Birmingham Innovators: Dr. Mazi Rasulnia and Dr. Sanjay Singh

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mazi rasulnia pack health
Pack Health founder Dr. Mazi Rasulnia

As Innovation Week is in full swing, we should look at what makes us innovators.  What does Birmingham medical startup Pack Health do, and how did they do it in Birmingham?  I spoke with Dr. Mazi Rasulnia and Dr. Sanjay Singh to find out that and more!

Pack Health aids individuals with chronic conditions in managing their symptoms through day-to-day lifestyle coaching.
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Dr. Sanjay Singh, via facebook.

How did Pack Health start?  It started with a UAB student, Mazi Rasulina and his former professor, Dr. Sanjay Singh:  “Three years ago, Mazi approached me.”  Mazi has a lot of contacts in the healthcare industry, which Dr. Singh attributes as one of his great strengths.  But why start a life coaching program for patients with chronic conditions?  “In the pharma industry, there’s an entire study called Beyond the Bill.  In the healthcare industry it’s called Between the Visits.  What are we doing to improve your health besides just giving you pills?”

Founder Mazi Rasulnia explained part of the problem the healthcare industry has begun to tackle: “A lot of the chronic conditions that we now deal with don’t just have genetic components or manifestation of disease, they have a lifestyle component.  We’re in the business of reversing some of those ‘bad habits’ so that once you are in a better state, you can sustain that.”

day tracker
The day tracker makes keeping up with your health as simple as possible.  Simplicity is everything for many patients

Dr. Singh knows there’s something rotten in the state of healthcare.  “I’m going to start on a very, very global perspective, and then I’m going to come down to Pack.  If you look at the United States, and what is happening all over the world, the number one and number two sectors of GDP is healthcare and education.  If you look at healthcare, every year, healthcare costs just keep increasing.  Why is it that our overall health keeps declining, when the cost keeps increasing?  At the same time, the research is only getting better and better in terms of treatment, but not in terms of individuals.”

Tamara helping someone over the phone – image provided by Pack Health

The answer seems simple: “if patients don’t want to improve, it doesn’t matter how good a drug is, how great the doctors are, how many Whole Foods are around you, none of that really matters.  You engage patients in their own well-being.  In all aspects of life, we have coaches or mentors or somebody helping you in your journey.”

Pack Health uses medical trend data to help patients, but in the end patients want to be able to understand and deal with their condition using minimal effort.  Pack wrote each program for 5th graders in order to make sure that everyone can take care of themselves.

The 6,000 hour problem

“You are awake 6,000 hours in a year.  And in that 6,000 hours, you only spend one hour with a healthcare professional.  Nothing is set up to continuously engage with you.  You are a complete black hole between visits.  Pack addresses that black hole.  How can we stay in contact with you on a daily basis?  Pack was created to address that need.” – Dr. Sanjay Singh

Dr. Singh had some advice for innovators: “Very rarely in life do you start attacking a problem with a clean piece of paper.  One of the reasons [healthcare and pharma] companies cannot solve this problem is that they try to retrofit a solution to their existing infrastructure.”  Today’s economy revolves around specialization, so do something specific and do it well!

Find the complete list of events for Innovation Week here.

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Author: James Ozment

I’m a Birmingham native who loves music, cycling, reading, and tech. Find me on the campus of Birmingham-Southern College, in Avondale, or hanging out with my cat