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Advancing Synergy: empowering patients

By Nick Sohr, Managing Editor, MDBIZNews

At the helm of a small Maryland startup, Arti Patel Varanasi hopes to boost the chances of surviving breast cancer not with new medicine or treatment, but with information, communication and laptop computers.

Varanasi’s company, Advancing Synergy, is testing its technology platform in collaboration with the Prevention and Research Center at Baltimore’s Mercy Medical Center.

The online platform, called Technology Enhanced Nurse Navigation, or TENN, steers breast cancer patients through their treatment, a digital supplement to their face-to-face interactions with doctors, nurses and others.

“Oftentimes people have a diagnosis, they’re scared, they don’t really know what’s going on,” said Varanasi. “Sometimes they have limited interactions with their care providers. They’re curious about knowing how other people manage the disease and want to understand more about their treatment itself.”

TENN offers users a wide range of information on their disease and treatment, from nutrition, exercise and relaxation tips to the experiences of other patients and common symptoms.

The system also allows patients to contact treatment navigators via email or live chats. Varanasi said that type of interaction can yield answers to many questions, but also empowers patients to ask more informed questions of their treatment team.

“It’s not providing medical care,” she said.” It’s providing support.”

TENN also compiles information on the patient’s diagnosis and treatment, and stores the patient’s treatment schedule in hopes of keeping the patient on track.

“Getting the right treatment at the right time is very critical for their survival,” said Varanasi.

Advancing Synergy and Mercy are conducting a trial run for the technology that will eventually put it in the hands of 100 low-income breast cancer patients. They’ll access the TENN system with netbook computers provided by the study team.

Varanasi said the response in the first few months has been positive.

Her company is part of a growing group of Maryland businesses operating at the intersection of healthcare and information technology, using the web and software platforms to deliver better patient care and cut down on expensive emergency care while doing it.

One of the leaders in the field, Get Real, is working with hospital systems, local and state-level governments and federal agencies to set up health care information exchanges to enhance interaction between providers and patients.

Varanasi said Advancing Synergy’s products could be delivered directly to consumers, or licensed to hospitals and health care systems to supplement their traditional care regimens in cancer and other diseases.

“Navigation is also used in the management of other chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, etc., as well as cancer,” she said. “So what we’ve developed is actually an application framework that can be used for chronic disease management overall.”

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