By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
On the heels of commercializing a third test focused on autoimmune diseases in 2018, Chase Spurlock of Nashville start-up IQuity says he and his team asked themselves a key question: “How can we leverage our data science knowledge and disease experience in a bigger way?”
After all, the company that Spurlock founded is built on more than a decade of machine learning expertise with genomic data across multiple autoimmune diseases.
The answer was to build the first data analytics platform to help payers – insurance companies, self-insured enterprises, and their Third-Party Administrators – find and fix their addressable autoimmune disease risks. Unlike the genomic blood data that IQuity studied previously, this platform requires only insurance claims data to produce insights that providers can use to positively impact patient care.
How costly is the population that includes autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis?
Spurlock, IQuity’s Chief Executive Officer, cites data from the National Institutes of Health that says autoimmune diseases affect more than 23.5 million Americans and cost the healthcare system more than $100 billion annually. That’s more than either cancer or heart disease, both in terms of individuals impacted and the resulting diagnosis and treatment costs.
IQuity’s platform will also target fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome. These disorders are not autoimmune diseases, but mimic the symptoms of autoimmune disease – presenting an opportunity for IQuity to help alleviate diagnostic confusion. Collectively, these six conditions can impact up to 16% of a given population.
“Every one of these diseases affects you or someone you know,” Julia Polk, IQuity’s Chief Strategy Officer and Chief Financial Officer, adds.
For the company that recently moved its corporate offices into Nashville’s iconic Cummins Station, the singular focus is to help individuals that might have an undetected autoimmune disease, one that is misdiagnosed, or one that goes uncontrolled. IQuity’s genomics lab is still in the nearby Cumberland Emerging Technologies facility.
“The treatments for autoimmune disease are expensive,” Spurlock says, adding, “Our past experience with our genomics tests suggest that doctors are using our tools to correct misdiagnoses.”
Why is that important? He and Polk cite several reasons. Establishing an early, accurate diagnosis lessens disability, improves quality of life, and can save millions in avoidable medical expenses. Patients who are misdiagnosed are receiving therapies that cost tens of thousands of dollars each year.
“The drugs used to treat autoimmune disease carry certain risks,” Spurlock says, emphasizing the importance of getting the diagnosis right. Someday Spurlock and Polk hope the platform will be able to connect patients with optimal treatments.
“You have patients that might not be on the best drug,” Spurlock stated. Polk amplified this point, explaining that “the patient’s disease might be controlled this month but uncontrolled the next month.” For now, IQuity hopes that its monitoring approach will allow providers to have an ‘early warning system’ that enables care teams to be proactive and make the necessary changes to a patient’s treatment plan.
To help with implementation, IQuity recently partnered with SwitchPoint Ventures, itself a Nashville start-up led by Ray Guzman. It is important to note, as Spurlock did in this late 2017 teknovation.biz article, that IQuity is providing a tool, not a test. “The doctors are making the diagnosis and treatment decisions,” he said at the time.
So, how does the process that IQuity utilizes actually work?
- The client sends healthcare claims and other structured data to IQuity.
- That data is enriched with IQuity’s proprietary data and social determinants of health – socio-economic, crime, environmental, etc. – based on zip code.
- The data are analyzed for trends.
- IQuity delivers insights from the analysis to the plan provider and individual results to the providers or patients.
From there, the plans are able to better identify and understand the risks and to recommend actions to improve patient outcomes while also reducing medical care expenditures.
“We are the only people doing this level of analytics in autoimmune diseases,” Spurlock says, adding, “This is a framework that can be applied to any disease. IQuity has a remarkable opportunity to impact clinical outcomes and costs.”
For Polk, a long-time player in the Nashville start-up and corporate scene, it’s exciting seeing the progress that IQuity has made.
“We’ve come a long way in a short period of time and our entire team is committed to never losing sight that patients are the ultimate beneficiaries of any technology we develop,” she says.