What would propel a successful immigrant—having spent 30 years on American shores achieving one milestone after another (an engineering PhD from Michigan State University; an MBA from The Wharton School; leadership positions at Lockheed Martin, NASA, Alcoa, GE, and Masco; 20+ patents, and more) to leave such lucrative career opportunities behind, return to his homeland of India, and found a startup?
For Subhasish Sircar, it was the loss of a friend—a young 32-year old man who was “like a younger brother to me”—that “shook” him to his core…a phone call saying Sauptik “is no more,” having died a mere ten minutes after the onset of CVD-related complications.
Sauptik took good care of himself and, while he may have had a few bad habits, and a family medical history with some issues of note, death at age 32 was by no means inevitable. He did health checks at every birthday; the last one had been a mere two months earlier.
Upon hearing the tragic news, Dr. Sircar dropped everything and returned to India on indefinite leave for some “soul-searching: what took my friend’s life away?” It was his intention to solve a problem, to see whether anything could have been done to save Sauptik. The result? Health Vectors, winner of the 2017 HITLAB World Cup: India.
Sauptik left behind his mother, his wife, and a two-year old son—his void will never be filled. But Dr. Sircar began asking questions. He probed Sauptik’s physicians, saying, “He came to you for a preventive health check and you didn’t prevent anything…he is dead.” The doctors recounted their last conversation with Sauptik, noting they had warned the young man of various risk factors.
But the more Dr. Sircar explored the notion of “preventive health check,” the more he realized the subject was misunderstood. Non-communicable, chronic diseases (NCDs) can be caught in early stages but, once diagnosed, according to Dr. Sircar, it’s really very late. From that point on, “you can only manage the disease and its progression; you’re not going to be able to prevent it.”
To prevent NCDs, you need to predict them, “way before the person shows any symptoms or clinical data indicates an issue.” And then you need to explain exactly what’s needed to avoid the affliction. “The choice is very simple. Either you detect the disease and then take medicines for the rest of your life, or use the step by step guidance that Health Vectors can provide and stave off these chronic diseases for as long as possible.”
Health Vectors is “in the business of saving lives using personal health analytics, artificial intelligence, and predictive modeling,” so that people can “live healthy with certainty.”
To motivate its customers—to bring home the reality of their health futures—Health Vectors tries to increase awareness. The company is now up and running live in 47 hospitals within India. These facilities conduct the clinical health checks, while Health Vectors performs the analytics, providing patient guidance through various tools that impart personalized, specific, preventive, and risk reduction measures. Past health, current health, family history, and lifestyle are all taken into account; algorithms are employed to calculate disease risks; and finally graphics are utilized to show not only the road ahead but also tailored choices…an action plan to help delay or avoid NCDs for which these individuals are prime candidates.
For individual subjects, using clinical and personal health data, Health Vectors creates hyper-personalized guidance solutions and delivers them through reports and apps. For doctors and other health professionals, Health Vectors, through the use of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and cognitive computing, provides medical, nutritional, and physical activity recommendations guidance. For hospitals, Health Vectors is in the process of gleaning all data collected to create a seamless Patient Engagement Platform that will monitor patients’ health information and communicate with them. This tool should help increase patient loyalty and retention, increasing footfalls for hospitals.
Dr. Sircar is refreshingly optimistic about the future, feeling certain that technology will someday enable an error-free partnership between physicians and machines, streamlining the diagnostic, predictive process—enabling more doctor-patient facetime in the bargain.
Health Vectors is thus working toward providing physicians with the (progressively) perfected tools they need to effectively influence patients. Targets are provided, together with the tailored steps needed to attain those targets.
We asked Dr. Sircar about the role genetics may play in Health Vectors’ assessments. He said, “Today almost 38 million people are dying due to non-communicable, chronic diseases around the world on a yearly basis. That translates to roughly 70 deaths per minute. India can boast of about six million of those deaths…approximately ten deaths per minute. So this is an epidemic and it’s only getting worse with time.
“Genetics is important, don’t get me wrong, but genetics only plays a small role (10-11%) in many of these NCDs. The rest is what you do to yourself.”
Family history is requested which, in essence, provides genetic information without going to the often substantial expense of genetic coding. Health Vectors has built a model that acknowledges family issues, and may evolve as technologies are refined, but takes many other important factors into account. For example, diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases all have a genetic component, but lifestyle is even more impactful, and personalized solutions can have a big effect.
Today Health Vectors is collecting roughly about 100,000 data points daily with an immediate goal and visibility of 800,000 data points daily. Health Vectors’ data holds promise not only for individuals with its customized suggestions, but also for companies and communities that may benefit by its population-oriented insights and evolving algorithms. As time goes by, and its data accumulates, the company will be able to add to the ever-expanding knowledge base in the tech community. The goal is to move from an “expert driven model” to a “data driven model.”
Dr. Sircar is filled with excitement about Health Vectors’ future and the company is in the process of raising funds. One product in development: a “dynamic automated planner” mobile app (that can couple with wearables, glucometers, etc.), which will offer highly personalized recommendations for daily diets, exercise requirements, and more, dynamically and automatically adapting parameters such as weight, blood pressure, or sugar level shifts for diabetics.
Many in health tech are rightly inspired by IBM’s Watson. Dr. Sircar humbly explains Health Vectors’ mission is similar, except where Watson is focused on symptoms, Health Vectors is focused on the asymptomatic space, offering warnings that can truly prevent—rather than manage—disease.
Dr. Sircar has never looked back at all he left behind, because he derives so much meaning from his current mission…from making a difference in people’s lives. His passion is palpable, and was certainly felt by our judges at the 2017 HITLAB World Cup: India, who awarded Health Vectors grand prize. HITLAB was thrilled to honor its work and will look forward to following its no doubt substantial future achievements.
Health Vectors welcomes inquiries from clinics and hospitals hoping to improve the health of employees, as well as investors who see promise in its offerings. To connect with Dr. Sircar, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.