Apps / Health tech

Amid international growth, emocha gets grant to look at Maryland TB treatment

The Johns Hopkins startup received an SBIR grant, and is continuing expansion in South Africa.

emocha Mobile Health received a Small Business Innovation Research grant to further development of its mobile app that provides video-based healthcare observations in some cases where visits were previously required.
The NIH grant, which is for about $200,000 over two years, will allow the Johns Hopkins-based startup to gather data on its miDOT app from Tuberculosis patients in four health departments around the state, said cofounder Morad Elmi. The system is already in use at Baltimore’s health department.
Tuberculosis treatment standards require healthcare workers to directly observe patients taking medication. In that case, patients have to visit a clinic or get a home visit to take their medicine. miDOT allows the patients to record themselves taking medication. Using a method called “store and forward,” the system then transmits the video to healthcare workers, who assess the video via web app.
emocha is part of a cluster of healthcare IT companies making Baltimore city shine with innovation for the sector. It helps that Seiguer has great interest in building his company here.
The new funding is the latest in a string of fall developments for emocha, which licenses technology from Johns Hopkins’ Center for Clinical Global Health Education and has offices in Johns Hopkins’ FastForward East. emocha is also looking to spread its technology geographically, and to other areas of treatment in the healthcare field.
And along with Baltimore and the Maryland health departments that will result from the NIH grant, the app is in use in Harris County, Texas, and is being assessed in a clinical study in Denver. The startup expects to launch two additional pilots in India soon.
Earlier this fall, the startup also took a first step toward use of miDOT in the treatment of Hepatitis C. The app is being used as part of a University of Colorado study looking at treatment of drug users who contracted the disease, Seigeur said.
A major hurdle in treatment of that disease is adherence, meaning people don’t take medicine as they’re prescribed. As a result, there is “extreme resistance” in the medical community to treating drug users with Hepatitis C, according to University of Colorado professor Jennifer Kiser, who is leading the study. Along with new drugs that can be taken by mouth, the study leaders believe miDOT can be used to help make the treatment easier. The app can also help to provide adherence data.
“Actual verified adherence data is difficult to obtain for any regimen, but critical especially in this case due to the far-reaching health and financial implications” Seiguer said.
For TB treatment, emocha also has a second product that is being used in South Africa. Known as miLINC, the system helps to link pateints Tuberculosis to specialized clinics, where they can receive further care. In South Africa, TB is the leading cause of death. About half of TB patients don’t return for more treatment after diagnosis.
emocha’s system was tapped to be part of a partnership led by the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing to address that gap. miLINC’s suite of three apps is designed to connect the patients to a wider network that integrates providers and a national network of labs that can provide test results.
The system has been implemented in three clinics, and enrolled about 3,000 patients. This fall, emocha is beginning to expand use of the system throughout South Africa with 20 more clinics in the Kwazulu-Natal and Eastern Cape districts.
“In some cases the time from diagnosis to initiation has gone from weeks to three days or less,” Seiguer said.
They’re planning further expansion in 2016, and are looking to use a recently-awarded exportMD grant from Maryland’s Department of Commerce to increase their presence. Next week, the company is set to demo at the Union World Conference on Lung Health in Cape Town.
Elmi called that new money “a big step towards establishing a market presence in South Africa.”

Companies: Scene Health / FastForward / Bio-Rad Laboratories

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