Access To NxOpinion Grows With Database

June 23, 2008
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A Saudi Arabian health care delivery company has entered into a memorandum of understanding with Saginaw-based Robertson Technologies to use its proprietary NxOpinion diagnostic software in medical facilities in the Middle East and Northern Africa.

NxOpinion is a software suite designed to aid clinicians, physicians and medical students in the diagnosis of non-chronic illnesses. The software enables health care professionals to reach analytical conclusions in minutes, rather than hours or days. It has a medical knowledge database of 500 diagnosable diseases, and is both multilingual and multicultural. NxOpinion’s interactive software analyzes information — such as symptoms, laboratory tests, imaging results and patient history — and provides users with feedback by leading them through a series of questions and offering suggestions to promote accurate, individualized assessment.

NxOpinion was developed by the not-for-profit Robertson Research Institute with some assistance from a number of West Michigan vendors, including technical consultant Keith Brophy. One of its distinct advantages is that it can be used in very rural settings where there is limited access to medical references.

NxOpinion’s current 3.0 version became available in January after more than three years in development, which included extensive testing, independent research validation studies and pilot studies in India, Africa and the Dominican Republic, said Nicole Decker, president of the Robertson Research Institute. The 3.0 version has a database of 500 diseases and is intended to be used by world health clinics and facilities that have limited medical technologies, Decker said.

RRI founder and pharmacologist Joel Robertson said his goal in developing the software was to provide “a truly global medical solution” that would save lives worldwide with faster, more accurate diagnosis. He said NxOpinion’s development is a year ahead of schedule. 

“We’ve got all kinds of demands, and we haven’t even tried to market it yet,” Robertson noted. “We are in very closely held negotiations, and I can say that major American Medical Association sub-organizations are extraordinarily interested in our software because it provides a means for physicians to control their patient data. What our software does that no other software does is give you a confidence level of the likelihood of a diagnosis.”

Robertson said that sometime in 2009 NxOpinion will probably be utilized by some   domestic retail health clinics, as well as certain private companies that handle personal health records.

The Elaj Group is the first organization to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the institute, which is the first step in the licensing process, Decker said. Elaj Group wants to license the product for use in its 17 medical centers and all the clinics it serves across Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Egypt. Decker said after NxOpinion is fully integrated into the Elaj Group heath care delivery system, its distribution will be expanded to Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Morocco.

Decker said Robertson Technologies is also partnering with a social entrepreneur for “bottom-up” delivery of NxOpinion in Elmora, India, starting with the lowest level of health care providers — typically people who have less than a year of medical education but are responsible for providing medical services to rural villages. The rural villages suffer the most from the lack of health care professionals, Decker pointed out.

She said Robertson Technologies further expects to form a partnership with the government of Gujarat in Northern India for the “top-down” distribution of the software. Top-down distribution will start with the highest level of health care providers. According to plans, the Gujarat government would put NxOpinion to use in larger health care facilities and push its use down through the entire health care system, including into small clinics and rural clinics, she explained. She said a few U.S. medical facilities are using NxOpinion, as well. 

Robertson said Robertson Technologies is also in discussions with the India school system to provide a platform to monitor the health of students, their immunizations and things of that nature. 

NxOpinion’s nonprofit, less sophisticated counterpart is InfoDx, which the institute is giving away free to underdeveloped countries where emergency medical facilities and resources are scarce. InfoDx is in use in the Dominican Republic, India, Ecuador and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Eventually, the Robertson Family Foundation will use 80 percent of NxOpinion profits to fund wider distribution of InfoDx to needy areas of the world, Decker said.

RRI recently launched a World Health Organization project in India in conjunction with Central Michigan University and the Andhra Pradesh government. The group is performing three controlled studies on NxOpinion. World Health workers and physicians are using NxOpinion to input electronic health information on various patient populations in various communities in order to gather statistics.

“It’s basically a global needs assessment that the government wants,” Decker explained. “It will help them figure out where their efforts need to be focused.” 

Robertson Technologies has demonstrated NxOpinion for the Microsoft Healthcare Division, Microsoft Research and Development, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Health’s National Library of Medicine and the Rural Health Initiative of India, among others.

“Everybody’s response has been really positive. We’ve had nothing but positive feedback,” Decker added.

NxOpinion versions 4.0 and 5.0, which are under development, will have more advanced, high-tech applications and will be geared more toward the physician and medical student market. Robertson said version 4.0 should be completed by September. It will have a database of 800-plus diseases, as well as lab values and certain lab tests. The 5.0 version will be Web-based and interactive so that patients will be able to send health information directly to their physicians’ offices prior to scheduled appointments.

Robertson said he doesn’t envision Robertson Technologies selling NxOpinion directly to the market and doesn’t think the company will have to go that route to distribute.

“We’ve attracted the big players, and what I see happening is that we will be part of their distribution effort,” Robertson said. “Our negotiations right now are that the medical schools buy it in bulk and provide it. I’m confident that in 2009 NxOpinion will be in the U.S. market through somebody.”

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