E-nursing start-up wants to care for LatAm patients

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Brazilian app that works as a digital nurse for chronically ill patients who require constant care is seeking to consolidate its operations nationwide this year, as it prepares to expand to other Latin American and European markets in 2018.

This is according to Gustavo Comitre (pictured), founder and chief product officer of CUCOhealth, which he claims is Brazil's first "digital nursing" service.

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The start-up was created as a college paper. Last year, it was among the seven start-ups selected to participate in the IBM Brasil SmartCamp 2016. CUCO reached the finals and won US$120,000 in credits to use in the acquisition of IBM services and solutions.

Comitre said that the company has also received investments from private funds worth between US$500,000 and US$1mn. Talks with other funds are reportedly underway.

Following a pilot, a final version of the app was launched for Android devices two weeks ago and has since been downloaded around 2,000 times, he said. About 5,000 people have used it since the pilot.

"There were many apps and services focused on hospitals, but we felt there was something missing for basic health care and nursing activities," Comitre told BNamericas.

"One can download the app their his mom's phone, for example, and monitor her treatment from there by registering as a relative. When she doesn't answer the app when she is due to take her medicine or responds that she hasn't taken it, the app sends a warning to the registered relative," Comitre said.

A version for iOS is due to be launched in March and a Spanish edition (the app currently runs in Portuguese and English) should soon be in the works.

Cuco's team comprises 11 people, including a pharmacist and a Stanford advisor specialized in health and medical apps, said the executive.

The app uses a chatbot running over IBM's Watson machine learning platform to support patients with general queries, such as the adverse effects of a given drug or the composition of a specific medicine.

Comitre insists the service does not encourage self-medication or self-diagnosis. "We don't and we can't do that. Apart from working as a remote reminder for medicine-taking times, our focus is clearing up doubts and shedding light on non-specifics."

Over 11,000 questions/answers have been registered in the chatbot database and many others are being added. According to Comitre, the health professional is responsible for filing the questions and also for "teaching" the machine-learning algorithm so the system can search for answers in over 15,000 verified medical pages.

The app is ad-free and has no cost to patients. CUCO charges a monthly subscription fee to healthcare plans and hospitals using it remotely to monitor patients.

Forthcoming steps including taking the app to major public hospitals and clinics and integrating the app into existing medical software and into the platform of Brazil's public health system, the e-SUS.

The goal, Comitre explains, is that when a partner doctor prescribes a treatment or a medicine, the patient will automatically have the details on their app.

Currently, this integration is underway with a hospital in Santa Catarina state and with from São Paulo's Hospital do Coração, to serve cardiac patients.