HealthSnap offers continuous care for patients with chronic illnesses

Associate Professor Wes Smith developed software that led to the creation of an integrated virtual care platform, which provides proactive remote treatment for people with chronic diseases.

When Wesley “Wes” Smith was working as a lifeguard in Ocean City, Maryland, he noticed that whenever violent and dangerous waves broke in shallow water, many swimmers were victims of serious spinal injuries.

“One day, there were five neck injuries before noon from the beach break and I said, ‘Enough,'” he said. “I got everyone out of the water and explained the risks.”

He said there were no injuries after that.

“I learned the importance of education as a form of prevention,” he added. That realization led Smith, assistant professor of professional practice in the University of Miami School of Education and Human Development, to create a program that eventually turned into a remote monitoring system — HealthSnap — for patients with chronic illnesses. Since its inception in 2018, the business has served thousands of patients and has generated millions of dollars in revenue.

It all started in 2008 when Smith wanted to provide physiology and nutrition students with internship opportunities. Working with many of the health care providers he knows and Healthy Canes clinics, he puts his students in medical offices to use the software he created to conduct patient assessments and make lifestyle recommendations to complement their care. This integrated system and technology platform has been called the Barriers Initiative.

Smith shared that his work was inspired by Dr. Dennis Burkett, a British surgeon and medical researcher, who once said that “If people are constantly falling off a cliff, you can put ambulances under the cliff or build a fence on top of the cliff. Ambulances under the cliff.”

So, in building his fence to deliver preventative healthcare, Smith began using evidence-based algorithms. He has designed several methods for monitoring key indicators in patients’ health.

“There were about 50 things that we monitored and looked at, including cardiovascular fitness, blood pressure, calorie intake and expenditure, nutrition, even attitude,” he said.

Dan Morheim, a dual college graduate with a BA in Exercise Physiology and a MA in Nutrition for Health and Human Performance, began working with Guardrails as a sophomore. He would meet patients in a clinic, and if they agreed, he would do a health evaluation.

“Patients were doing a short questionnaire about their health,” he said, “and I would also ask them about their health — ‘how much you eat, how much you sleep.’” “It was a gun approach.”

The assessment took 15-30 minutes and the patient left the medical facility with a report providing him with a comprehensive assessment of his health as well as recommendations for his improvement. These guidelines included guidance on hydration, nutritional advice, and even strength and stretching exercises to suit their needs and prevent disease. The system also allowed the doctor to enter the patient’s information into an electronic portal.

Mourheim said that once patients receive their health assessment reports, he will go over all the numbers on the charts and explain what they mean and areas that need improvement.

“I think one of the best things about this program is that it allows patients to sort of look at their health in a kind of bigger way,” he said. “There are a lot of things that affect your health, like exercise, what you eat and how active you are. It can be overwhelming.”

Morhaim now works full time at HealthSnap as a care navigator.

Ultimately, to simplify the system, the researchers looked to integrate home devices and wearable technology into the health monitoring system to provide this service remotely. Norma Kenyon, deputy dean of innovation and chief innovation officer at the Miller School of Medicine, was one of the first people to see that the health monitoring system had a great future.

“[Former School of Education and Human Development] “Dean Isaac Briltinsky and I were discussing innovative projects and he invited me into his office for a presentation by Dr. Smith,” Kenyon said. “As a diabetes researcher, I’ve seen many health-focused platforms for type 1 diabetes. I liked the handrail – it was more comprehensive, easy to use, and interesting than other technologies I’ve seen.”

Kenyon told Smith that the platform could be the basis for the business.

“He got a look that he thought I was ‘out there,’” she said. “It took some convincing, but Wes came and worked with the TTO and the result was HealthSnap.”

HealthSnap clients now serve thousands of patients across the country, including New York’s Montefiore Hospital System, the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, and OkoHealth, Inc. University Trustee Philip Frost.

According to Smith, the fact that HealthSnap is a remote patient monitoring system that provides telehealth has been very useful during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was a serendipitous event that we had a remote monitoring system in place to keep patients out of hospitals. What the pandemic required was to get patients away from hospitals,” Smith said. “We were prepared to meet that need, especially for immunocompromised patients.”

Currently, HealthSnap uses nurses to do intake and monitor patients. Smith hopes that future work will provide more opportunities for graduates from kinesiology programs to help these patients. So that they can incorporate necessary lifestyle data to improve patient health alongside conventional treatment.

“We hope that HealthSnap will be the first to offer students in our field job opportunities in healthcare,” said Smith, who is the company’s chief science officer.

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