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The Purpose Project: How DGI Clinical’s purpose is their business strategy

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DGI Clinical’s purpose

Creating a healthier world by putting patients at the center of care and research.

Business with social impact

DGI Clinical is a boutique Contract Research Organization (CRO) developing tools for patient-centered research and care. The company builds and validates software systems for pharmaceutical companies to use in individualized patient-centered research. Based in Halifax, N.S., DGI has been operating for over 20 years and has undergone several iterations, from a focus on professional research services such as data analytics to licensed digital health and research products. Their approach to patient-centric care and research is based on asking patients and caregivers what’s important to them and then tracking that over time to see if they’ve achieved their personal goals for their healthcare. “If you do science and healthcare this way, by giving the reins to the patient or the caregiver, it actually improves their health outcomes in the end. I don’t know if it’s a lucky coincidence or the beauty of our business that our business purpose is directly aligned with a social purpose, but it’s a fantastic kind of marriage,” says Chère Chapman, CEO of DGI Clinical. “And the neat thing is that this isn’t something that we drummed up just because it’s good for society or just because it’s going to empower patients. It is because it has better health outcomes, and it’s also good for our business too.” A great example of DGI Clinical’s purpose in action is their recently launched app SymptomGuide™ Alzheimer which allows caregivers to track their loved one’s symptoms, especially those symptoms most important to them. This helps facilitate the conversation between the caregiver, patient, other family members and clinicians. The app also provides dementia management strategies and other useful information to caregivers coping with the burden of this complex disease.

Purposeful strategy

While DGI’s purpose has always been inherently part of the company, over the past two years they’ve been working on sharpening their focus and becoming clearer on their purpose. By doing so, they’ve discovered that “our purpose is our business strategy.” They spent time asking themselves “what are we most passionate about, what do we have the potential to be best in the world at, and what can make money doing?”  What they found at the intersection of these three questions is their core purpose – of patient-centric approaches to care and research.  And this is the core focus of their business strategy. Chapman admits that figuring this out hasn’t always been straightforward. With the company having the skills and expertise to generate revenue in a number of ways, they’ve dabbled with various offerings over the years, and even found success with that approach. But she believes for DGI to grow in the future, they need to be laser focused on their purpose. “If you don’t know what your own values are as a company then you have no ability to make strategic decisions,” she says. “There are always going to be tough questions to consider and tough decisions to make. But once you have those values laid out then the path forward is way more obvious.”

Research that matters

Their clear purpose also helps to keep them focused on the research that matters the most for the company and for the patients they help. “There are a thousand and one fascinating research projects at any one time we could undertake and we are filled with PhDs and master level employees and others who are just excited by the intrinsic nature of the interesting research that we do,” says Chapman. “But because we know exactly where we’re headed, the research is all very aligned with that.”

Big ambitions

Chapman calls DGI Clinical “a small business with big ambitions.” As interest grows in the pharmaceutical industry to better understand how drugs and therapies work in individuals and in the real world, DGI is looking at how best to respond, guided by their purpose. “We’re trying to figure out how to take our unique approach to companies faster and better than we have been doing in the past,” says Chapman. “We’re trying to see how can we do this at scale because we really believe in this purpose and this mission.”
If you don’t know what your own values are as a company then you have no ability to make strategic decisions.

ENTREVESTOR: New App Aids Carers of People with Dementia

DGI Clinical has launched a new app, SymptomGuide Dementia, that allows caregivers to track and manage symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. The app allows caregivers to learn about dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, and provides management strategies for dealing with symptoms. Caregivers can choose those symptoms most important to them and share progress with family and clinicians. The app is functional on iOS devices and available free on the app store. “Over two decades of research and conversation with people living with dementia and their caregivers has formed the foundation of SymptomGuide Dementia,” Dr. Kenneth Rockwood, President and Chief Scientific Officer of the company said in a statement. Rockwood, a geriatrician and Alzheimer’s disease researcher, said the app is designed to give caregivers comprehensive, current information about dementia, its symptoms, stages, treatments as well as an easy-to-use method of capturing an individual’s information and experience in a manner that’s meaningful for the caregiver. “Our hope is that the information tracked with SymptomGuideTM Dementia will be used for discussion with family members and for shared decision-making with clinicians.” The app was launched at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Chicago, an event attended by over 5,600 clinicians, researchers and industry scientists, the statement said. In Canada, the Alzheimer’s Society reports almost 600,000 Canadians are living with dementia. In the US, the Alzheimer’s Association indicates that 5.7 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease, a number projected to reach nearly 14 million by 2050. Over 16 million Americans currently provide care for people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Most are unpaid family members who suffer an emotional, financial, and physical toll as a result of caring for people living with Alzheimer’s disease. the statement said. DGI has a suite of proprietary electronic Clinical Outcome Assessment (eCOA) tools for licensed use by sponsors in drug development. The company’s products focus mostly on digital tools for diseases of the central nervous system such as dementia, Parkinson disease, and schizophrenia but also include applications for other chronic, complex diseases such as hemophilia]]>

ENTREVESTOR: DGI brings patients, data together

See original article here Halifax-based DGI Clinical takes a two-pronged approach to boosting health care: the group gives patients a voice and allows pharmaceutical companies to better understand their clinical trial data. DGI Clinical has developed systems that allow patients to state and communicate their health care priorities. Established in 2001 by Dalhousie-based Alzheimer’s expert Dr. Kenneth Rockwood, DGI has created patient-focused SymptomGuides. The Alzheimer’s and dementia SymptomGuide is available online. It allows sufferers to name the symptoms that most concern them. This information can be shared with family and health professionals. Both patients and caregivers can enter data and track symptoms. It’s important that patients state the symptoms that trouble them, said Chère Chapman, the company’s CEO. “Gone are the days when patients say, ‘Tell me what to do and I’ll do it,’” Chapman said. “The SymptomGuide allows patients to set goals for their treatment  One patient with dementia, for example, may wish to increase their social activity. Another may wish to decrease repetition of asking the same questions.” Chapman said between 4,000 and 5,000 people and their caregivers use the Alzheimer’s and dementia SymptomGuide. Other Symptom Guides have been created for clinical trials and clinic settings, including a recently developed hemophilia Symptom Guide. The company has also built bespoke Alzheimer’s and dementia tools for clinical trials and clinic use. “A company may want to develop a compound to reduce agitation. SymptomGuide will reveal how many of our users are concerned about agitation,” Chapman said. SymptomGuide can reveal details such as the disease stage or stages where agitation bothers patients, whether respondents are already diagnosed, and what therapies they may be on. DGI Clinical is now looking at working in the areas of HIV, cardiovascular disease and renal failure. “Our tools are applicable to chronic diseases, and our scientific team has already done a lot of research in these areas,” said Chapman. She said DGI Clinical’s tools allow pharmaceutical clients to fully understand their data. “The typical phase two drug trial looks at primary and secondary outcomes, including quality of life measures, but these are typically analyzed as if they are unrelated,” she said. “We allow pharmaceutical companies to see how the outcomes interact with each other to produce treatment effects.” She said that drug companies usually try to exclude frail people from drug trials, but people of different levels of frailty do get onto the trials. DGI offers a Frailty Index, which was developed at Dalhousie by Ken Rockwood and Arnold Mitnitski, both DGI scientists. It has been adapted for clinical trial data and provides pharmaceutical companies with greater information about the frailty of their clinical trial subjects. “The Frailty Index reveals the impact of the drug on frail people, resulting in more clinically meaningful information,” Chapman said. She said that deep analysis of data is especially useful when drug trial results are unclear. “It could be a $100-million decision to take a drug to the next level, so digging deeper into the data is worthwhile.” Chapman, a New Brunswick native with a background in health research and business management, had worked around the world before joining DGI a year ago, becoming CEO in December. She said the company is growing steadily, funding its own growth, and focusing on R&D and hiring staff. Halifax is an excellent base as the city’s universities produce great scientists. She said she is not aware of any direct competitors. “Our biggest issue is the education of potential clients,” she said. “We have to get people to change the ways they do things.” So far, the company has no Canadian clients. All clients are U.S. or European pharmaceutical companies or other groups with a health intervention to test. “We are not in a huge rush to grow,” Chapman said. “Science is complicated. It takes time for staff to understand all the science behind what we do, however bright they are.”]]>