The Catalyst for BeCare Link
The story of BeCare Link sprung from tragedy. The co-founders of BeCare Link, CEO Larry Rubin and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Charisse Litchman both lost someone who was the pillar of their lives – the same person. Dr. Beth Deutch, Larry’s wife and Charisse’s older sister, passed away unexpectedly in December 2014.
The tragedy: Beth’s death was avoidable. The list of contributing factors is long. Failure to detect her disease earlier, lack of easy access to her physicians, a healthcare system overwhelmed by staff shortages and the difficulty of scheduling patients, and seemingly deaf ears to Beth’s vocal and heightening concerns over new and worsening symptoms. The perfect — or in the eyes of her loved ones, imperfect — storm was realized because a new diagnosis was missed, and significant changes went undetected.
Tragedy as an Inspiration
However, tragedy can inspire positive good.
A Tibetan saying from Dalai Lama advises those suffering to utilize tragedy as a source of strength. Similarly, during his 1968 presidential campaign, Robert F. Kennedy, who knew tragedy, described tragedy as “a tool for the living to gain wisdom.”
From their shared loss, Larry Rubin and Charisse founded BeCare Link in 2017.
The tragedy helped BeCare Link’s Co-founders identify a glaring need in healthcare which they believed that emerging digital technology could address. Together, Rubin and Charisse envisioned an app that would help detect patients’ abnormalities and physical changes remotely and earlier in the disease course. Importantly, their vision put patients in the driver’s seat. The app would be available whenever the patient felt the need for an evaluation. Furthermore, the results would empower patients to take an active role in their own healthcare.
The Co-founders are uniquely qualified to take on their ambitious goal. Rubin’s expertise in artificial intelligence coupled with Charisse’s career as a neurologist created the foundation to launch BeCare Link. They chose to focus on chronic neurologic disorders, as there was – and still is — a clear need for increased patient access to verified neurologic assessments.
State of Neurology
From a long career in neurology, Charisse realized that, even in most experts’ hands, neurologic evaluation is based on qualitative, and not quantitative data. Furthermore, limited access to accurate neurologic evaluation was becoming a growing challenge because supply and demand had moved in opposite direction. The demand, driven by a growth of patients with neurologic conditions, is expanding. In contrast, the number of neurologists to treat them is contracting. A 2013 NIH study projected that the number of neurologists will shrink by 20 percent over the next 20 years. Today, over 50% of neurologic patients are seen by non-neurologists, mostly primary care physicians who do not perform a neurologic exam for 50% of their patients and may not be trained in the significance of abnormalities they might find on exam. (For more about this healthcare challenge, read our blog Neurologic Exams: The Difficulty of Detecting Neurologic Disease).
Another development over the past decade has fueled BeCare Link’s drive to help patients suffering from neurologic disorders. Pharmaceutical advancements have multiplied the number of available effective treatments for patients. While good news, the increase in available effective medication is hampered by the above-mentioned shortage in neurologists. Hence, the dilemma.
New Medications for Neurologic Disorders
In fact, the available medications can be life changing. For example, there are an increasing number of MS medications that can mitigate disease progression for a lifetime. Without drug intervention, MS patients may instead end up wheelchair bound and burdened by severe disability. Over the last year alone, new drugs for Alzheimer’s disease have been approved that slow the disease progression as no intervention has to date.
However, it has become clear that to have the greatest effect, these medications must be started early, preferably pre-clinically. Which is to say, years before there is any indication that the disease has started to erode the brain. Effective, early treatment requires early detection, and ongoing monitoring to detect change and decline.
And that begs a challenging question: how does one detect a disease pre-clinically?
BeCare Link Solution
That is where the BeCare Link app comes in. BeCare Link’s digital platform produces a detailed quantitative neurologic assessment. The apps for MS and the soon-to-be released one for general neurology may detect abnormalities long before the changes are evident to patients, to caregivers, to primary care doctors, and to neurologists.
How Does BeCare Link Work
Here’s a brief overview of how the BeCare Link apps work to produce its quantitative neurologic assessment. The app features:
- Game-like Activities: The BeCare Link apps have activities that patients perform as games on their mobile phone to measure cognitive function, motor function, sensory function, cerebellar function, optic nerve function, and ambulation. Click here to watch short video demos of the 13 activities on BeCare MS Link. Patients are encouraged to use the app and engage with the activities once a month or when they sense a change. (Take a look here at each of BeCare MS Link assessment activities).
- Questionnaire: A questionnaire section contains the gold standard scales followed in a specialist’s office.
- Application of AI: The platform uniquely leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to calculate disability scores that can give the patient — and their physician — guidance as to when there is an abnormality in the exam. Importantly, the app can detect a change in the users’ neurologic performance.
As BeCare Link’s Co-founders know from personal experience, knowledge about one’s medical condition is power. When BeCare Link’s results show a change in the exam – a patient and their doctor can be prompted to make a needed change in therapy. Notably, the patient can see their own data and reach out to their physician for help in a timely fashion. Similarly, the physician will have access to that data for them to interpret in guiding their patient’s care.
Currently the BeCare MS link app is on the app stores free of charge. Coming in the next few months will be a BeCare Neuro Link app. This will be a game-changer for remote care by neurologists and primary care physicians. Plus, for people who suspect neurologic issues or have a family history of neurologic disorders, BeCare Neuro Link will be available for self-screening. Now that’s the ultimate tool for self-care!
Have questions for Dr. Litchman or Larry Rubin? Please put them in the comment field.