In the latest episode of Impetus Digital‘s Fireside Chat, I sat down with Kim Shah, CEO of KnowYourMeds, to explore a range of topics related to digital health, AI, telemedicine, health literacy, and how to ensure a safe return to work amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We also dived into his leadership lessons and tips for new entrepreneurs, plus much more!
Here is a sneak peek of our conversation:
Q: What’s interesting and quite unique that we don’t hear as much about is the emphasis on drugs. This requires a different level of database management, upkeep, ensuring that there is the right kind of algorithmic thinking as it relates to drug-to-drug interactions. Tell us a little bit about that aspect of your software?
A: This actually takes us almost back to the beginning, Natalie, when we started KnowYourMeds. You’re absolutely right, we said that there are many different ways to approach this particular situation. We just felt at the time that drug awareness and drug education was perhaps the least well-handled, especially once you get away from the Americas and even Europe where, for a variety of reasons, the US FDA, and so on, provides a lot of this information.
One of the interesting challenges is none of us, or the vast majority of us, don’t read the information that comes with our drugs. Here in Boston, if I went to a pharmacy to pick up a drug, there will be this little pamphlet that comes with it. A) It’s not readable by the average human being and is not designed to be read. B) It’s not comprehensible by almost anybody that reads it because the language is not met, so they throw it away. Most of the time this gets discarded.
What happens then is, within a few weeks of studying whatever regimen your doctor has prescribed for you, you fall off that regimen. So, whether it’s taking something on empty stomach or not, whether it’s refilling your prescriptions on time and so on, all of these are kinds of behaviors that needed to be addressed. But the issue about interactions was a really big challenge because this information really just didn’t seem to exist anywhere. I mean, there is a system at the FDA called the AERS (Adverse Event Reporting System). It’s a formal process when the medical system finds out about two drugs interacting with each other or a drug interacting with food or drink and a reaction happens, then the FDA gets to hear about it and eventually turns it into a notification.
The World Health Organization also has tried to capture some of this information from about 125 countries, but the grand total of all of this data is still only about 15 million records. It’s mostly based on information from the US and Europe, which of necessity is primarily based on Caucasian experience. So now, you go to places in Africa, the Middle East, or Asia and you try and convince someone over there to believe this information that they see in a pamphlet on a drug. They’re like, “Why would this apply to me? The water I drink, the air I breathe, the food I eat, the environment I live in are completely different than you in Boston. So, this data doesn’t translate very well for me.”
The opportunity with KnowYourMeds we thought, even at the anecdotal level, was to build a gigantic database where people were self-reporting these kinds of interactions and side effects. Even though we would not be able to claim scientifically that something will or will not happen to you, we can at least have a sort of a bell curve that says, if you’re a South Asian male in your 50s or an African in your 30s and you’re a male or a female, and you’re taking this combination of drugs, you may want to watch out for something or the other. That’s something we can guide people on. That really was the starting point for us and we’ve continued to build on that.
We now have somewhere in the region of 300,000 downloads that have happened primarily between the four countries I mentioned earlier and we’re starting to obviously see some trends happening. Some that you could have predicted and some that completely floored me and I’ll give you one example. I thought that our primary target market was going to be the Baby Boomer generation in their 50s and above. Because of health and age reasons, they would be starting to develop more than one chronic condition. As it turns out, our biggest user population is in the mid-20s to 30-year-olds. Sad to say, the drugs are mostly for depression, anxiety, and so on, which are more mood-oriented than necessarily physical-oriented…
For more of our discussion, you can watch the whole Fireside Chat with Kim Shah, or listen to the podcast version, below.
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About Impetus Digital
Impetus Digital is the spark behind sustained healthcare stakeholder communication, collaboration, education, and insight synthesis. Our best-in-class technology and professional services ensure that life science organizations around the world can easily and cost-effectively grow and prosper—from brand or idea discovery to development, commercialization, execution, and beyond—in collaboration with colleagues, customers, healthcare providers, payers, and patients.