Q&A: Peoria Company's Telehealth Monitor Uses AI To Predict, Prevent Major Medical Incidents
A Peoria-based bio-medical technology company has developed a telehealth monitoring device that uses predictive artificial intelligence to help prevent major health events in chronically ill patients.
The VSTOne from VirtuSense Technologies recently received recognition at Fast Company magazine's World Changing Ideas Awards.
VirtuSense describes the VSTOne as a “continuing remote monitoring and telehealth device” that can connect patients virtually to health care providers and family members, and alert clinicians before a patient’s condition declines.
VirtuSense founder Deepak Gaddipati recently spoke with WCBU reporter Joe Deacon about the company, the VSTOne device, and the technology it uses.
Joe Deacon: What is VirtuSense Technologies? When was it founded and what inspired you to start the company?
Deepak Gaddipati: We are a technology company that is focused on prevention: Prevention of falls, prevention of heart attacks, and the ability to find them before they happen, using AI and machine vision. We serve a whole broad range of population. We have technologies that are used in ambulatory care, in hospitals, in nursing homes, assisted and independent living. And now we’re launching a product that goes into houses of seniors as well. We started VirtuSense in 2012, and it's been it's been a pretty wonderful ride in the last eight, nine years.
So do you see Peoria and the Peoria region continuing to grow as a hub for biomedical technology innovation and development? What makes the market so fitting for this field?
Gaddipati: So, to give you a perspective, as you know, we're spending 20% of our GDP on healthcare right now. Premiums are going up for everyone year over year, and we're not really seeing much of a change. As witnessed through COVID, what we've seen is that healthcare can actually change, and change fast. More and more health systems and institutions these days are looking for transformative solutions. And Peoria, being here and having access to UnityPoint Health and having the University of Illinois (College of Medicine-Peoria) here is a major advantage to start developing technologies and test them in the field. We have great working relationships with UnityPoint Health to which develop and continue to develop more transformative products.
So one of your products, the VSTOne, was recently honored at this year's Fast Company World Changing Ideas Awards. What is VSTOne? What does it do and how does it work?
So yeah, I mean, we were honored to be mentioned by (Fast) Companies as “World Changing Ideas.” So VSTOne is an in-room solution that goes inside the rooms of hospitals, and it does a bunch of things. So VST stands for VirtuSense Technologies, and One is technically the product. What it is, it's an amalgamation of lots of things.
The system actually stays on the wall, and it figures out before a person gets up from the bed or the chair, and it talks with them and alerts the clinicians on our endpoint devices before they get up. So as a result, we've been able to reduce, over 85% reduction in falls, and over 95% reduction in falls with injuries with this.
And it also does, if there's a violent patient in the room and attacks the clinicians, it automatically alerts everyone on the floor.
Additionally then during COVID what happened was quite a few health systems we're working with, the nurses called and asked, “could our physicians or could we do virtual rounding?” So they don't have to walk into the rooms with the patients, especially when they had COVID and all the PPE (personal protective equipment) was very, very scarce.
So we enabled virtual rounding telehealth: Using the same technology on the wall, a physician or a nurse can have a two-way video call and the patient can see them on the screen in the in the room itself, on the TV screen. And we have an array of microphones on the sensors that catch crystal-clear sound quality.
This started and we started doing telehealth, and right in the middle of COVID, almost a year back, we had a few other health systems call and ask, “Can we enable virtual patient visits?” So family members who are unable to see their loved ones when they were in the hospitals could actually talk to them, rather than giving them iPads and various phone apps. So we enabled the same thing to that as well.
And the last thing we did with this is called telemetry for vital monitoring. So we have a patch to put on the chest that automatically measures all the vitals – heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, body temperature, pulse oximetry, ECG (electrocardiogram) – once every 15 minutes, completely wireless; there’s nothing, no wires or leads or boxes attached to the patient. So they transmit this data to this box on the wall, and it takes all this data and figures out before a patient has a stroke, before they have sepsis or infection conditions, and it alerts the clinicians before that happens.
So VSTOne is basically the amalgamation of a lot of technologies built into one ecosystem that is really transforming care right now.
It seems like that care transformation has really kind of gone on the fast track since COVID-19 and this is the wave of the future, being able to do more things remotely – and you've been able to tap into that.
Exactly. The whole thing is, until now to do any of this you needed people to sit and watch and look at things. What we are doing is it's not only the ease of capture, and the amount of data we're capturing is probably 100 times more than what you typically do. In a given hospital, if you look today, I mean other than in ICUs, we measure vitals every eight hours, once every eight hours. So you'd be getting three data points in a whole day.
So with VSTOne, every 15 minutes we are measuring all the vitals, and all this data goes into the EHR (electronic health record) automatically. And if there is any discrepancy, if you're seeing any deterioration trends, it automatically alerts the nurses. So you're not waiting for the next seven hours for the nurse to really see the client or for someone else to catch it afterwards. This is all like very proactive and you don't need any people; it’s all AI and IoT (internet of things) sensors that do all the work in the back.
So that's how we've been able to transform the care delivery and make it very, very predictive before a fall or a heart attack happens.
How rewarding was it when you when VSTOne was given the First Company honors?
When we started doing this, it was really automated really quick, and we got quite a bit of adoption: the technology is were used by about 40 health systems across the country. And since Fast Company gave us the honor, there's a few companies, a few health systems that we installed on top of it.
Now we are adding another 20-30 health systems to this; these are health systems, not hospitals. We are seeing very exponential growth as a company, mostly because hospitals are now really trying to figure out: How can we do more with less while actually improving the quality on top? So when you have these three things, where you already have a shortage of workforce, and you want to cut down the unnecessary costs that have been ramping up, technology and AI are right on that intersection.
You mentioned your exponential growth, so my next question was going to be what's on the horizon as far as future plans for VirtuSense? Can you tell us about any concepts that you're currently developing or expanding on?
With our products out there, we're at like 3,000-plus post-acute care organizations across the country that are using our technology, and health systems and 4 million patients, seniors, that we take care of them today. We're launching a new product that is coming out, which is called VSTCare. So this is for taking care of seniors or chronic patients in their own homes.
We have a wearable, that you wear on your arm, that has a 4G LTE chip on it, and it measures all the vitals – heart rate, respiration, pulse ox, blood pressure, ECG, full body temp – once every 15 minutes. And no matter where you are – you can be today in Peoria, tomorrow you are in Dallas, and the day after in London; we have international GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) on that – to capture all the data and the AI automatically monitors all data and alerts the family members and the clinicians to if there's any sort of deterioration in the person's condition.
The idea behind this is to really enable aging at home for seniors, and “in-home” doesn't mean lock them in the room, right? I mean, you should be able to enjoy your life and go on, do what you want to do. But actually this technology on your arm measures everything. You charge it once and it lasts 15 days on one charge; you don't have to charge it like once every day or once every two days.
The back-end hospital clinicians now you will have access – not all the time; you don't have to sit and watch someone. Only when there is any issue, the system flags, the AI flags it and that’s when the clinical help is alerted. So we are all about being early on to identify things before they deteriorate, and really help people live a high quality life.