AI tool gives doctors personalized Alzheimer’s treatment plans for dementia patients


More than six million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease — and one in three seniors dies with the disease, according to statistics from the Alzheimer’s Association.

With so many different factors — genetics, lifestyle and environment — influencing a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s, many doctors are moving away from one-size-fits-all approaches and calling for more individualized treatments.

It’s a concept known as precision medicine. And it’s what inspired a company called uMETHOD to create RestoreU, a tool that uses artificial intelligence to help physicians create personalized care plans for patients with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.

“Dementia is what’s called a complex disease,” CEO Vik Chandra, co-founder and CEO of uMETHOD Health in Cary, North Carolina, said in an interview with Fox News Digital. 

“That means there are multiple underlying causes that eventually lead a patient to develop dementia over time.”

Many of these 50+ causes can actually be treated with available medications and interventions, he said. But because doctors are only spending on average about eight minutes with each patient, they often don’t have enough time to broadly assess the patient and address the treatable causes.

The RestoreU system acts as a sort of assistant to the doctor, Chandra said.

“Its job is not to help the doctor diagnose the patient, but to help the doctor assess the treatable causes and then put the patient on the correct treatment,” he explained.

“It’s really about improving the care,” he added. “It’s not about seeing how far along they might be or whether they have dementia — it’s what to do to help that patient’s cognitive health.”

“When we’re dealing with human health, with the lives of people, making incorrect recommendations or making errors is simply not acceptable.”

The RestoreU AI tool is most effective for patients who are starting to notice mild cognitive impairment and are in the early stages of dementia, Chandra told Fox News Digital.

“The data shows us that about 10% of the population over 65 years old — or a little over six million people — have dementia, and another 20% or so have mild cognitive impairment,” he said.

Through a partnership with Quest Diagnostics, uMETHOD has rolled out its AI service to physicians, who can order the service through the patient’s electronic health record.

Once the physician orders the service, it triggers the exchange of extensive information between the doctor’s electronic health record systems and Quest Diagnostics, Chandra explained.

“It provides the doctor with a wealth of information on the underlying causes of cognitive decline, whether it’s medications, beta amyloid, thyroid, B12 or lifestyle issues like sleep,” he said. 

Next, RestoreU provides a report to the doctor on how to treat the patient, including adding or changing medications. 

The doctor gets a full plan that he or she can use to “decide on the direction of care for the individual patient,” Chandra said. “Everything is personalized to the needs of that particular patient.”

The patient’s privacy is protected throughout the entire process, he noted. 

“We run our infrastructure in a HIPAA-compliant way that maintains the security and integrity of the patient data,” Chandra said.

Mark Dredze, associate professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, is a big proponent of the use of AI in treating dementia patients.

“Care of patients with cognitive decline is especially complex and requires integrating multiple sources of information into a single care plan,” he told Fox News Digital. 

“AI has the potential to integrate diverse types of patient data into an actionable treatment plan.”

Historically, medical care has relied on general guidelines that can be hard to customize to the nuances of each patient, he explained. 

“AI has the potential to integrate diverse types of patient data into an actionable treatment plan.”

“The potential for artificial intelligence in medicine is enormous, as it can combine many different types of information into a personalized plan for each patient,” Dredze added. 

At the same time, however, he emphasized the importance of understanding the biases and risks of these technologies so that they raise the level of care for all patients.

Dr. Ashish Sachdeva, an internal medicine physician in Peoria, Arizona, who has been using the RestoreU AI tool for his patients for the past five years, calls it a “no-brainer” for any primary care doctor.

“It sets a benchmark and a lifelong plan of care for healthy living,” he told Fox News Digital. “With insights from the report, physicians may identify potentially reversible causes of cognitive decline, such as medication side effects or hormonal imbalances, that mimic dementia.”

“The information may also help identify measures to potentially slow or, if possible, halt dementia disease progression,” Sachdeva added. 

The tool gives the doctor a comprehensive plan with lab reports, social history, pharmacological history, psychological history and advice for lifestyle changes, including diet, sleep, exercise and stress management. 

“It’s everything a primary care doctor should be doing anyway, but it’s all laid out on a platter,” Sachdeva said.

A key advantage of cognitive AI tools is their ability to identify risk factors early, he said.

“If you want to make a kicka– 90-year-old, the process should start at 50,” Sachdeva told Fox News Digital. 

“This report helps you identify risk factors and consider lifestyle changes, pharmacological changes, supplementation and other actions that will help achieve that goal.”

Except for identical twins, no two humans are alike, Chandra said. That’s why he believes in the power of precision medicine, which entails targeting treatments to the specific needs of a particular patient.

“The underlying causes of what leads to a patient’s chronic disease, such as cognitive decline, vary significantly from one patient to another,” he said. 

Among the 10,000 patients whom the AI tool has served to date, 52% of them have one or more causes of cognitive decline — and they vary from one person to another, Chandra said. 

“The treatment and interventions should be very specific to that particular patient, addressing the real causes that exist in that individual,” he said. “There is no one-size-fits-all solution.” 

In addition to improving patient outcomes, Chandra believes that precision medicine also will significantly reduce the costs of care, as the patient won’t be put on expensive medications and treatments that ultimately don’t work for them.

But with that precision comes a certain responsibility, the doctor said. 

With hundreds of different AI algorithms, it’s important to understand how the systems are reaching their conclusions.

“The classes of algorithms that uMETHOD applies are always of the nature that can justify why they came to a particular set of conclusions, why they made a particular set of treatment recommendations,” he said. 

“When we’re dealing with human health, with the lives of people, making incorrect recommendations or making errors is simply not acceptable.”

“We have been very, very careful in selecting the appropriate set of algorithms so that physicians can increasingly rely on our solutions to deliver the best care to those patients,” he added.

In the future, Chandra said uMETHOD aims to roll out solutions that focus more on prevention, with the goal of pinpointing early signs before patients wind up in the dementia stage.