Biofourmis, a Boston startup that produces AI-enabled health devices, is aiding in a University of Hong Kong program to monitor and treat coronavirus patients.
Originally founded in Singapore in 2015, Biofourmis moved its headquarters to Boston last May. Before this epidemic, the company was known for creating wearable biosensors like armbands and chest patches to collect physiological data points and track chronic conditions like heart disease. This data is stored on a companion app where it can be viewed and analyzed by patients and their doctors. Biofourmis’ technology was developed to track patients’ health and arm doctors with the information they need to provide preventative care, all over a cloud-based, modularized platform.
The technology being used in Hong Kong is simply a customized version of this platform. It was developed in two weeks specifically for this initiative, according to the company, and allows quarantined patients to be monitored remotely.
CEO Kuldeep Singh Rajput says the program launched last week and that 100 patients will be onboarded by the end of this week. The aim is to have between 500 to 1,000 people in Hong Kong onto the system in the next couple of weeks. He says the program’s goal is to detect early signs of coronavirus more effectively, so that doctors can provide a higher quality of care.
“Today, very little about the disease is known,” Rajput told Built In. “Right now, clinicians are using treatment options to solve for a specific symptom. For example, if the patient has fever or pneumonia or shortness of breath, they have a specific treatment for that condition rather than having a treatment for COVID-19. By using [these] methodologies, they will be able to manage patients much better.”
The technology works by tracking metrics like body temperature and respiration rates through arm sensors. The data collected is then combined with other imaging and lab tests to give doctors and researchers a comprehensive view of a patient’s health.
The device’s ability to remotely monitor patients is key to the technology’s potential. COVID-19 is believed to be an airborne virus, so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged healthcare professionals to use telemedicine and other forms of remote monitoring with their patients.
“Having them remotely monitor these patients without physically being in contact is a big advantage so that they don’t get infected,” Rajput said. “Healthcare workers are working hard on managing and treating these patients. It’s critical to take into consideration the safety of these healthcare workers to help them with digital tools and technologies to be able to remotely monitor these people.”
As of Wednesday morning, the novel coronavirus has infected more than 120,000 people globally. The mortality rate for the virus is about 3.4 percent, according to the World Health Organization, but there is no vaccine to cure it yet. WHO has officially labeled the outbreak a global pandemic.
Biofourmis’ platform could soon be put to work in other countries attempting to slow the spread of COVID-19. Rajput says the company has been in “very advanced discussions” with the United States and Singapore regarding similar programs to the one in Hong Kong. Going forward, this technology may also be put to work by drug manufacturers testing how effectively their treatments can fight the virus.