The COVID-19 pandemic brought telemedicine into a new light. With people locked down at home, it has become the ‘new normal’ way of accessing healthcare.
Now, telemedicine and monitoring are about to progress a step further with companies like Infermedica. Founded in 2012 in Wrocław, the company offers an AI-driven platform that helps insurance, telemedicine companies and health systems increase efficiency through fast, digital symptom-checks. Eight years after establishment, the company has nearly 60 B2B clients in the healthcare space, spanning 30 countries and has completed more than 6 million patient health checks.
According to your website, Infermedica’s AI-driven platform has so far completed more than 6 million patient health checks. Tell us more about your product portfolio and what are the tangible benefits for society as a whole?
Infermedica is an AI-driven healthcare platform that directs patients to the most relevant level of care, whether that’s visiting a doctor in-person or being directed to telemedicine or self-care at home.
Doctors play such a crucial role but their time is often stretched thinly across too many patients, many of which really don’t require that level of medical care. This feeds into the challenge that many healthcare systems across the world are over-run and costly, and it means many individuals don’t have access to even basic care. Using AI to conduct an assessment of a patient’s condition helps to alleviate some of these issues. It can provide initial medical guidance which sees those who really don’t need to be visiting emergency rooms and doctors’ offices from doing so, increasing efficiencies and reducing costs across the healthcare system, while also making it more accessible to those who need it.
We’ve developed white-labeled pre-diagnoses and triage solutions, such as our symptom checker, which uses an AI engine to recommend treatment options. It is constantly learning and developing, taking new data from each interaction, as well as a supporting database of medical content which is based on data from trusted medical journals and recommendations from organisations such as the WHO – this is constantly being updated too. We currently work with major B2B tech, healthcare and insurance organisations across Europe and the US including Microsoft, Médis, Allianz and Global Excel.
As the world faces the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for remote healthcare is bigger than ever before. How is Infermedica supporting its users in the battle against COVID-19?
In direct response to the crisis, we developed a risk assessment tool to help with checking for specific COVID-19 symptoms. We acted quickly, developing this tool in just under three weeks which has now been used to perform over one and a half million checks. The need for healthcare to be delivered from a distance has placed a new strain on providers and the world has witnessed how technology can provide a solution. Our platform provides initial medical guidance which encourages those who can self-treat to do so. During a pandemic, fewer people visiting already stretched doctors’ offices and hospitals is safer for all involved, minimising the opportunity to spread COVID-19 further.
Digital health solutions like Infermedica are blossoming amidst a global health pandemic. Infermedica alone raised an approx €8.5 million Series A funding in August 2020. What will the funding be used for?
The funding will be used to expand our presence in the US and German healthcare markets, and for R&D across our portfolio to improve symptom checking, patient triage and further support physicians making clinical decisions by interpreting lab tests. These developments are important steps as working across different regions and increasing use cases will provide access to even more data which we can use to build a detailed feedback loop, which is critical to our goal of creating an FDA-approved chatbot.
Infermedica’s diagnosis engine uses artificial intelligence to find correct and cost-efficient care for the patients served. In your opinion, what is the future outlook of AI in healthcare?
AI isn’t here to replace doctors, instead, we’ll see the two blended to provide better healthcare. Doctors will work more closely with AI and we will get to a point where its use will be incorporated into training. The solutions will become more and more advanced and they will prove to be an important tool as they ease pressures across a wide range of processes and responsibilities; streamlined symptom checking and triaging is just one small aspect of what AI will enable.
The pandemic has certainly accelerated digital health reforms worldwide, but still, there is a long way to go. What’s the current status of Poland’s digital transformation of the healthcare system?
The pandemic has affected the healthcare landscape worldwide, and we can also observe these changes in Poland. Previously, using new technologies was perceived more as an innovation, now it becomes a necessity. More and more healthcare companies are investing in, for example, mobile apps to deliver better and faster customer service to the patients, as well as digitizing internal processes. There is also a rising demand for telemedicine solutions, however, there’s still a long way to go.
When the pandemic is over, healthcare is never going back to the way it was before. According to you, which healthcare trends will take over in the post-COVID-19 world?
Unsurprisingly, many are reluctant to visit a doctor’s office for routine appointments now and ongoing fear of COVID-19 has prevented many from seeking advice. This is, of course, a worrying trend as not seeking help has a potentially damaging impact on people’s health. As the situation continues to develop, this is a challenge we need to solve. This points to future reliance on telemedicine services, which use of has skyrocketed due to the pandemic. As many avoid seeking advice face-to-face or find having a doctor’s appointment in their own home more accessible, it’s critical that patients can continue to access help via these services. A recent survey of digital health services in Norway found that 72% of respondents experienced a better follow-up with their GP after using a telemedicine service. These technology solutions are here for the long haul, they are not only more convenient for the patient, but they’ve been proven to improve care.
Going back to Infermedica, what’s the next big thing for the company?
Looking ahead, we’re developing the platform to enhance clinical decision-making. This includes assisting intake collection, as well as providing differential diagnostics and lab test interpretation. These capabilities will combine to provide users with medical advice that is in-line with what they would receive from a health practitioner.