As COVID-19 cases in the U.S. continue to spike and doctors and researchers try to marshal any and all technological resources to help patients, understand the disease and fight off the spread of the epidemic, one startup that monitors and evaluates medical device technology is offering its services for free so doctors can understand the tools at their disposal.
San Francisco-based Elektra Labs was co-founded by a former official at the Food and Drug Administration and a Harvard-trained physician working at Massachusetts General Hospital, to provide clear and accurate assessments of the security, validity and viability of new biosensors coming to market.
The company said that it will now make available for free to clinicians and researchers its assessments of medical devices that are pitching symptom monitoring technologies for COVID-19.
As the number of infected people in the U.S. reaches 2.5 million and the nightmare scenario that health experts warned about becomes a reality with capacity in hospitals overwhelmed by sick patients, the healthcare industry is turning to digital services like telemedicine not because they want to, but because they must.
“The ability to reliably assess patients’ vital signs remotely is a powerful way to improve the utility of telemedicine,” said Elektra Labs co-founder Dr. Sofia Warner, who has been treating COVID-19 patients on the front line at Massachusetts General Hospital, in a statement. “Having a sense of what connected sensors are validated for which measurements is important for providers to know.”
Digital monitoring and technology tools aren't just for treating patients. The pharmaceutical industry is using the same tech to help with clinical trials to test new drugs and treatments since in-person trials have ground to a halt.
“Many pharmaceutical companies running large, critical, and expensive clinical trials are quickly working to adapt their studies to maintain progress and keep patients safe amid the pandemic,” said Ariel Stern, PhD, faculty at the Harvard-MIT Center for Regulatory Sciences, in a statement. “These companies are racing to determine which products are not only safe and effective, but also easy for study participants to deploy at home.”
Elektra Labs has developed what amounts to a nutrition label for objective measures around the validation, usability, utility, security and data governance components of connected sensor and it actually published the methodology behind its scoring framework in Nature Digital Medicine earlier this year.
Backed by venture capital firms including Founder Collective, Boost VC, Lux Capital, Maverick Ventures, Village Global and Arkitekt Ventures, the early-stage startup has already found a welcome reception among pharmaceutical companies and researchers.
“Technology has moved faster than our ability to safeguard ourselves,” said Elektra Labs CEO Andy Coravos. “I co-founded Elektra to make it easier and safer to care for people at home, and never has this been more important than during the COVID-19 crisis. I’m thrilled to donate use of the Atlas platform to those working to treat patients and innovate in healthcare throughout the pandemic.”
Unlike Apple's initiative to label apps in the app store based on the way they use and reuse personal data, Elektra Labs' scoring and ranking information won't be available to everyone.
Instead, the data will be available only to clinicians moving to virtual care, researchers organizing decentralized clinical trials and public health officials examining tools for population health monitoring.
The idea is to enable doctors and researchers to determine which biometric monitoring tools they might use to supplement video visits or track patients in a study are safe and effective for patients to use at home.