Alina Fowler is a Clinical Studies Coordinator at Casana, managing and running several R&D studies.
A college professor once asked me, “What do you think is more efficient - standing at the bottom of a cliff saving the people who jump off, or standing at the top of the cliff preventing them from jumping in the first place?” Most agree that the latter is the better option, and yet when it comes to healthcare and medicine, our society still values the treatment of illness rather than its prevention. Studies have shown that for every $1 spent in the US on the treatment of disease, only about 4 cents goes towards public health and prevention. Once I realized this discrepancy, promoting healthy lifestyle choices and preventative healthcare became a passion of mine, and I decided I would dedicate my career to standing at the top of the cliff.
Convincing people to make the lifestyle changes that are required to prevent many diseases is hard work. As humans, we don’t like to do anything that interrupts our daily routine. Convincing someone to start a new diet, spend more time in the gym, or take their own blood pressure every day is tough unless they consciously make that decision for themselves. And even if they do initially adopt a lifestyle change, many don’t stick to it. We needed a solution that requires little to no effort, that could actually catch diseases before they begin to manifest, and that is an easily repeatable process.
Then I came across Casana, a start-up in Rochester that was creating a toilet seat that could monitor your vitals. Not only did I learn that this high-tech toilet seat could potentially help prevent disease, but it also solves the issue of adherence by requiring no change in daily behaviors. It was mid-quarantine when I first heard of Casana and The Heart Seat and I was quick to decide that the timing was right for this product to transform healthcare, and I knew I wanted to be on the team that would help accomplish this.
During my first week at Casana as the new Clinical Study Coordinator, I was quickly catapulted into the fast-paced, exciting work environment of a high-potential start-up. I loved the culture of combined passion, collaborating together towards a common goal. This culture is also articulated in one of our values, that “Every day matters”. This culture ensures that we all push each other to be better, not for the sake of us as individuals, but for the sake of making this transformational product a reality for those who need it most. Everybody is in this together and we all have to be willing to take on anything that is thrown our way. This ensures that everyone is continuously evolving and growing along with the company. As someone who loves learning new things and quick problem-solving, I knew that this is the type of work environment I would thrive in.
My first task was to design and run our first in-house clinical study, the SIT lab. This was our opportunity to invite people from the Rochester community to get involved in our mission and allow them to physically interact with the Heart Seat. Part of the design of this study was not only to collect quality data on The Heart Seat but to also ensure that participants have a great experience. We wanted to make sure everyone that participated left with a positive opinion of Casana and The Heart Seat, as well as a desire to come back and participate again, despite the potential awkwardness of sitting on a toilet.
My approach was to make the visit a ‘human’ experience. Unlike other clinical studies I had worked on previously, which could often be cold and impersonal, we formed personal relationships with our participants and many have become as excited about our product and mission as we were. Also unlike other studies I had worked on, which were typically very ‘old-school’, we tried to incorporate technology wherever possible to improve the user’s experience. Small things, like our scheduling system that makes it simple to sign up for a visit online, or our digital picture frame that provides a little entertainment to participants while their vitals are taken; make a huge difference. We learned and improved with every single visit that we ran, and continue to do so today.
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Casana’s vision is to create effortless, in-home health monitoring solutions that allow care teams and their patients to proactively manage health and achieve better health outcomes. The Heart Seat™ is Casana's first product and is currently pursuing FDA clearance.