The Center for Data Innovation spoke with David Vivero, chief executive officer and co-founder of Amino, an online health care search company based in San Francisco. Vivero discussed how his own frustrations with trying to find the right doctor motivated him to introduce more transparency into the health care system.
This interview has been edited.
Joshua New: Amino is a website that helps patients choose doctors based on factors such as a doctor’s specialty and experience. How does Amino stand out from the handful of other online doctor matching sites?
David Vivero: At Amino, we are working to create the clearest picture of American health care and help people navigate health care decisions with information that’s unbiased, data-driven, and personalized. In order to do this, we’ve built an unprecedented database of health care interactions representing more than 188 million Americans to better understand what’s actually going on in doctor’s offices and hospitals and highlight the variances in care that truly matter to an individual making a health care decision.
Unlike other services, Amino has data on nearly every doctor in America so the results aren’t influenced by which doctors opt-in or buy advertising. Additionally, Amino doesn’t rely on consumer reviews, since they aren’t always connected to the quality of care or outcome. What Amino does focus on is the physician’s relevant experience and how they match to an individual’s needs and preferences.
Finding a doctor is the first major decision Amino is helping people navigate with data, however there are many, many other health care decisions we’ll be able to help people make in the coming months, such as deciding between treatment options, comparing costs, and evaluating facilities.
New: If a doctor accepts Medicare or Medicaid payments, there is a good chance data about these interactions is publicly available from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Where else does Amino get its data?
Vivero: Our anonymized database includes more than 5 billion health interactions which we update monthly with commercial claims obtained from a variety of sources, including regional and national payers and health information technology companies.
Additionally, Amino is the first for-profit company to become a Qualified Entity in the CMS Medicare Data Sharing for Performance Measurement Program, which gives us access to 100 percent of national, physician-level Medicare data from parts A, B and D since 2009. To date, only 13 companies and organizations are currently able to gain access to standardized extracts of Medicare data.
New: Could you speak to how Amino worked to become a Qualified Entity, particularly as it relates to protecting sensitive data? How does Amino manage all this data responsibly so it can be put to good use?
Vivero: Amino has rigorous privacy and security measures that de-identify and anonymize personal information. As a company, we’ve invested heavily in these measures with input from policy experts, medical advisors, and government leaders in patient privacy who sit on our advisory board. Our Qualified Entity status speaks to our ability to protect highly sensitive patient information. Furthermore, no Amino team member ever sees or handles personally-identifiable health information, and the method we use for de-identification is irreversible.
Once these protections are in place, the data is then added to our database to power our physician search tool, delivering useful insights on physician experience, outcomes, location, accepted insurance and much more. While extremely complex on the back end, we’ve nonetheless been able to produce a valuable user experience.
New: You have stressed the importance of introducing transparency into health care for consumers. How does data about health care need to be more transparent in the United States?
Vivero: We do research about everything in our lives and data is changing our world, our businesses and operations, and our daily experiences. We would never make a decision about dining, travel plans, or online shopping without researching extensively. But with health care, people don’t really shop around to find the best care and end up settling for doctors based on convenience or their own small networks. In fact, most people rely on family and friends to recommend a doctor, which may not be the best fit for their needs. And for those who do search, the process is time consuming, overwhelming, and frustrating.
We want to provide the same level of empowerment to consumers for health care decisions that they have for other industries. Pharmaceutical companies, payers, and providers have been tapping this kind of data and insight for decades, and consumers should be able to also to find the best care for their needs with ease and confidence.
New: Before Amino, you started an online apartment rental service called RentJuice, which Zillow bought in 2012. Is there any overlap between tenant-apartment matching and patient-doctor matching?
Vivero: The process of buying a home and finding a doctor are very different experiences, yet the common thread between the two are how we use data and information to help inform consumer decisions. At RentJuice, I created an online real estate search engine, using data to allow agents and brokers to manage and market their inventory, communicate with their clients, and do all their paperwork in one simple interface.
I was inspired to start Amino after going through a very frustrating, time-consuming process to find a doctor for a rare metabolic condition I have that accepted my insurance. I was shocked by the lack of resources and highly-biased, ad-driven information on the web and wanted to do something. There was simply no consumer interface for health care.
The idea for Amino was born, and we spent the last two years aggregating, organizing, de-identifying, and weaving together highly complex medical data to create the single best picture of what’s happening in American health care for everyone to see.