Smart Sensors and Data Gathering to Improve Women’s Care

Many great medical advances carry with them a maddeningly low-tech irony: Pills work only if you take them—and remembering to take a pill is not as easy as it sounds. Similarly, potentially lifesaving cardiac health data is easily gathered using fairly simple technology, but such data is only available when and if it’s being measured and recorded. Enter two new MIT Sloan originated startups, addressing these very issues in the traditionally underserved area of  women’s health.

First Aavia, a health tech company that designed a medication compliance solution to learn and improve the birth control pill taking routine. Startup CEO and co-founder Aagya Mathur, MBA ’18, explains that Aavia has drawn on wide-ranging behavioral data and user research to create a “take your meds” device and method like no other—from reminders to recordkeeping, Aavia’s core model is 100 percent automated. Since spring of 2017, co-founders Mathur, Chief Technology Officer Alexis Wong, and Chief Product Officer Aya Suzuki, SB ’18, have been iterating on the Aavia solution based on continuous user research on medication takers’ priorities, regimens, pressing needs, pain points, and desires. Notably, as Mathur elaborates, “When it comes to provoking anxiety and stress, birth control pills repeatedly topped the list.” And with good reason: It’s estimated that inconsistent use of oral contraceptives contributes to more than one million unintended pregnancies each year in the United States alone, not to mention the variable impacts on general physical and mental health. Combining a “smart” case with patent-pending sensors to detect pill count and positioning with a connected health and wellness mobile app—users simply keep their usual pills in the case, and Aavia does the rest by sending reminders from the app until the pill is taken and then automatically recording the action. Aavia is packaging complex technology into a simple and effective solution for adherence, optimal health, and peace of mind.

Next: the “Bloomer” bra, originated by Alicia Chong Rodriguez, SM ’18, a comfortable undergarment with a potentially lifesaving benefit: accurately recording medical information which could save its wearers from heart disease, the leading cause of death in women worldwide. Together with classmate Aceil Halaby, SM ’17, and a third partner, Monica Abarca, the team behind the Bloomer bra and Bloomer Tech is about to begin clinical testing with plans to go to market later this year. Chong Rodriguez, a Legatum Fellow, recalls the technical innovations entailed in both engineering advanced functional fabrics into the garment to capture medicalgrade data and the data analytics using proprietary algorithms for targeted medicine. The wearable result allows for continuous monitoring and potential early detection of female-specific, precursor-abnormalities to arrhythmias, myocardial infarctions, and stroke. Such information is power: “When you own your health,” Chong Rodriguez explains, “you and your provider can understand better what to do and what not to do at a fraction of the cost.”Echoing the sentiment, Aavia’s CEO Mathur points out that—for any health care tool—the user is the ultimate and most important judge of efficacy. “If you don’t listen to the end user, it’s not going to be something that’s actually going to help them. In which case, why are you even doing it?”