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April 12, 2018 | Tom Ballard

Odom, Gotcher update readers on last year’s “What’s the Big Idea” winner

Big Idea 2018By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

It’s been a little more than a year since Laura Odom won the 2017 “What’s the Big Idea” (WTBI) competition with her BreatheEasyTM platform to help patients manage their asthma. With this year’s WTBI finale taking place on Sunday, we wanted to learn what had transpired with the effort since we posted this article on MedicApps, the parent company, last June.

Briefly stated, the BreatheEasyTM platform includes an app that patients use and a dashboard that allows doctors to monitor those patients using information gleaned from the app. It sounds simple enough, right? After all, uncontrolled asthma leads to three big health issues – congestive heart failure, diabetes, and obesity.

“We had to pivot,” Co-Founder Jeff Gotcher told us. “We kept running into walls with our initial pilot.”

The team’s original go to market strategy was to work with top managers at pediatric practices and expect those leaders to work internally to get their doctors on board.

“We had a patient-facing app and a dashboard that was sold to the practice,” Odom explained. It allowed the pediatricians to see real-time data on how well their patients were managing their asthma and intervene if they saw a problem.

“We learned that there are pretty glaring differences in how practices operate,” Odom said. It was something the Nurse Practitioner with 11 years of experience had not expected, but that’s frequently the nature of the start-up world.

Armed with the realization that practices have different drivers, the two Co-Founders reevaluated their business model and decided their approach would be directly to the consumers with a longer term hope of sponsorship by managed care organizations and payers.

Ironically, the new model is something MedicApps had successfully implemented with another product – Food for Thought – that is available for iOS devices in the Apple App Store.

“We thought that would be a side product,” Odom said, explaining that her daughter had severe food allergies. The app, which is free, outlines the recommended decision making process for treatment of anaphylaxis, the technical term for severe allergic reaction. Caregivers and individuals no longer have to keep up with a paper action plan because they have the app on their mobile device.

“We’ve received great feedback and have 7,000 people who have downloaded the app,” Odom said. “We’re planning to take the same approach with BreatheEasyTM.”

As noted in our article last June, a key driver for the app is something called the “Classifying Asthma Severity Test” (CAST). MedicApps is currently part of a study with The University of Tennessee that is validating CAST as a tool used to help patients easily identify their correct asthma zone within their asthma action plan. In the application, users can use this tool for tracking trends and monitoring patients if they should ever have a severe asthma attack.

Odom hopes the research team will have readouts from the research by the end of this summer. MedicApps has its modified software ready to go, but having clinical data is important to securing buy-in from the medical community.

“I believe healthcare providers will be willing to endorse it if they don’t have to track it and we can show the validity of the app,” Odom says. “We plan a grassroots movement, harnessing advocacy groups for asthma and social media.”

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