Noted Sonoma County tech innovator teams with Petaluma health clinic on digital health project
Michael Hatfield became a legend in Sonoma County tech circles understanding, monitoring and processing the vast array of data coursing through telecommunications networks.
The 56-year-old entrepreneur used that same knowledge and expertise when he turned last spring to the human body for his latest technology venture.
The advent and explosion of mobile devices and wearable technology such as Fitbits, Apple watches and smart medical implants have ushered in a new era of digital health systems analysis, one that can keep people healthy and even alive.
“It’s a very similar model to a piece of equipment in terms of how much data is coming out,” Hatfield said. “It’s only recent that humans can actually spew that much data, because before it was just a visit to the doctor’s office, they do what they do there and that was the picture of what was going on.”
Last April, Hatfield and his team embarked on creating a new mobile health platform that monitors and manages patients’ personal health data and shares that information with the people who provide medical care for them.
The mobile app and web-based platform give people detailed control over the specific data they want to share, as well as whom they want to share it with. It then allows medical providers to stay on top of a patient’s health outcomes, their treatment both in and outside the doctor’s office.
For a partner, Hatfield and his new company, Carium, turned to the Petaluma Health Center, one of the county’s most innovative community clinics that was already “mining” its patients’ electronic health records with specialized software to identify patient needs such as immunizations, Pap smears, colon cancer screenings and any other preventative treatment.
Carium and the health center are testing two medical projects - one focused on patient referrals to outside specialists and the other to manage and support patients with Type 2 diabetes. Each test project has a patient roster of 20 people. But the hope is that Carium can be expanded to the rest of the Petaluma Health Center’s patient population.
Dr. Danielle Oryn, the health center’s chief medical informatics officer, said Carium allows the clinic to log, process and analyze a plethora of data easily available with wearable devices and other monitoring tools patients now have at home. Medical providers, she said, are not set up to handle that volume or flow of continuous data.
“What do we do with someone’s daily step count. … It has to be processed into something meaningful,” she said. “If one of my patients is sending me their steps every day, how do I take that and make it into information that’s useful and how do we use that to help them improve their health.”
Creating communications equipment, software and services to help others process and manage huge flows of information is what Hatfield does best.
In the past two decades, the tech pioneer has spearheaded several successful communications startups. In 2006, Hatfield co-founded Cyan Inc., a Petaluma telecom company that went public in 2013 with an $88 million initial stock offering and was later acquired by Ciena Corp. for $400 million.
In 1997, Hatfield helped to launch Cerent, an optical equipment maker also based in Petaluma. That company was acquired in 1999 by Cisco for $7.3 billion, at the time the biggest corporate buyout in Sonoma County history.
That same year, he founded Calix, another startup that went public in 2010 with an $82 million stock offering. Hatfield has a proven track record of success, said Ben Stone, executive director of the Sonoma Countuy Economic Development Board.
Stone said he’s known Hatfield for 25 years, since the entrepreneur’s early days in Telecom Valley, a once-thriving telecommunications sector that stretched from Petaluma to Santa Rosa, employed thousands and made billions of dollars.
“He brings both knowledge of technology and a broader world view,” Stone said. “He sees problems as opportunities and uses new technologies to help solve them.”
For Petaluma Health Center patients, the Carium app gives personalized information and support to help them manage their conditions and reach health goals. Diabetic patients can keep track of their blood glucose, as the app makes suggestions on healthy foods choices.
In the case of referrals, the app provides the necessary information and “hand-holding” for patients to follow through on their specialty care after they’ve left the clinic. Oryn, the health center’s medical informatics officer, said patients often fall off the radar.
“If we happened to receive a note from the specialist, that obviously meant they had been there,” she said. “Otherwise, at a certain point in time we have staff people who would spend time calling the specialists’ offices to say did this person come there … how about this person, how about this person?”
She said Carium makes that process more seamless.
Hatfield said the app can be tailored to fit the patient’s specific health care needs. To that end, Hatfield and his team hired people with experience working on some of the biggest names in mobile apps.
“We have people on the team who worked at United Airlines, Pandora and Instagram,” he said.
Aside from partnering with the Petaluma health clinic, Hatfield said he is also working with health care organizations in other states using Carium to address such issues as weight loss and hypertension.
To date, $6 million has been invested in the Carium startup, Hatfield said. Its primary customers will be medical providers, such as health centers, hospitals and community groups that help patients with their health care needs.
Hatfield said partnering with the Petaluma center was an ideal fit because the organization already was using health care metrics to analyze its patient population. Oryn, he said, is a “leading light” in the area of managing and collecting such data.
“We’re very fortunate to have such a high-quality facility like the Petaluma Health Center,” Hatfield said. “The thing that I’ve been excited about with this collaboration is we’re doing it all right here in Petaluma, but it’s going to have impact outside of Petaluma.”
You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or email@example.com.