Neatsy and Massachusetts General Hospital launch telemedicine platform for orthopedists

Steven Loeb · February 7, 2023 · Short URL:

The company uses a smartphone camera to create a 3D model of a user's foot

AI in healthcare is growing quickly: it's expected to reach over $120 billion globally by 2028, with a compound annual growth rate of 41.8%. Even now, it's already revolutionizing the way that different diseases are measured, diagnosed, and treated, from heart disease to eye health, even how hospitals and healthcare facilities are staffed.

Neatsy is a company using the technology to bring the orthopedic and podiatry space into the 21st century, deploying AI and AR to detect health issues with an iPhone camera. Users just scan their feet with their smartphone to identify potential ailments, and to receive details about their feet, including length, width, and arch, which can they use to get accurate footwear sizing recommendations for insoles.

Now the company is taking it a step further, announcing a new partnership with Massachusetts General Hospital on Monday as well as the launch of a patient portal that will allow doctors to access the 3D model and AI risk assessments so they can confirm a diagnosis remotely. 

With this tool, over 20,000 orthopedists will have access to a dashboard that contains patient information, 3D foot scans, a proposed diagnosis, as well as treatment recommendations, including physical therapy and orthotic insoles.

"Imagine you're a podiatrist, and I'm your patient and I'm telling you, 'I have pain in my knee,' or 'I have pain in my foot.' In a normal telehealth consultation the doctor will say they have to see you in person to really see where it hurts. You can point at your foot where it hurts, but they want to see how it aligns and whether there are any deformities, and if there are then you'll get an x-ray,'" Artem Semjanow, the founder and CEO of Neatsy, said in an interview.

"What what we actually enable here is that the doctor can now say, 'go to the App Store, download this app, click a special link, and I will see your 3D models and I'll tell you what ailments you potentially have.' Then they can tell you whether you have to take get more advanced and expensive tests, like x-rays or CT scans." 

From a patient’s point of view, all they do is take a couple of pictures, he explained, but under the hood the app is actually creating a 3D model of their foot, which doctor can use to see what's happening, doing their job without actually needing patients to come into the office. It also allows them to track the patient and their pain, so they can fully understand the problem.  

"This is actually huge for this whole industry. Patients who need orthopedic and podiatry care, sometimes it's really hard them people to get to the doctor because they need to travel to some major hospital, or to the biggest city in the state, or even sometimes even to another state," said Semjanow.

"Now, it's faster to get care. You don't have to make an appointment where you might have to wait a month or even more. All you have to do is download the app, take a couple of pictures, send it, and that's it." 

The origins of Neatsy

Neatsy started out with the goal of solving another problem: originally conceived during COVID, the founders wanted to help find out a more accurate shoe size to create a better shopping experience for buying shoes online, which is what led to them creating the 3D model of person's foot. 

After creating the technology, though, they realized they couldn't actually predict if someone would be comfortable wearing a shoe or not, because it was too subjective. 

"Even if you have all information about the human foot, it's not enough to predict the correct size. The choice between whether you should take an 11 or an 11 1/2 or a 10, it's human preference. Some people like it a bit tighter, some people like a more relaxed fit, and the problem is people don't actually tell you what fit they want," Semjanow explained.

When trying to figure out what other problems they could solve with this technology, the team figured out that it could be used help to understand what kind of shoes people should buy instead. And that a lot of the comfort, or discomfort people feel, are due to different podiatry diseases, such as overpronation, flat feet, and bunions. 

That's when the company realized it could train its AI algorithm to predict whether a person has these health issues.

"We were searching for silver and found gold; we actually found a much bigger problem, accidentally. We can tell you whether you have any health issues, and why they've occurred, which is actually much more valuable to the world then finding out what size shoes you should buy online," said Semjanow.

Users who download Neatsy can use their 3D scan to order custom insoles; the company is partnering with a variety of different major leading insole makers, so they can choose whichever brand they trust to make custom insoles with them.

So far, 30,000 people have downloaded the Neatsy app following its launch this part summer, and the company expects to see 5x growth by the end of this year.

Going beyond the foot

While Neatsy app can tell a user what might be wrong with their feet, the app also makes it clear that it is not a diagnostic, just a recommendation tool. So, while the AI predicts the probability that they have a certain condition, or what to do about it, it's only the doctor who can ultimatley finalizes the diagnosis and make firm decisions on treatment.

"The doctor is responsible for the patient, for the final outcome. The AI is more, at this point, more like a consultant; it's providing you an educated guess with higher accuracy," said Semjanow.

Eventually, the company would eventually like to actually become a diagnostic tool, which will require FDA clearance, something Semjanow is hoping will happen in the next year or too. He also wants to go beyond only scanning the foot, to being able to scan other parts of the body, including the spine, and eventually the whole body itself. 

"We want to do track spine deformities, and then maybe extend even further to other part of the body, but I guess the next step would be a scoliosis check. When your shoulders are not aligned. And all these spine issues actually translate into the pains in certain parts of the body and really how to again mitigate these pain," he said.

"We are talking about things that are really important. If you have neck pain or you have knee pain, it’s not a life threatening situation, of course, but half of Americans have these issues. So, we have very frequent cases; that's why it's really good for digitizing." 

Ultimately, his vision for Neatsy is for all the doctors in the world to use its platform for diagnosing their patients.

"I want to create a product that will be used in many places by many people and have a meaningful impact on their lives, really help people by just streamlining the whole process and removing their pain. Hopefully in three, four years, everyone will use this platform and this whole medical branch will be telehealth enabled," said Semjanow.

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