Dr. Tatiana Fofanova is Making Advance Medical Care Planning Easier With Koda Health

Published on August 21, 2021

Imagine a loved one having a medical emergency that makes them unable to make their own healthcare decisions, yet they had never specified what they would have wanted. Family members bicker about what should be done, lawyers get involved, time and money are wasted—things get messy. Koda Health is a platform that helps patients and healthcare providers navigate the difficult discussion of Advance Medical Care Planning to avoid such stressful decisions during a crisis.

After spending years working in pediatrics, Dr. Tatiana Fofanova, co-founder of Koda Health, decided that it was time to leave the sciences. She had a “crisis of faith,” after realizing that people did not need access to the newest and fanciest drugs, but rather needed access to basic care and high quality information so they could make informed decisions about their own health.

After leaving her position in pediatrics, Dr. Fofanova booked a ticket halfway around the world, picked up mountaineering and applied to entrepreneurship fellowships at resupply stations. In 2019, she was accepted into Texas Medical Center Biodesign, a program that recruits three people from disparate but complementary fields to solve America’s most pressing structural issues in healthcare. The team, which included the two co-founders of Koda Health, Dr. Desh Mohan and Katelin Cherry, was asked to focus on geriatrics and the elder care space.

Fofanova feels the team was set up for success because, “we were basically recruited by the market that we ended up selling to.” The trio received access to hospital systems all around the country to conduct studies. They found that informed consent and advance care planning were major problems in the elder care space. Patients who lost their ability to make decisions for themselves and did not already have their medical power of attorney in order, would have family members scrambling to figure out the best course of action.

Studies have shown that, without clinical guidance, a family member has only a 50% chance of actually choosing what their loved one would want in a medical emergency. By understanding what a patient wants beforehand, money is saved across the board, and a patient’s wishes are respected.

How It Works

Koda Health if a web platform sold directly to healthcare facilities so that they can have the notarized Advance Directive (living will) documents on site for their patients when an emergency occurs. The guided questionnaire uses AI to simulate a conversation as if it were being delivered by a trained physician, understanding a patient’s values and exploring different quality of life scenarios regarding mobility, independence, communication, etc.

The process takes an average of 17 minutes and the technology is easy enough for a 78 year old to use. Doctors can go through the process with the patient right in their office, so that they can help inform the patient based on their personal health needs. Dr. Fofanova describes the Koda Health web application as “Turbo Tax meets Duolingo,” and says that such conversations are recommended for anyone over the age of 18.

As things are now, physicians leave patients with the task of getting legal forms in order, not considering whether they have, or can afford, an estate attorney. Use of the Koda Health platform also avoids the need for more physician training because the application navigates the discussion with the patient for them. Many physicians are not trained in how to have such discussions, and studies have shown that physicians avoid having them with patients who do not share their same cultural background for fear of offending the patient.

Koda Health addresses a long-neglected problem in the healthcare space. If a person were to go into a coma for 6 months that they were sure to recover from, only to wake up and find out that countless things had been done to them that they never would have wanted, it could change their life, and their outlook, forever. Taking the time to think through personal values before a regrettable emergency occurs is a reasonable precaution for anyone to take. A platform that makes Advance Medical Care Planning as easy as possible, and removes some of the awkwardness of talking about a morbid topic, should be welcomed by health systems across the nation. Koda Health is currently working with health systems in Texas and Virginia and is looking to expand into other states in the coming months.

Sarah Marshall is a journalist and Staff Reporter at Grit Daily. Based in Florida, she covers events related to regional economic growth, politics, and the environment as those affect startups and entrepreneurs. Sarah writes an environmental column for The Muslim News, and curates a blog that showcases her travels through Asia. She is an editor assigned to Grit Daily's "Top 100" entrepreneurs lists.

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