Is AI already good enough to transform healthcare? – Interview with Daniel Nathrath, Founder and CEO at Ada Health

According to the mHealth App Economics 2017 study, 61% of decision makers and experts of digital health see Artificial Intelligence as the most disruptive technology shaping the digital health sector. And although AI is still in infancy its capability to offer significant digital health personalized value with the right actionable insights by empowering a new generation of personal health companions and medical chatbots, telemedicine and the prominent IBM Watson for Oncology notably improves the quality of people’s lives and transforms the healthcare sphere.

Digital solutions powered by Artificial Intelligence’s data driven nature and its ability to process unthinkable amount of data, identify the relevant insights to be matched with specific patient case and records, leads to unique user experience. Taking prompt actions to feel better and manage more effectively one’s everyday condition gives a sense of responsibility for one’s own health. In some rural areas around the world with no easy physical access to a doctor, AI based mHealth solutions could be a game changer for people with health conditions that are not-life threatening. AI and machine learning, chatbots, predictive diagnostics and telemedicine provide the support doctors need in the patient-centric journey.

At present, some medical chatbots that utilize advanced Artificial intelligence algorithm / self-learning AI technology can be used as a personal health assistant to: check symptoms and get a diagnosis, advise how to treat the sickness and whether one should see personally a doctor, book a consultation with a medical specialist, and allow for remote monitoring of a health status. What makes one medical chatbot stand out from the rest? The quality of the medical and scientific data that is behind the AI technology used, the ability to process more cases and insights, as well as the propensity to learn from real time smart conversations with the user and to build a personalized profile with every interaction make one chatbot a trustworthy partner in managing one’s health.

One of the fastest growing medical and personal health guide apps that intelligently supports patient’s/user’s healthcare journey and has been ranked the #1 medical app in over 130 countries worldwide is Ada Health. To shed valuable insights and share the company’s story and what lies behind this success, how Ada’s value proposition differs from other AI powered apps as well as their future plans, we talked to Daniel Nathrath, CEO and Founder at Ada Health.

Is AI already good enough to transform healthcare-min

Enjoy the interview.

Research2Guidance: Introduction to Ada and how it all started
Daniel Nathrath: We’re a team of doctors, scientists, and entrepreneurs based in Berlin, Munich and London. Rooted in seven years of research and development across medicine, artificial intelligence and science, we’ve created Ada, a personal health guide that helps individuals understand their health and identify the appropriate next steps in their care. Ada asks users a series of questions driven by medical reasoning and machine learning technologies to assess symptoms based on the information provided, and learn from each interaction.

We first piloted our platform with medical specialists and expanded it to general practitioners. It was through this process that we quickly realised that there was a real need for patient support earlier in the healthcare journey.

Over 4 Billion people lack health care access in the world, and with individuals increasingly turning to Google for their health questions before consulting a doctor, there was clearly a need for a patient-facing health guide. Life expectancy is rising, yet chronic disease is increasing and Ada can relieve the pressure health care services are facing. We can bridge the gap between consumer expectations and the actual capability of legacy health care systems.

Research2Guidance: What is Ada’s value proposition?
Daniel Nathrath: Globally, healthcare is complicated, inaccessible and focuses on reactive versus proactive care, and Ada is shifting the healthcare model to put the patient first.

By complementing the strengths of human doctors with machine intelligence, our team built a comprehensive medical knowledge base covering hundreds and thousands of conditions and symptoms and cases. With Ada’s intelligence supported by a deep, curated medical knowledge base and proprietary artificial intelligence technology, Ada is able to consider the patient’s full medical history, along with data from a broader range of sensors, devices and other sources, when making a health assessment.

In terms of usability, Ada is known for its approachable and conversational interface that encourages users to engage. Ada’s assessment was developed to work much like a good doctor would, determining the most relevant, helpful questions to ask, with intelligent algorithms enabling Ada to ‘get to know’ each individual better over time, providing a more comprehensive health picture and increasingly tailored guidance.

Research2Guidance: How does Ada differ from other AI-powered personal health companion and telemedicine apps on the market?
Daniel Nathrath: Ada is an AI-powered health management platform that supports both patients and clinicians. From day one, our team has been focused on providing very detailed, high quality medical insights and decision support, with more than seven years spent on R&D and curating a world-class bank of medical knowledge.

Clinicians and medical specialists have played an important role in Ada’s development from the very beginning. One of our founders, Dr. Claire Novorol, our Chief Medical Officer, is a clinician who worked in the NHS for several years before starting Ada, and the other Dr. Martin Hirsch, is an expert in theoretical medicine and cognitive neuroscience. We are also supported by a fantastic team of more than 100 doctors, scientists and engineers, and a global network of medical experts. Having these doctors as part of the team is vital to the ongoing development of our offering; they help us to refine the user experience, assess the accuracy of Ada’s health assessments and collaborate with existing and potential partners.

Research2Guidance: What is your business model?
Daniel Nathrath: Hundreds of millions of people currently lack access to healthcare and, with life expectancy rising and chronic disease rates increasing, health services are coming under huge pressure. Ada’s AI-powered health platform can help both patients and doctors by making it possible for anyone with a smartphone to access high-quality, personalised health information, while giving clinicians more time to focus on patient care. There are many opportunities in the healthcare industry for Ada to grow, and we’re partnering with health providers, organisations and other businesses, where Ada can deliver valuable cost savings, and improve access, care and treatment.

Research2Guidance: Who are your customers? And what is Ada’s pricing model?
Daniel Nathrath: We believe that everyone should have access to quality, personalised health information and care, which is why Ada’s assessment is free to everyone with a smartphone.

Ada offers a valuable health management platform for government institutions, providers and other health businesses. We earn revenue by partnering with these stakeholders to help them deliver more personalised patient-centric care, by simplifying the healthcare experience-from assessing pressing mental and physical health concerns, to saving time at the doctor’s office and to helping people to identify the most appropriate treatment options and care.

Research2Guidance: Can you please share in which countries Ada is available?
Daniel Nathrath: Ada’s personal health guide app is available in every single country that is supported by either the App Store or Play Store, and its popularity is quite high globally. Ada has been ranked the #1 medical app in over 130 countries worldwide, with India, Canada, the US, the UK and Germany among our top markets in terms of users– but there’s a good geographic spread overall.

Research2Guidance: Which countries will you go to next?
Daniel Nathrath: Ada is currently available in English and German, and we plan to launch in Spanish and Portuguese in the near future. Over a third of our users come from rural and less developed healthcare markets, such as India and other parts of Asia and Africa, and the feedback we receive from individuals is that Ada’s health assessment is often more conclusive than a local doctor. We are already seeing Ada’s potential for empowering patients, health workers and doctors in those markets and we are exploring additional ways in which Ada can support.

Research2Guidance: How many users does Ada currently have? What is the projection?
Daniel Nathrath: Ada is helping millions of people to understand and manage their health, with a new health assessment completed on Ada every 5 seconds, on average. Our user-facing personal health guide app was the fastest growing medical app in Europe in 2017, and we regularly receive feedback from individuals of how Ada has helped to identify a serious illness or to guide them to the right care.

This is a great start, but we have big ambitions for the future, and there’s a lot more we want to achieve – we want to reach 100 million by 2020.

Research2Guidance: How often do users utilise Ada?
Daniel Nathrath: People tend to do an assessment on Ada when they have a specific health concern, but the number is comparable to a person visiting a doctor twice per quarter. Globally, a new assessment is completed on Ada every 5 seconds on average, and as we continue to integrate health data from a broader range of sensors, devices and other sources, we see Ada becoming more of an ongoing health management tool, providing increasingly personalised support and guidance to patients over the short-and-long-term.

Research2Guidance: What are the main users’ health concerns? Are there any international market specific differences?
Daniel Nathrath: The five most common user conditions based on their presented symptoms are: the common cold, tension type headache, depressive episodes, viral sinusitis and migraine. However, typical uses for Ada vary considerably. As well as checking their own symptoms through our smart assessments, people often use Ada to help them monitor and manage the health of a child or family member and conditions range from the common cold through to much more specialist conditions.

Research2Guidance: Who do you see as the key competitors of Ada?
Daniel Nathrath: Health is of paramount importance to everyone, and we’ve reached a tipping point. Digital health technologies including mobile apps and sensors, after some years of buzz and hype, are evolving quickly and starting to play a meaningful role in many areas. It’s still early days but no doubt that trend will continue to accelerate over the next 12-18 months. Competition will heat up, and we’ll continue to see the big tech companies like Apple, Google and Amazon pushing further into the space and established players across providers, payers and pharma will start to make more serious commitments to digital approaches, especially through partnerships.

Ada has over 7 years of R&D and a global user base to make an impact today. There’s a huge potential to improve people’s lives with intelligent health tech, and there’s enough space for different health apps to meet everyone’s individual needs. We’re always looking at ways that we can improve Ada, and our top priority is to continue to add more value for users and enable a more patient-centric approach to care.

Research2Guidance: In your opinion, where do you see the main barriers for AI-powered telemedicine and personal health companion apps?
Daniel Nathrath: One of the biggest challenges in the industry is misaligned incentives and provider-centric rather than patient-centric care. When what is best for the patient does not align with how the money flows and how care is organised, then all too frequently the patient suffers. The industry is starting to shift this mentality, embrace new approaches and that needs to continue to change.

Research2Guidance: What is next for Ada Health? Where do you see the company in the near future?
Daniel Nathrath: Our goal is to provide increasingly personalised support and guidance. In the future, Ada will also become much more of an ongoing health companion, helping patients and doctors to intelligently monitor health data over the long term to enable predictive and proactive care. We are working on several exciting new product features and partnerships, and are exploring additional ways we can integrate a broader range of sensors, devices and other sources.

As the smartphone becomes more ubiquitous, we believe Ada can really empower patients, health workers and doctors in less developed parts of the world, enabling someone in Africa to access the same world class medical knowledge and care as someone in Germany or New York. We’re really excited for what we’ve built and the feedback we’ve received so far, and there’s still a lot more Ada can do.

Research2Guidance: Would you like to share a topic that we haven’t touched during our conversation but you feel is important to be talked about?
Daniel Nathrath: We firmly believe that the future of healthcare lies in a much more patient-centric model, where individuals have actionable insights at their fingertips, and doctors and artificial intelligence work together to support patients throughout their healthcare journey. AI platforms like Ada will facilitate more universal cross-sharing of resources and knowledge which will break down inefficiencies and barriers to universal healthcare access, with a lot of health management being able to be done remotely. We’ve just hit the beginning of the digital health revolution.

Research2Guidance: Thank you, Daniel, for your answers. We wish Ada Health all the success.

About Ada Health
Ada Health is a team of doctors, scientists and entrepreneurs who believe that everyone should have access to hiqh quality, personalized health information and care. We empower individuals to actively manage their health through an AI platform that helps them understand their health symptoms and guides them to the next appropriate steps in their care. For more information, visit: