4 questions with PotentiaMetrics CEO Robert Palmer on personalized healthcare

Robert Palmer boasts 20-plus years of experience in data analytics — but he chose to focus his career on healthcare after his father was diagnosed with metastatic cancer.

"The diagnosis was terrifying and the treatment choices were complex, with profound quality of life and economic implications," Mr. Palmer says, adding that although he trusted the medical team's expertise, his family was still left with unanswered questions about his father's treatment.

"This experience heightened my awareness of the limitations of the current evidence base and the need for personalized approaches to cancer care," he continues.

Today, Mr. Palmer serves as chairman, president and CEO of PotentiaMetrics, an Austin, Texas-based healthcare analytics company that spun out from Washington University Medical Center in St. Louis. The company's data analytics and artificial intelligence platforms help providers, payers and medical technology companies inform personalized treatment plans by comparing patient-level outcome data related to survival, quality of life and cost of care.

"Obtaining data is not enough," Mr. Palmer says. "It must also yield meaningful and actionable insight."

Mr. Palmer spoke with Becker's Hospital Review about how, through his work with PotentiaMetrics, he hopes to apply real-world datasets to drive personalized healthcare.

Editor's note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Question: What sparked your interest in healthcare analytics?

Robert Palmer: A cardiac surgery group asked me to develop models to determine clinical and economic outcomes for different surgical approaches. While I was developing these models, my father was diagnosed with metastatic cancer. My family trusted his physician's prognosis and advice, but in the end, we were left with difficult personal and emotional decisions, with no right answer or positive outcome potential. We wanted to know: How long might he live? How much longer if he obtained different treatments? What were the tradeoffs for different options on his quality of life? To make an informed decision, my family — like thousands of others facing similar issues — needed answers.

Q: How does PotentiaMetrics fit into the broader healthcare landscape?

RP: There are many solutions in the marketplace that address population-level analysis and metrics — yet we do not treat populations; we treat patients. And while patients are unique, our current system is largely "one size fits all," with treatment protocols based only on a select group of patients represented in clinical trials. Without rich clinical and financial outcomes information, including comparatives, it's impossible to determine the "value" of different treatments for each patient. This is challenging, because there are few sources of information that support comparative analysis for different medical technologies and the heterogeneity of patient and provider characteristics.

Q: How does PotentiaMetrics address challenges to working with patient data?

RP: A major challenge health IT companies face is accessing meaningful patient data, because there are few sources of information that support comparative analysis. Randomized controlled trials remain the gold standard for evaluating treatment efficacy. However, trials are not always feasible, practical or timely, and often don't adequately reflect patient heterogeneity and real-world clinical practice. Another source of patient data is the EHR, which provides a massive amount of information. However, it is primarily designed to support billing and adherence to process. Likewise, paid claims data doesn't contain the level of information or context required to support personalized care. 

Although most analysis is based on evidence from clinical studies, EHRs or paid claims data, it is very difficult to use these results to develop risk-adjusted prediction and treatment models for individual patients. PotentiaMetrics' approach takes the time and effort to obtain registry data from multiple institutions, including observational data. While we do not take ownership of intuitions' outcomes data, over time we have obtained unique access, resulting in outcomes databases that support risk-adjusted analysis. We are also developing our own proprietary database of longitudinal patient-reported outcome data.

Q: What are your main goals for PotentiaMetrics in 2018?

RP: Since the company's launch in 2014, we have engaged with customers across the spectrum of healthcare, including providers, payers and medical technology companies. In the process, our customers have seen the value of our product and services and it has enhanced how they deliver outcome-based value to the market. In 2018, we plan to expand our presence in the market, increase marketing and sales to accelerate growth, expand market awareness, and impact healthcare with AI, advanced data assessment and actionable insights.

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