Pieces Helps Speed Patient Identification for National Cancer Study

Irving-based Pieces, a health care-focused AI company, is teaming up with a Philadelphia firm to accelerate patient identification for a National Cancer Institute colorectal cancer study. Nearly 10,000 participants will be needed across the U.S.

Pieces will use its analytics platform—which combines AI with natural language processing, to “read” through hundreds of thousands of electronic colonoscopy notes and records—to quickly identify patients that meet the study’s criteria.

Getting recruits for clinical trials is vital, especially since up to 86% of trials aren’t able to meet recruitment goals within their proposed timeframes. One local technology company is looking to change that.

Pieces, a healthcare-focused AI company based in Irving, is teaming up with Philadelphia-based nonprofit research firm NRG Oncology to accelerate patient identification in an upcoming study that could impact millions.

“As a mission-driven healthcare AI firm, we’re incredibly excited to work with NRG Oncology and the select study sites to help advance colorectal cancer research and science that may help save lives,” Dr. Ruben Amarasingham, Pieces founder and CEO, said in a statement.

‘Reading’ through hundreds of thousands of electronic notes

[Image: Pieces]

Through the study, called FORTE, researchers will be looking to enroll 9,500 participants across the country, in an effort to determine when patients that have had one or two benign polyps removed during a colonoscopy should have the exam repeated.

For Pieces’ part, it will be using its analytics platform, which combines AI with natural language processing (NLP), to “read” through hundreds of thousands of electronic colonoscopy notes and records to quickly identify patients that meet the study’s qualification criteria. Amarasingham also said Pieces will be handling all administrative, operational, and technical aspects of partnering with study sites.

The FORTE study is being conducted through the NCI Community Oncology Research Program, which is led by the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Prevention, alongside members of the National Clinical Trials Network.

“We believe that NLP can save hundreds—potentially thousands—of hours per study site,” said Dr. Robert Schoen, chief of the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and principal investigator for FORTE. “This time saved allows FORTE sites to increase recruitment efforts and continue to build their FORTE referral networks, and also make the overall study more likely to hit its participant recruitment goals.”

Pieces’ growth includes $25.7M funding round, Dallas-based acquisition

Through its technology, Pieces says it’s able to interpret patient information in real time and link health systems to community-based organizations. Since 2016, the company has been building integrated communities between health systems and community service providers, with clients ranging from hospitals, health systems, and health plans to community health clinics and community service providers. The latter includes food banks, job assistance, and educational services organizations.

Pieces has been growing in recent years. The company kicked off 2020 by closing on a $25.7 million Series B funding round led by Concord Health Partners and joined by existing investor Children’s Health of Dallas. It followed that up last year by acquiring Dallas-based Bowtie Business Intelligence, a data management and intelligent company that connects organizations to numerous data sources. That move brought Pieces’ headcount to 55 at the time.

“We know that holistic approaches to care delivery are needed so that the silos between clinical and non-clinical care settings can be broken down,” said Brett Grob, Pieces CFO, in a statement last January. “Having capabilities across a broader array of customers in both clinical and social service settings enhances our AI platform and our dynamic networks, and delivers value to both clinical and social service providers, and ultimately the patient.”

Alex Edwards contributed to this report.

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