When Hua Wang was trying to figure out the best treatments for a family member who had cancer, saying she felt overwhelmed is an understatement.
It took weeks to get an appointment with an oncologist, and often times, the specialist could only spend about 30 minutes laying out the options, leaving little time for the family members to ask any questions they have.
Wang knew there had to be a better way. In 2015, she and a group of three other co-founders started SmartBridge Health with the idea of democratizing cancer treatments in mind.
“I just recall the stress, fear and frustration of trying to find the right information and the doctors, and I remember waking up in the morning and trying to look at stuff on the Internet,” Wang said in an interview. “It made me realize that it’s not really productive and there’s a lot of misinformation.”
SmartBridge offers three different products: same-day online consulting, specialist phone consultations and expert second opinions. Services range in price from $29 to $300.
With a same-day online consulting, patients and caregivers can submit questions to SmartBridge’s oncologists about the treatment plan originally offered to them. Phone consultations are next-day calls with oncologists to talk through all of their options. The expert second opinions provide patients with a report on the various treatment options available to them, something Wang said is not typically offered in oncology appointments.
“Currently, you don’t get a physical report when you go to the doctor or oncologist,” Wang said. “You have a 20-minute consultation, and you often forget what is said.”
SmartBridge exists solely online on its own, and they’ve just joined the CancerAid app, which landed a $500,000 deal on Shark Tank in June, to have their services embedded in the mobile app. SmartBridge also has about $65,000 in funding supporting them from a variety of grants, angel investors and friends & family.
Co-founder Jeremey Force, an oncologist at Duke University in Durham, N.C., heads up the search for network oncologists to join their team. Each oncologist receives 70 percent of the profits for their services.
Now, SmartBridge isn’t the only health tech startup out there offering telehealth options for patients. Starship Technologies, the company behind Postmates’ food delivery robots in D.C., is teaming up with Sibley Memorial Hospital to explore prescription delivery. Urgent Wellness offers systems to let doctors treat patients remotely from their wellness centers.
But Wang said they’re only focused on cancer treatments — that’s what sets them apart. Well, that and they use artificial intelligence to help their oncologists assist SmartBridge patients in a timely manner.
See, SmartBridge keeps a library of validated cancer diagnoses and templates for experts to use in their second opinion reports. This way, the oncologist will only have to look over the report and see if they agree with it. If they have different advice, they can override and tailor the pre-written treatment plan.
“It minimize amount of time a doctor spends with a patient, it allows us to keep our prices accessible,” Wang said. “We’re really trying to become the global source for real-time patient reported outcome.”
SmartBridge launched its platform in March 2017, and the team of seven have seen a variety of different patients use their services.
Yet most patients find their way to SmartBridge through referrals — a friend of a friend used the platform or an oncologist has used them before.
As they continue to grow, the team is focused on global expansion. How can they get more oncologists helping people in countries that don’t have the same amount of access to cancer treatments?
“We want to become a B2B solution,” Wang said. “We would love to have insurance cover our services and employers, as well. We hope to raise money to fully commercialize what we’re doing.”