The Medical Alley Podcast, presented by MentorMate

A Conversation with Dr. Ashleigh Kennedy, Co-Founder and CEO, Neurovine

Episode Summary

Join us for a conversation with the Medical Alley Association's Jamie Oyen and Neurovine co-founder and CEO Dr. Ashleigh Kennedy, who shares more about the company's history and the work it's doing to help treat concussions and other brain-related injuries. Dr. Kennedy touches on the subject of artificial intelligence and talks more about why brain health is such a personal matter for her.

Episode Transcription

Intro (00:00):
The Medical Alley Podcast is brought to you by MentorMate. Custom software needs vary significantly, whether you're powering a medical device, overhauling your backend architecture, or re-imagine your patient experience MentorMate can help. Harnessing the technical excellence of Bulgaria, MentorMate provides end to end software services and all sectors of healthcare. With deep expertise in design development, cloud, and software support MentorMate helps healthcare clients administer world-class care through technology. Learn more at

Jamie Oyen, Medical Alley Association (00:40):
Good morning, afternoon, and good evening to everyone out there in Medical Alley. Thank you for joining us today on the Medical Alley Podcast. I'm your host Jamie Oyen, marketing director at the association. I am thrilled to be joined today by Dr. Ashleigh Kennedy, the founder and CEO of Neurovine, a company that is changing the way concussion patients recover using realtime data and machine learning to personalize the path to recovery. Welcome to the podcast, Dr. Kennedy.

Dr. Ashleigh Kennedy, Neurovine (01:08):
Thanks so much for having me.

Jamie Oyen, Medical Alley Association (01:09):
Yeah, we really appreciate you taking the time to sit down with us and take a deeper dive into the work you do. So why don't we start off with having you introduce yourself and Neurovine to our listeners.

Dr. Ashleigh Kennedy, Neurovine (01:20):
Yes, absolutely. So I am a neuroscientist. The brain is my first love. When I was quite young, my father was wrapping up his professional football career and he had some close friends actually take their lives. We hypothesize it's related to repetitive head injuries. And so that early experience really drove me to learn as much as I could about the brain. I was fortunate enough to run track at Stanford and built my first EEG headset as a freshman there, and really was able to see what was going on in the brain for the first time. And so that's really where my journey began. I have a PhD in exercise physiology and one in neuroscience. And as a post doctoral fellow working in clinic, I really felt there was a gap. When someone was discharged from the hospital, whether it was post stroke or post concussion, they would go home and really be on their own, trying to navigate their recovery by themselves.

Dr. Ashleigh Kennedy, Neurovine (02:27):
And that's when my co-founder who's a physician and I decided to try and fill that gap. And so really over the past three years, what started out as a small application has evolved into a platform solution. It combines wearable technology. So EEG technology that can track brain activity, human movement, as well as heart rate variability. That data drives the gamified therapeutic intervention that's delivered to our patients. And there's a backend clinical portal where physicians can track progress and make modifications. So that's really, you know, a quick high level of the evolution of our company and why we began this work.

Jamie Oyen, Medical Alley Association (03:15):
Oh, I appreciate that. And, you know, concussions have certainly become a bigger conversation over the last few years, but obviously a long road ahead of us as we seek to identify and treat repetitive brain injury and trauma. So yeah, I think that's incredible. And thank you for walking us through that. I wanna pivot for a moment and talk about another really fascinating part of your work. AI is critical to the work you do with Neurovine. So I'd love to dive in there. But first AI can mean a lot of different things to people. So let's level set for our audience. How would you define AI, particularly when it comes to healthcare?

Dr. Ashleigh Kennedy, Neurovine (03:52):
Yeah, so generally when we think about artificial intelligence, our first thought goes to computers and machines that mimic human cognition. So machines that can learn think can make decisions or take action. We've got a lot of applications like this that we use in our daily life. Things that gather data, make decisions, and implement a solution. So that's kind of the generic understanding of what AI is. A good example is our digital voice assistance that we all use. My five year old can ask it, you know, in a language that is sort of understandable to me. This five year old can ask our voice assistant what, you know, what sea creatures eat meat, and this AI can go out, scour the internet and bring back an answer that my child can understand. So that, I think that's a pretty generic understanding of what AI is.

Dr. Ashleigh Kennedy, Neurovine (04:46):
In healthcare, it's a little bit different. So AI solutions in healthcare are safest and really most valuable when the solution is actually designed to enhance the worker. So this isn't an AI that stands alone. It's not an AI that, you know, goes out, finds the solution and implements it. It's AI that works alongside the doctor or the physical therapist, or the the clinical technician, for example. And so there's a slightly different term for this. We call it intelligent augmentation or IA, and this is an important distinction. In fact, I would argue that using artificial intelligence, without a human making the final decision in medicine, will never really be fully adopted. We need that human decision maker at the end of the pathway to understand the decision that has been made and actually implement it. So I think that's the biggest distinction in healthcare is that we're working to develop intelligent augmentation rather than AI that will replace that human.

Jamie Oyen, Medical Alley Association (05:55):
Yes, that's helpful. I think a lot of people, there can be a fear sometimes that it is an all knowing and all influencing AI and that we're kind of giving over the reins to the computers, but definitely not the case in healthcare. So I, you know, you'd had a TedTalk and within that TedTalk, you referred to AI as the fourth industrial revolution. So and you'd kind of touched on it, but what do you see as the benefits fits and risks of the growing role AI plays in healthcare?

Dr. Ashleigh Kennedy, Neurovine (06:24):
Yeah, so I think, you know, we see ourselves as really intelligent consumers but we're pretty demanding, our generation is pretty demanding. We're used to having things at our fingertips and we expect health care to be the same. And AI is enabling that in a good way. So implementing AI into healthcare really is allowing patients to be involved in almost in some aspects, control their healthcare, you know, monitor their needs in a more consistent way. With remote monitoring, that's combined with AI, it can deliver alerts to the patient. We're seeing the rise of virtual assistance in telehealth, virtual medicine and all of this is really awesome. This is a really important benefit of integrating AI into our healthcare system. So that's exciting. The thing that gets me most excited, though, is the potential of AI to come into the healthcare system and start to level the economic playing field.

Dr. Ashleigh Kennedy, Neurovine (07:26):
So what I mean by that is actually bridging gaps between patients and healthcare resources in regions that typically have limited access to healthcare services. And I mean, we see this at home as well as abroad. So we've got in Canada, we've got a lot of big open rural spaces, and it's very difficult to see an expert, especially in our area with brain health, concussion recovery. Those experts are clustered in city centers. And so if you are living in, you know, Northern Ontario, for example, it's difficult to see an expert. And so you end up not getting the support that you need, not recovering fully. And the mental health implications are huge. So if we can implement virtual care AI driven platforms, we can start to connect those individuals with healthcare resources that they need. And then the implications abroad are massive as well, and really exciting. So I think, you know, those are probably the most exciting areas of AI in healthcare. And then another benefit is just to optimize our current healthcare practices. They're incredibly slow moving machines. Healthcare does not adapt quickly. And so there's a lot of room for optimization. And we're seeing some augmented intelligence solutions coming in, improving and scaling clinical decision making, making that process more efficient.

Jamie Oyen, Medical Alley Association (08:56):
Absolutely. And you're a strong advocate of ethics as it relates to AI. So how are you building your company and technology to align with your values?

Dr. Ashleigh Kennedy, Neurovine (09:05):
Yeah. So there are a huge number of benefits, but there are risks for sure. So unethical collection of data and the way that we develop biased algorithms can really have a negative impact on the AI that we're building. And so the World Health Organization issued a report titled "Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence for Health." This was put together by a panel of experts appointed by the WHO. And this is kind of the document that we look to internally at Neurovine. And I think is being adopted a little bit more broadly. They outline really important aspects to consider for companies who are building AI, implementing AI. And we've implemented that within our company as well. That's kind of a foundational principle for us, these six guiding principles. So the first is human autonomy and data protection so that the patients that are contributing to the data that drives our AI, their data needs to be protected and they need to be protected as individuals.

Dr. Ashleigh Kennedy, Neurovine (10:16):
And I dig into that a little bit in my TedTalk. So when you're using wearables, when you're using some of these really exciting technologies that are coming out, really making sure that you understand data ownership, how your data's being used, making sure that the technology is protecting your identity. So that's key. Next is patient wellbeing and safety. And so luckily the regulatory bodies are moving really quickly to catch up with the advancements in AI. That will be a continual game of cat and mouse, I think. There's changes happening in, you know, it feels like every month there's a new announcement that's, that's put out there for AI companies. But essentially the hope here is that AI systems have demonstrated efficacy. So the systems are tested rigorously with patient populations so things aren't just being put out there without being tested.

Dr. Ashleigh Kennedy, Neurovine (11:10):
So the FDA and Health Canada are doing a great job working with companies to continue to evolve their approval system. And then internally, making sure that you've got quality control measures that ensure that your data algorithms are being developed properly. And then transparency. So transparency means that the way your technology works needs to be really clear both to the patient and to the clinician. The clinician can't use a black box to diagnose somebody with a disease. They need to understand what variables are going in, and what's being given to them as a decision. And so avoiding developing black boxes. And there are three or four other ones that we've integrated into how we build our technology. A lot of them revolve around inclusivity. So making sure that you don't integrate biases into your algorithms when you're, when you're building technology.

Dr. Ashleigh Kennedy, Neurovine (12:08):
And if you do making sure you have a process in place where you can see those ICS and, and rework the algorithms to address that. So that's been a huge challenge for us. We build our algorithms based on the patients that we've got around us. And so the algorithms are continually changing as we move into different populations. So it's a constantly evolving project, but at least having some guidance from the WHO and communities that are starting to really talk about ethics in healthcare is, it's great. The education is keeping up with the technological advancement, I would say.

Jamie Oyen, Medical Alley Association (12:45):
Well, that's great to hear. That's not always the case a lot of times with different big topics, sometimes scary topics. So that's a wonderful thing to hear and I appreciate that insight. So speaking of, you know, the constantly evolving project that is your company, what's on the horizon for Neurvoine?

Dr. Ashleigh Kennedy, Neurovine (13:04):
Yeah. So we've built a software system that can support brain recovery. We've got a really good technology we've developed for concussion patients, but the system translates really nicely to support recovery after different types of brain injuries. So for stroke recovery, we know that early aggressive gamified intervention has huge impact on how much recovery can happen. And so, you know, that's an area that we're really excited about building into, as well as looking at different types of brain disorders that are a little bit more chronic, how we can start getting those patients physically and cognitively active, getting them to make the most of the brain health that they do have. So, yeah, we're excited about translating the system we've created into different patient populations.

Jamie Oyen, Medical Alley Association (13:55):
Yeah. That's incredibly exciting. And lots of work ahead, I'm sure but exciting and, impactful work. Any last thoughts that you wanna share with our audience?
Dr. Ashleigh Kennedy, Neurovine (14:07):
Yeah, so I think this area of of brain health is the final frontier. Yeah, we are incredible at recording and measuring and treat every part of our body except our brain. We're making some great strides with mental health, but the brain really is the final frontier. It's the organ we know the least about. And I think there's gonna be a huge amount of progress over the next five years in terms of, in terms of brain health. So it's an exciting space to be working in for sure.

Jamie Oyen, Medical Alley Association (14:40):
Yeah. I definitely agree. And we appreciate you taking the time to talk with us and sharing the incredible work you and your team are doing. So lastly, how can our audience learn more and connect with Neurovine?

Dr. Ashleigh Kennedy, Neurovine (14:53):
Yeah, definitely. You can come and check us out on our website. We have a product launch coming up. We have also got ongoing clinical trials. If your brain's healthy, if you're concussed, we would love for you to support the work that we're doing. There's opportunity for both healthy and concussed brains. So come check us out and support the work that we're doing.

Jamie Oyen, Medical Alley Association (15:23):
Oh, I love it. Very inclusive. Wonderful. Well, thank you again, Dr. Kennedy, and thank you to everyone listening. If you're already a subscriber, please make sure to check out or wherever you regularly listen to podcasts to catch conversations like this with leaders who are transforming the future of healthcare. Thank you.