Monthly Spotlight: Bronwyn Harris, Second-Year Ferolyn Fellow

by | Jan 1, 2015 | Ferolyn Fellowship

Now in its second year, the Ferolyn Fellowship once again attracted a class with incredible talent. This month, we introduce you to Bronwyn Harris, CEO and co-founder of Tueo Health, a company that is empowering families with a digital health solution to better monitor and manage their child’s asthma.

With a father who was an electrical engineer in the medical device field, Bronwyn was destined to follow in his footsteps. “When I was young, I was always challenged to answer questions about how and why things worked. And as kids, we had to write a proposal if we wanted something, which gave me a head start on thinking about the business case for everything,” she says.

She went on to study biomedical engineering, as she had always been drawn to medicine, and knew from the start it was a great fit. However, she quickly realized during graduate school that she did not want to spend all her time in the lab, far from clinical care. Rather, she found she most enjoyed meeting with physicians and reviewing data as part of her clinical decision support research. Bronwyn realized it fed her curiosity about the other side, as in, the care being delivered to patients. In her dual role, she also was privy to what she recognized as a sizable disconnect between what the physicians needed and what the engineers were developing. In fact, some of her engineering peers were working on devices before ever having talked to a physician or seen a patient to gather their insight.

Bronwyn felt she was uniquely positioned with the ability and desire to bridge that gap between engineers and physicians to help unite their efforts. Therefore, she decided to enroll in medical school at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Upon completion, she came to Stanford for her residency and fellowship, where she simultaneously joined the Stanford Biodesign program to unite her two passions of engineering and medicine.

“The ability to combine medicine and innovation crystalized my path,” she says. “Thinking about all the different aspects of the problem and then making sure I understood the clinical need allowed me to determine the next best steps for delivering the right solution.”

Launching a startup

One of the key roles of Stanford Biodesign fellows is looking at clinical needs. During her fellowship, Bronwyn’s Biodesign team discovered that asthma was a major problem – seven million children and 26 million adults in the U.S. alone suffer from it, and yet there isn’t a good measure of control, like there is for other conditions, such as diabetes. This can be a handicap when trying to care for patients who are relying exclusively on their symptoms for diagnosis. Her team set up to solve and better manage asthma by using tools, initially focusing on pediatrics to help prompt families to engage in their children’s asthma care.

The asthma solution her team worked on during the fellowship really took off, and after finishing clinical training, she became the full-time CEO of Tueo Health. In order to stay connected to clinical medicine, she still maintains a part-time position as a clinical instructor at Stanford Children’s Health.

Tueo Health takes the technology used in off-the-shelf sleep sensors that measure movement, heart rate, heart rate variability and respiratory rate. The company then uses proprietary analytics to determine individualized baselines so it can alert parents when changes occur, thus engaging the family to gain additional context and information before providing educational guidance that has been shown to make a difference. A Tueo Health asthma educator can also reach out proactively or parents can request one through its service.

Tueo Health has finalized their product development and analytics. They are now enrolling for a clinical study, partnering with Evidation Health, to run a randomized virtual study that can recruit anywhere in the lower 48 states. Enrolled participants randomized to the intervention arm are shipped a device to participate in the study, with the goal of showing that asthma control can be improved through data-driven alerts to engage families and targeted educational guidance. (For more information on the study and to check your eligibility, please click here.)

While similar off-the-shelf technology is available and used for sleep tracking, it is not currently tied to chronic disease management. The company is able to transform available data through analytics to engage families and provide targeted education and guidance.

Tueo Health is not only looking at expanding its use to adults but also other conditions that would benefit from similar solutions. A limited launch of its current device is planned for 2018.

Finding benefits through participating in the Ferolyn Fellowship

Bronwyn learned about the Fellowship through one of the Institute’s partners, Stanford Biodesign, after hearing about Ferolyn’s inspirational work in medtech.

While it’s still early in the program, she has already seen benefits, such as meeting many new and accomplished people, including current and past fellows who convene on a consistent basis to share knowledge and tackle work challenges. She has also been introduced to outside experts whom she otherwise would not have had the opportunity to meet in casual settings, which to her is one of the most critical advantages as she works to determine her company’s next steps.

While she feels confident that she can launch the product itself, the nuances of running a business is new territory, and expert sources of guidance will be essential to help her accomplish her goals.

The Ferolyn Fellowship was established in 2016 to pay tribute to Ferolyn Powell’s invaluable contributions to medical technology by helping cultivate innovators – mentoring tomorrow’s rising medtech leaders who have demonstrated strong passion and aptitude to transform healthcare.

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