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GI conditions are costly, prevalent, and shrouded in taboo, leaving millions of people to suffer in silence. Diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) affect nearly one in four adult Americans and generate over $140 billion in direct medical costs each year; per-capita, these individuals cost more than the average diabetes and musculoskeletal patient.
However, there are significant barriers when it comes to accessibility, affordability, and the availability of physicians to build customized, comprehensive plans to address all patient needs, from both a GI care and from a mental health lens, Sam Jactel, founder of Ayble Health, a virtual care provider for people with digestive diseases, told VatorNews.
Jactel founded the company, which raised a $4.6 million seed funding round this week, after being a GI patient for almost a decade and struggling to manage his condition without the right support beyond that of a clinic or medication. He developed Ayble Health as the tool he wished had existed when he was diagnosed.
"Due to a national shortage of gastroenterologists (we expect a shortage of almost 2,000 GIs in the country), there is a heightened pressure on physicians to diagnose patients in short appointment windows, leading to a significant drop off in support after prescriptions are ordered," he said.
"On top of that, there is an even bigger shortage of GI-focused dietitians and psychologists, which exacerbates the gap between supply and demand, causing appointment wait times to exceed nine months in many cases. The current population of GIs are not evenly spread geographically throughout the country, so many people struggle to find quality care and treatment options near them."
Founded in 2020, Ayble Health is a precision health platform empowering gastrointestinal patients with chronic conditions, including IBS and IBD, to manage their care. Over a period of 12 to 16 weeks, the Ayble Health mobile app and its expert dietetics team help GI patients identify their unique trigger foods and build a customized diet that measurably improves their symptoms.
Ayble's nutrition program, which was built with researchers at Harvard Medical School, Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham & Women’s, starts with a health assessment, where the company learns who the patient is, what they're struggling with, and what matters to them; after that, the company builds a personalized nutrition plan to help identify and eliminate any food that triggers their symptoms.
Patients are also given access to a GI dietician that they can get in touch with anytime and from anywhere, as well as the ability to see how their symptoms change over time to find the root causes of flares and discomfort. The platform also includes educational tools, including foods and 2.3 million recipes, as well as a Learning Hub with articles, videos, and resources.
"Ayble Health is tenacious in its pursuit to transform the standard of care for GI patients, combining the largest GI behavioral health database in the world with its proprietary machine learning algorithms to build personalized, predictive care for every patient - all with the human touch of a licensed care team," said Jactel.
"It’s important to note that Ayble doesn’t disintermediate the physician - it aims to be another tool in the physician toolbox, giving physicians the ability to extend care beyond the 4 walls of the clinic and patients the support they need at home."
The company is planning to launch the platform commercially in early 2023 after spending the last three years conducting its own primary clinical research to explore how its precision nutrition program works for GI patients.
Overall, the study showed that a digital personalized elimination diet program improved symptoms for 81% of patients with IBS and IBD; for almost 70% of them, the program helped them completely eliminate all of their symptoms.
It also showed high engagement and utilization metrics, with 95% daily engagement, over 90% adherence, and 95% retention. At the same time, patient-reported quality of life improved for 89% of participants.
"Ayble Health is not simply digitizing the current standard of care: through our groundbreaking clinical research and partnerships, we’re demonstrating how we can build a new gold standard of care, one that’s personalized, pragmatic and predictive rather than one-size-fits-all and reactive," said Jactel.
The company's new funding round was co-led by Upfront Ventures and M13, along with Founder Collective and Inflect Health, and it plans to use this money to continue its clinical research with seven of the top ten academic medical centers in the US, launch its platform commercially, and develop a complementary machine learning-driven psychology program.
The name Ayble Health is meant to underscore the company's mission: to empower users, give them back their control and sense of self, and break the frustration cycle plaguing many GI patients, Jactel explained.
"Through this lens, Ayble Health is 'able' to meet the individual where they are, not where the health system expects them to be. This approachable, informative and relatable foundation as a patient-founded company is core to Ayble Health’s identity," he said.
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