JLABS @ NYC resident Susan Bratton, Founder and CEO of Savor Health, provides an inside look into the origin of Savor Health and the way she and her female-led team have built a knowledge-based expert system that aims to leverage AI to provide clinically appropriate personalized nutrition to people with cancer and other chronic medical conditions.
Q: Savor Health uses nutrition as an entry point with the aim of achieving health and wellbeing. Can you give us a sense of what sparked this approach?
A: I spent over 18 years on Wall Street as an investment banker representing a wide range of healthcare service organizations on strategic and financial issues. In 2009, I lost one of my best friends to glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, and just two weeks later my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. In both cases, my loved ones were told that nutrition doesn’t matter and “eat whatever you want” – which was contrary to my beliefs. I knew that evidence-based science is the foundation upon which medicine is practiced. So I went to the literature and I found a number of studies showing the positive clinical, cost and quality of life benefits of proper nutrition and nutrition intervention. I set out to address these unmet nutritional needs which (astoundingly) are present in 90% of all cancer patients * at time of diagnosis.
I wanted to support people and their caregivers on their cancer journey – to meet them where they were, both physically and mentally, and empower them to live their lives under their circumstances. Given the significance that food and eating have for us culturally, I felt that helping patients with food and nutrition enabled them to continue to participate in important cultural, familial and community gatherings.
These series of events led me to found Savor Health in 2013, which started off as the first tech-enabled, direct-to-consumer business providing home delivery of individually customized meals for people with cancer. Since then, we’ve evolved to a B2B enterprise technology platform that leverages proprietary algorithms to analyze unique patient data and, based on the analysis, provide patients with the “right” nutrition intervention from a corpus of expertly curated guidance content, which is communicated via a chat bot named InaTM. (“Intelligent Nutrition Assistant”). Our oncology-credentialed medical team worked closely with data scientists to build this robust and scalable platform that can be replicated in many different therapeutic areas. It truly is like having an oncology dietitian in your pocket!
Q: Speaking of Ina TM , can you tell us a little more about Savor’s Intelligent Nutrition Assistant and how this came to be part of the Savor platform?
A: InaTM (or Intelligent Nutrition Assistant) is a HIPAA compliant AI-based platform that interacts with patients and provides them with personalized nutrition recommendations. Not to be confused with an app, InaTM is strictly an SMS texting-based platform that replicates the brain of an Oncology Dietitian but one that is available 24 hours a day and 7 days a week “on demand”. If someone has a question about what to eat at a restaurant or what to buy at the grocery store, InaTM will be able to process the information and provide the proper nutritional guidance, similar to how a professional would, in real time.
Q: Where do Ina TM ’s recommendations come from and how does InaTM evolve with the patient’s journey?
Ina’s recommendations are based on peer-reviewed scientific research and clinical best practices. All recommendations are carefully curated and fully referenced by a team of oncology-credentialed medical professionals including RDs, RNs, and MDs. This information is constantly being updated according to emerging research and our experts’ purview.
As a person’s condition changes – so do the InaTM recommendations. We don’t view ourselves as a cancer treatment, but instead we work to support patients in managing the side effects of their disease and to promote an individual’s health in a way that’s clinically appropriate and highly personalized to both their needs but also their preferences.
Q: What is one of your favorite success stories from Savor?
A: When we first started out, we worked for 2 years with someone who had glioblastoma. After his passing, we received the most wonderful note from his mother talking about how Savor Health’s services and team really gave him hope and made such a difference in his quality of life. This validated everything that I’d been working towards. It is what makes you get up every day– the hope that we can make even a small difference in people’s lives.
Q: What advice would you give healthcare start-ups? What do you wish you knew when you were first starting out?
A: First and foremost, enjoy the ride and be patient. Nothing will ever prepare you for the really high highs and really low lows that occur on a daily basis. It is all about how you manage to keep an even keel during these massive swings. You have to keep your feet planted on the ground and be willing to ride the daily waves. Embrace the insanity!
Finally, in healthcare, every day we are reminded of the importance of the person we are working to help. We hear a lot about “patient centricity.” It truly is important in technology. A really sexy and interesting technology that isn’t used by a patient isn’t doing its job and isn’t a good business. So if you’re creating a product for people over 65 years of age, you need to engage them early in the development process and really listen to them and understand what they need, want, like and will use.
To learn more about Savor Health, visit http://savorhealth.com .