Archaic to Cutting Edge via Data Science

Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash

In 2003, Patricia Lopez, alongside her parents and five siblings, emigrated from the Philippines to the United States. As the oldest child, Patricia was charged with carrying bags and bags full of paper copies of the family’s medical records and vaccinations. So, she lugged the bags of handwritten medical records across two continents and oceans, files that contained every immunization, every doctor’s visit note, and every prescription written for every member of her family. And while she was hauling bags of paper file folders, Patricia asked herself, why are all these records on paper? Why aren’t they in a database, accessible by computer? At 23 years old, Patricia decided there must be a better way, and the seeds of an idea were planted.

Over the next several years, Patricia built a solid career in the business field. Her first big business venture was founding a company that built a data migration platform that made data accessible to small and medium-sized companies that did not have in-house accountants. After her arrival in the United States, Patricia was the assistant vice president at JP Morgan Chase. During that time, as she gained experience working with data and technology, her interest in improving the documentation of medical records took hold. Eventually, she connected with friends and medical data experts Ryan Lopez, Nedim Halicioglu, and Han Lee, MD, who shared her frustrations with the medical field. The group began to brainstorm about how to use data and technology to improve patient care — the roots of an idea were beginning to form.

Drawing from her youth, Patricia and her friends decided to build a platform that would allow doctors and healthcare workers to capture their notes in digital format. A new way of storing records that would free her younger self from traveling around with bags of paperwork. The team decided to create something that was simple, designed for the user, and captured and analyzed data in real time; Technology that could be deployed across the globe in an effort to capture much-needed healthcare data in underserved countries and harness the power of data science to capture key insights in that data. And in 2012, NotesFirst was born in Southern California.

NotesFirst uses technology in the form of a mobile app to change the way doctors capture and analyze patient medical data in clinics around the world. The system is designed to be light-weight and available to any doctor, in any country, and can be deployed in less than one hour. With the touch of a button on your smartphone or tablet, NotesFirst allows doctors to input patient data into a sophisticated system built to allow for data science applications, and replacing the archaic process of documenting notes by hand.

About 80 percent of people in developing countries rely on local health care, which is often in the form of ill-equipped clinics and local healthcare workers. In clinics across Kenya, things were no different. Doctors were treating patients, but electronic records were not being kept about how many patients were treated, what their diagnoses were, how they were treated, as well as demographic information about the patients themselves.

But that all changed when the clinic doctors and healthcare workers deployed NotesFirst. Within one month of using the data capture technology, they were able to show they saw more than 450 patients in the different clinic sites and they were able to show the top diagnoses. The clinics were able to increase patient visits by more than four each day, and reduced patient wait times by over two hours.

The back end of the app uses data science to analyze all the clinic data in real time and provides more than 100 data points, including the geolocation of top diagnoses, genders, ages of patients, medication prescribed, the average length of a patient encounter, and much more. This system was so powerful, a large pharmaceutical company decided to fund a full data capture system in other African clinics.

Today, as the world is facing a global pandemic, electronic medical data is more critical than ever. It allows for contact tracing, studying spread, identifying those affected, associated symptoms, and treatments. But these efforts are futile if the world’s healthcare workers are still handwriting patient notes on papers and file folders, like those that Patricia carried with her to America. Through sophisticated technology and data science, we can ensure that information is captured, stored, and analyzed so that transformations in medicine can be achieved.

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