Catalia Health: Interview with Cory Kidd


Catalia Health is on a mission to address both sides of the healthcare equation: improving patients’ health and extending the capabilities and efficiency of healthcare companies. With an aim to catalyse lasting behaviour change for patients, wherever they are, by providing them with encouragement and motivation to achieve the best possible medical outcomes. At the same time, they provide deep insights to healthcare companies to optimise the efficacy of their services. They believe that to improve behaviour they have to measure it—and keep measuring it over the long term. That’s why they came up with Mabu—because a platform should be easy to use, engaging, and tailored to each patient. It’s estimated that 117 million people could end up using this particular robot.

Can you tell us a little bit about Catalia Health?

The big picture overview is that Catalia Health is a chronic disease care management company, so we help patients who are dealing with chronic conditions to do so more successfully. Our customers are large pharma companies and hospital systems who are looking to help keep patients on therapy or out of the hospital for longer and we do this in a very unique way from an interface and technology standpoint. We give our patients a cute little robot that sits on their kitchen counter, bedside table, or on the coffee table in the living room and talks to them. Most of the work that we do on the technology side is on the artificial intelligence algorithms running in the background that are creating a conversation for that specific patient at that point in time. We’re able to tailor the conversation based on what we know about them medically and psychologically, and the data we learn through those conversations is sent back to the human caregiver, whether that be the doctor, care manager, nurse or pharmacist. We’re helping those individuals provide better care to more patients in a much more scalable way than is available today.

Tell us a little bit about Mabu

The robot itself, the interface we give to patients, is Mabu – this cute little robot that sits on someone’s kitchen counter or bedside table and has a conversation with a patient — just talking back and forth. From a robotics perspective, it’s a relatively simple device since it doesn’t walk around or move around the home. The head and the eyes do move; she’ll look at you and make eye contact while she’s talking to you. She speaks out loud and there’s a screen on the front that also shows what she’s saying. Patients can respond by either speaking back to Mabu or using the buttons on the screen. The interaction is very simple, as is the setup process. Patients can take her out of the box, plug her in, and hit the power button and that’s it. Everything else happens through conversation.

How can your company work synergistically with existing medical practices?

A key to our success is in how we work with our customers to fit in with their existing workflows. At Catalia Health, our team is a mix of technical, clinical, and business people. The latter two really help to understand how our customers’ practices work today to help ensure that we fit into how they treat patients currently. Part of what we do when we’re working with our customers is to understand how they’re working with patients now and what improvements can be made. Essentially, we come from an overall workflow perspective in order to fit into what is currently working. We’re not trying to change everything, we’re trying to give our customers a tool that they can use as part of their existing practice to better manage patients. Practically speaking, what that means is that as we are developing a new application, we have to consider how we get the data back from Mabu, into the doctor’s office, to the right person, and in a way that’s going to help them do their job in a more efficient way. The answer to that varies depending which customer or partner we’re working with but overall that’s the focus of how we work with our customers.

How much is AI a part of your solution and can you explain in depth the practical applications of AI?

AI is a core component of our solution. Overall though, we break down what we do as having three major pieces: psychology, medicine, and AI. The foundation comes from psychology and how we engage patients, which is before we even start to think about the technology. The two types of psychology that we draw from are the psychology of relationships — how do we as people create, build up, and maintain relationships over time — as well as the psychology of behavior change — how do we help someone to continue to do something over time that they’re trying to achieve? The second component that we utilise are medical guidelines and best practices. In other words, what is the treatment plan that were helping a particular patient or population with? And the third piece that ties all of that together is the artificial intelligence algorithms. The key thing these algorithms do is to generate a conversation for a patient in real time. In the background we’re building up medical and psychological models of each individual and then the algorithms use that information in order to create that particular conversation. A conversation may start off with some version of “how are you feeling today?” and based on the patient’s answer, the conversation could go off in many different directions. Having those AI algorithms that are able to create that tailored conversation are key to what really makes this work.

What makes Catalia health the better choice for the medical industry?

If we look at the competition in the marketplace, we consider two types of things. On of the technology side, we see a lot of gadgets, devices, and apps that are trying to solve the narrower challenges around medication adherence that is a small part of what Mabu helps with. A big distinction between those technologies and Mabu is that they focus on the supposed problem of people forgetting to take their medication. You end up with a lot of reminders from texts, alarms, beeping, glowing, and talking devices. But the issue is that the real challenge that patients have is not forgetting to take their medications. The real issues are around symptom and side effect management and the psycho-social issues that come with chronic disease. With chronic disease we unfortunately have much higher incidence of anxiety, depression, and stress-related issues, and these are the things that Mabu really focuses on.

Despite the number of these gadgets, the real way these programs are delivered to patients today is through nurses in call centers making phone calls to patients. This involves a lot of people’s time, and that means that the reality is that they can interact with patients very infrequently. What we’re doing at Catalia Health is not replacing those people and the calls they make once or twice a month. The reality for patients dealing with these issues is there are challenges every single day. We know that there is a way to fill in the days in between those calls and get the information that Mabu uncovers back to the nurses and doctors that are providing the care so that they can be proactive about well-timed follow up. And when they do make that outreach they’re armed with a lot more information to come into the conversation in a way that’s going to be much more helpful to the individual dealing with this disease.

What also makes us the better choice is where we are in our timeline compared to other technology that may be coming onto the market in the coming years. If you take a look at this video of Mabu in action, you’ll see this is well past a concept – these robots are actually in production now, and we’re about to start shipping to patients initially around the United States where our initial pharmaceutical manufacturer and healthcare system customers are based. In just a few weeks time, patients will be getting these and soon we’ll be expanding to other parts of the world. One of the things that we are always looking for are additional health care systems and pharma companies who are looking to deploy Mabu, as well as patients who would like to try out Mabu. If you or a loved one is dealing with a chronic condition, we encourage you to visit our website, and send us a message about trying Mabu.

Robotics News, December 13