Portal Telemedicina: A population health management platform using AI to detect anomalies and prioritize emergencies
The UNICEF Venture Fund is featuring members of our A.I. & Data Science Cohort. In this interview, learn more about Portal Telemedicina, a Brazil-based startup developing a platform that provides fast, reliable, and low-cost diagnostics to over 300 cities in Brazil and Africa, by enabling doctors to make online diagnoses, leveraging an artificial intelligence (AI) integrated layer and insights for medical providers.
Tell us about your startup and what you are building.
Portal Telemedicina is a telehealth and population health management platform, which integrates medical records and devices, transferring data so that doctors can access medical records and provide remote consultations. The platform uses artificial intelligence models, trained on millions of exams, to detect anomalies and prioritize emergencies.
In the field of child development, we will use our technology already applied to population health management to build a platform focused on the particularities of the population of children and young people up to 15 years of age, as well as pregnant and postpartum women.
How would you describe your solution to a non-technical person?
Our solution seeks to integrate different databases that have information on child development in areas such as health, education, and socioeconomic status.
The objective is to create a platform that allows a broad view of children's and pregnant women's health, so that public managers can make informed corrective and preventive decisions about the populations for which they are responsible.
For this, the platform will have an artificial intelligence module for issuing insights and alerts on the main indicators of child development.
In addition, the solution will be designed to generate value for other child health stakeholders, such as school professionals and the family itself, through access to different interfaces of the platform, such as a mobile app.
What social issue/impact area does your solution aim to solve?
Our project addresses the healthcare and social problems of childhood underdevelopment. Each step, from conception up until 15 years old, determines the outcomes of the entire life of a person. Development in this context includes formation in the prenatal phase, growth, and cognitive and social aspects.
This problem can be compounded by the lack of data integration in a single patient-centered system, which makes it difficult to make decisions to correct problems and prevent new ones. Public managers, healthcare professionals, families, and schools can’t act as effectively as they could if they had more information.
Why use AI/data science? What's promising about this technology?
Analyzing a large amount of data that is scattered across different systems is a highly complex job. Using AI and machine learning models is a way to support those who currently have this task.
A population health dashboard will compile all the population data in the central database in a few panels, allowing healthcare managers to better understand and manage their resources.
The AI module will check the data continuously to detect probabilities of delays in development and notify healthcare professionals. It will also group children by similarity, detecting chronological and geographic trends, helping managers find the best courses of action.
“Using AI to integrate health, educational and socioeconomic data from different sources is a complex task, but a powerful way to provide public managers with information. This is the best way to make corrective and preventive decisions based on facts. In this way, our solution will help improve the lives of children and achieve change.”
— Rafael Figueroa, Portal Telemedicina CEO
What is unique about your solution and how is it different from what currently exists?
Our central database is an intelligent data warehouse where data is unified and available for algorithms to use. It deduplicates patients and cleans and enriches data automatically. It is made to be easily expanded to accommodate more data and allow for a load of millions of users using it.
The integration of databases from different axes of child development will, by itself, be very useful, but the AI layer for issuing alerts allows tackling the problem at another level.
In addition, the development of distinct interfaces for different audiences will be a unique asset. The mobile app, for example, will allow families to track all of this collected data, enter some more information such as cognitive and social milestones, and attend appointments remotely.
Why does being Open Source make your solution better?
Choosing to work with an open-source platform brings a series of advantages to the solution and to interested members of the public, such as greater transparency and reliability, greater interoperability and freedom to integrate with other systems, lower costs compared to proprietary software, in addition to the possibility of customization and adaptation of the platform to different realities of distinct populations.
How did you come up with your solution and what inspired you to form your company?
Portal Telemedicina was born with a strong social purpose, initially seeking to solve the problem of lack of access to essential health services caused by the unequal geographical distribution of doctors.
As our technology and algorithms matured, the company began to act more strongly in the field of data integration and developed a population management platform for the state health department of São Paulo, the most populous state in Brazil. The success and good results obtained in this experience inspired us to move forward and propose a solution to the problem of childhood underdevelopment.
Tell us more about your team. What makes your team diverse?
We have a strong and capable team in different areas such as development, data science, HR, marketing, dev-ops, data engineering, among others, of which we are dedicating a good part of the workforce to the development of this project.
The aspect of diversity is an essential value in our selection processes, which can be seen, for example, in the large proportion of women in management and leadership positions we have today.
Why is diversity important for your startup? How does it add value?
Diverse worldviews and experiences are essential for thinking about health problems and how to face them, especially in a country with as great an ethnic and cultural diversity as Brazil.
A team with different skills and experiences working together constitutes a much more fertile environment for innovation and for a broad perception of the problems to be solved.
Everyone involved in the project is also a patient and user of healthcare services. The patient’s experience varies a lot geographically and socioeconomically.
What do you plan on doing with UNICEF's Venture Fund investment and how will you use that to leverage raising follow-on investment?
The investment will help deliver a valuable system to healthcare partners as soon as possible. We plan to launch and iterate as much as possible on the product, aiming to find a strong product-market fit that leverages real impact to the children in the pilot regions.
We plan to capture, analyze, and report these improvements in healthcare indicators, turning them into measurable metrics and publish the results as a well-planned study.
Providing strong evidence about the impact and potential of the solution will encourage other players in other regions of the world to make follow-on investments to help the development of all children over the globe.
What challenges are you currently facing in building your solution and/or startup? (name up to 3)
The main challenge by far is the bureaucratic processes and documents being asked from the partners and their EHR providers. The IT team of the city halls (which are the clients) usually don't develop nor maintain their own systems, making integrations with third parties necessary. These third-parties' interests are not aligned with patients' needs.
How can others support you in working towards overcoming these challenges?
Health professionals, secretaries, and public managers can encourage the solution application process by institutionalizing its use and collaborating with data access.
Portal Telemedicina company profile here.