This article was originally published on the Giant Health blog.
In September our CMO and one of Ada’s founders, Dr. Claire Novorol, had the pleasure of “sitting down” with Giant Health’s editor, Nakai Jirira to share some of her insights on Ada, healthcare innovation and Ada’s Global Health Initiative.
Nakai: What do you think is the key problem that Ada Health has been trying to solve since the company was founded and do you think that has evolved?
Dr. Novorol: We founded Ada Health in 2011 and from the very beginning, we’ve been focused on combining global medical knowledge with a unique AI approach in order to improve health outcomes. As we look to create new possibilities for the future of personal health, we’re constantly evolving and enhancing Ada’s offering and pioneering innovative solutions for tomorrow.
Ada’s AI-powered health platform was originally designed as a specialist tool to support clinicians in the diagnostic process. However we realised that to have the biggest impact possible on outcomes, we needed to put this technology into the hands of users. Therefore, in 2016, we launched our consumer facing app, allowing anyone with a smartphone to access high quality, personalized health information and guidance, anytime, anywhere, for free.
Ada has grown and evolved a lot over the past nine years, but we remain committed to the same core purpose: improving human health by transforming knowledge into better outcomes.
Through our personalized health assessment app, we’re empowering individuals to proactively manage their health. And through our collaborations and partnerships, we’re supporting clinicians and health organizations with high quality clinical assessments and care navigation, helping to reduce unnecessary care, speeding up time to diagnosis and helping health systems, payers and providers save money and resources.
We are committed to working with both individuals and healthcare organizations to tackle the global health challenges of today and tomorrow, and improving health outcomes for all.
What do you think is the best thing about your product?
The best thing about Ada is our commitment to medical quality. Ada was originally built by doctors, for doctors, so ensuring the highest possible medical quality has always been our number one priority.
Our team of medical professionals ensures that our medical knowledge base offers the most comprehensive condition coverage, and we’re continually improving Ada’s technology to ensure that we offer best-in-class, industry-leading clinical accuracy.
As a result of this commitment, preliminary results from a number of studies indicate that Ada is likely to be the most accurate and comprehensive symptom assessment available on the market.
But what really makes Ada special is that our commitment to medical quality goes beyond our own offering. We want to ensure the highest medical standards across the entire sector, not just for our users. That’s why we’re constantly collaborating with organizations across the industry to drive forward industry research and encourage independent assessment and evaluation.
For example, Ada is the topic driver for benchmarking AI-based symptom checkers within AI4H, a new global initiative from the World Health Organization, committed to establishing globally consistent standards for AI in healthcare.
How, if at all, have you tried to connect with those that use your product?
Communication and collaboration are critically important in healthcare and they are a key part of our focus at Ada.
For consumers, we wanted to ensure that Ada was easy to download and use, so we spent a lot of time on designing a UI that users would love. In order to reach as many people as possible, we’ve made Ada available in English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Swahili and Romanian - languages spoken by approximately 2.86 billion people around the world.
We also partner with health providers, governments and other organizations to bring Ada to their users and communities. By collaborating with local partners around the world, we’re able to connect with potential users at a deeper level, and can ensure that Ada is tailored to each and every community it serves for the greatest possible impact.
We think it’s really important to listen to what our users are saying, which is why we take user feedback incredibly seriously, and are constantly looking to improve the experience for our global user base of over 10 million.
We also continuously conduct user research and work closely with the medical community and industry partners to iteratively improve Ada’s user experience, for example by optimising flow, improving intuitiveness and adding natural language processing. This has helped us build, and continuously refine, an award-winning user experience for Ada users around the world.
Ada is empowering users to become active members of their care team; how we connect, and communicate, with our community in this process is fundamental to its success.
What do you think the future looks like for Ada Health and Health Tech innovation in general and how does it make you feel?
The Covid-19 pandemic has transformed the healthcare and healthtech industries. We’ve seen increased collaboration as companies around the world have come together to combat the pandemic, and the rate of adoption of new technologies has drastically accelerated with innovative technologies providing vital support for individuals and health systems across all aspects of care.
It’s an important shift. People have recognised the value that digital health solutions can bring for some time, but the pandemic has encouraged them to enact real change at scale. Looking ahead, I expect to see this continue, with digital health solutions firmly cementing themselves in our everyday lives.
That said, we need to ensure the industry is able to mature alongside this accelerated growth, making sure we are thorough about addressing core issues, such as regulation, data privacy, quality assurance, interoperability, integration and more. If we get it right, the benefits of this change will be considerable, from easing the immense pressure being put on health systems to better informing and empowering users.
As someone with first-hand experience of the pressures of being a frontline health worker, this is a really exciting prospect. I’m optimistic that the future for healthcare and healthtech will be more collaborative and impact focused, with tech companies, care providers, policymakers and insurers working together to improve patient outcomes and support health systems in the delivery of value-based, patient-centric care.
What do you think is the biggest challenge in healthcare at a global level?
Globally, four billion people around the world lack access to basic health services and, due to population growth, the global shortfall in health workers is expected to be over 12.9 million by 2035. Digital solutions like Ada can play a huge role in tackling this professional resource gap and widespread clinical shortages. By directing individuals to the right care in the first instance, we can support health professionals and improve both efficiency and access, at scale.
That’s why, in 2019, we launched The Ada Global Health Initiative, a series of major projects dedicated to using AI to improve the availability and delivery of healthcare in underserved populations worldwide. To achieve our goal, we partner with like-minded organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Fondation Botnar and the Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences.
Last year, we launched Ada in Swahili and Romanian, making it the world’s first AI health guidance app to be localised for both languages and regions. The Swahili version of the app is opening up access to healthcare and guidance for over 100 million Swahili speakers across East and Sub-Saharan Africa - an area that is disproportionately affected by the global shortage in health workers, with only one physician per 1,000 people on average.
Language barriers are also a key part of the issue when it comes to healthcare access, which is why we’re also currently working on launching Ada in Simplified English.
There’s still a great deal to be done to address today’s global health crisis, and we’re committed to collaborating with organizations around the world to tackle this challenge together and ensure anyone, anywhere, has access to the healthcare they need.
What has been the most exciting thing for your and the team at Ada?
It’s always exciting to be at the forefront of something truly transformative, and feel the impact that Ada has on a daily basis.
Every new user, partnership or research paper takes us one step closer to our goal, and the team is continually working on some amazingly innovative projects.
That said, this year Ada was named a 2020 Tech Pioneer by the World Economic Forum, which was an incredible moment for the team. It’s great to see health tech innovations like Ada receive this recognition, and we’re excited to continue our work with organizations around the world to unlock new possibilities for personal health and improve outcomes.