone, CTO, and Dr. Erik Van Eaton, CIO. (GeekWire Photo / James Thorne)

Ratliff described MDMetrix as a “a clinical performance system that leverages the data that exists in the medical record so that you can visualize and understand what’s going on with care.” He said TransformativeMed, for its part, “fills a really important space,” providing physicians with what they need to understand “who their COVID-19 patients are and what’s going on with them right now.”

“If you were in this environment in the hospital, it can be really astonishing to a layperson how little visibility there really is,” Ratliff said.

For example, MDmetrix’s COVID-19 subscription allows healthcare professionals to quickly answer some of the most prominent questions related to the growing outbreak:

  • How many patients were screened for COVID-19 and how many of them tested positive?
  • Is the time interval between symptom onset and presentation getting shorter? Longer?
  • Are there more or fewer COVID-19 patients arriving who contracted the virus from a known contact?
  • How many patients were taken to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU)?
  • Of patients who went to the ICU, how many needed a ventilator? What were some of their characteristics (demographic profile, lab results, etc.)?

Both MDMetrix and TransformativeMed have adapted their existing technologies to meet the demands of hospitals on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak. The two companies hope to help more hospitals in the coming weeks.

Ratliff said that what’s most challenging is that “hours matter in the fight against COVID-19 and the resources are limited.”

Cusick agreed. “There is always so much information on what companies can do to solve real problems in healthcare,” he said. “Cutting through that noise and getting to the decision makers so that they can take immediate action to solve this big problem is critical.”

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