The task of extracting health insights from electronic health records (EHRs) has taken longer to materialize than some pundits projected a decade or so ago. But the situation is quickly changing with continued advances in data science, said Sujay Jadhav, CEO of Verana Health (San Francisco), which has created a real-world data network in partnership with 20,000 healthcare providers.
Pharma and biotech companies have used the company’s data to inform study design and site selection and to finesse clinical trial execution.
The company recently attracted $150 million in Series E funding round led by Johnson & Johnson Innovation (JJDC) and Novo Growth.
“To a certain extent, the technologies we are leveraging to extract, normalize and curate data to provide insights have been around for more than a decade,” Jadhav said.
Progress has ramped up as security technologies have evolved to offer more robust protection and deidentification of patient privacy.
Another hurdle is the challenge of working with unstructured data. “Broadly speaking, the industry has done a really good job of accessing structured data such as claims data in an aggregated fashion and providing insights around that,” Jadhav said.
A growing number of companies are now focusing on parsing unstructured EHR data. “Right now, we’re focused on going through the process of curating that [unstructured data] and deidentifying it to provide the next level of value of insights,” Jadhav said.
Focusing on EHR data can provide more timely insights than other sources such as claims data.
Historical sources such as claims data can take months of processing time before they are available. “But with EHR data, you can get close to real-time,” Jadhav said.
Such EHR data can also provide insights into the overall drug lifecycle.
The pandemic has fueled interest in accelerating development timelines, increasing demand for techniques such as natural language processing (NLP) and decentralized clinical trials.
Another factor that has held back the use of data science in healthcare in the past is a lack of understanding of the nuances inherent in particular medical specialties.
To address that challenge, Verana Health has chosen to constrain its focus to three therapeutic areas, including ophthalmology, neurology and urology for the time being. The company has partnerships with the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Urological Association and the American Academy of Neurology. The heads of those three societies have positions on Verana Health’s board.
Such partnerships ensure that the company is “doing what we need to do in furthering medical research in those therapeutic areas,” Jadhav said, while also providing feedback for the company’s overall business model, “which we can scale to other therapeutic areas as well,” Jadhav concluded.
Filed Under: clinical trials, Data science, Drug Discovery