The following article first appeared on the dotHealth blog on August 2, 2018.
MyGi.Health: Healthier Guts, Happier Doctors, More Efficient Clinical Trials
“There’s got to be a better way.” It’s a statement we hear so often in the healthcare industry. And for one company it was the inspiration behind their solution, MyGiHealth, a platform that helps people find relief for gastrointestinal issues, communicate with their doctor, and connect with others who have similar symptoms. To find out more about MyGiHealth, we caught up with Duncan McLaren, the CEO of My Total Health, the spinoff company that developed the app for consumers. In the process, we learned that MyGiHealth is waaay more than just an app. It’s also helping Gi doctors spend more time being doctors, enhancing researchers’ understanding of Gi diseases, and recruiting patients for clinical trials. And MyGiHealth is only the beginning — apps for other conditions are already in the works.
A Gi Health Dream Team
Dr. Brennan Spiegel and Dr. William Chey are the founders and chief medical officers of MyGiHealth. Dr. Spiegel is listed in the 2016 Onalytica “Top 100 Influencer” lists for digital health, and Dr. Chey is one of the foremost researchers on digestive health and nutrition at the University of Michigan. Together, they created the underlying technology behind MyGiHealth.
As MyGiHealth was starting to gain momentum, Duncan was brought on board to start thinking about a mobile app. He had been working in the mobile space in North America since the beginning of his career, and always had a strong personal interest in Gi health.
“I have Gi issues myself – it runs in the family, so when I was connected to the Gi docs whose IP and idea this was, it resonated with me,” explains Duncan. “It’s also driven me and the company to really build out and develop this platform for the more than 70 million Gi sufferers in the U.S.”
Designed and Tested by Patients & Doctors
While the MyGiHealth technology is based on years of research undertaken by Spiegel and Chey’s teams at UCLA, Cedars-Sinai and the University of Michigan, it’s still easy-to-use and doesn’t get bogged down by a bunch of medical jargon or complexity. And for the people who developed it, that’s the whole point. MyGiHealth was built for patients and doctors, by patients and doctors.
Patients can use MyGiHealth to:
- Track and monitor their Gi symptoms
- Get a visual of how they are responding to treatment
- See how their symptoms compare to others
- Learn about treatment options
- Watch short videos to understand what’s happening in their bodies
- Find local gastroenterologists via a lookup tool
- Connect with healthcare professionals
- Prepare for upcoming appointments with their doctors
Giving Doctors More Time
MyGiHealth was developed and tested by doctors who wanted an app that helped them spend less time on their keyboards. “One of the features of the app is that it improves the dialogue between patients and physicians,” explains Duncan. “The app also does a better job of writing the patient’s history and detecting early signs of serious diseases. It’s more accurate, more detailed, and more thorough — it also saves the physician time.”
Doctors can use MyGiHeath to:
- Receive doctor-friendly patient histories prior to upcoming appointments
- Prescribe educational materials for their patients
- Monitor their patients’ recorded symptoms
- Get a visual of how patients are responding to treatment
Fostering a Greater Understanding of Gi Diseases
One of the things Duncan says his team does very well is capture data. “We’ve built what we consider to be one of the largest and richest databases anywhere today,” said Duncan. So far, the team has captured around 100,000 patient reports, and this in-depth data that has given researchers new information about the prevalence of certain Gi diseases in various geographies. It’s also shown promise in enrolling patients for clinical trials.
Recruiting Patients for Clinical Trials
Patient recruitment for clinical trials has long been a pain point for researchers and pharmaceutical companies. According to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services article, “more than 80% of clinical trials are delayed as a result of low participant recruitment, and some studies are prematurely terminated.” And each day a trial is delayed, companies stand to “lose as much as “$600,000 in foregone sales of smaller products and as much as $8 million on blockbuster drugs,” according to an Industry Standard Research white paper.
However, through a pharmaceutical industry partnership, the team at My Total Health has been able to use the data they’ve collected to identify different patient populations, match them to clinical trials, and contract them directly.
“There’s a big vision here from the clinical trial side of things,” said Duncan. “If we can reduce the time it takes to find patients and get drugs through clinical trials, we can help get drugs to market faster and at lower costs.”
While the clinical trial enrollment is relatively new for MyGiHealth, Duncan’s team is optimistic. “We’ve had some excellent results, and we’re really excited about that.”
The Future is Bright
Duncan sees My Total Health as a brand under which many platforms (or categories of digital health) can live. Right now there is some extensive research happening in other areas on the nutrition side, and in rheumatology and urology. In other words, there’s some exciting stuff in the pipeline, but nothing they can speak to right now. (Hey, we tried but their lips are sealed.)
How They’re Using Their .Health Domain
The MyGi.Health website is a place where Gi sufferers can go to find information about Gi issues and get help and relief, and Duncan says the .health domain is a nice complement to their own brand. “The .health domain does a really good job of articulating the value we provide,” he said. “We see a tremendous amount of organic traffic and that’s growing stronger month over month — we’re excited about that.”