Empower Clinics Inc. (CSE:EPW) is a Canada-based integrated healthcare company with multi-disciplinary clinics in Canada and the United States. Empower is focused on growing its research and clinical trials segment and pursuing a greater digital presence with healthcare artificial intelligence and machine learning platforms.
CEO Steve McAuley shares Empower’s direction, the details of its operations and its recent business moves.
TMH: Let’s start with understanding the premise of Empower Clinics – what are the problems the company is positioned to solve?
McAuley: Historically the company has always been a clinic and patient management organization. We’ve evolved and changed over time in terms of some of the segments and regions that we operate in but fundamentally, it’s about patient management and the improvement of the healthcare of patients going forward and how we might impact that. Geographically, we’ve evolved, we entered markets, we exit markets, but we still ultimately are about managing patients and looking for the best of their future healthcare outcomes.
TMH: Why is this an area that you feel you can lead and what are you hoping to accomplish?
McAuley: We’ve been really focusing over the last year, quite aggressively, on working on research and clinical trials. We have two established medical centers in Dallas with six principal operators under contract and we have multiple clinical trial applications in process right now. Our focus is really to work on this aspect of healthcare, partnering with big pharma, contract research organizations. And our playing objective is to become a site management organization, that manages multiple sites with multiple investigators and multiple clinical trials running at the same time.
TMH: You recently created a spinout that is focused as a pure-play healthcare AI company and platform – can you break down what that means and how it contributes to your bottom line?
McAuley: The premise of a spinout is to potentially create extra or new shareholder value going forward and we felt that this was a very good opportunity, that our shareholders were deserving of an opportunity like this. Another reason for us to kind of go with a spinout on this type of technology is I want to see our business lines be very focused in the type of capital markets that we’re in. We don’t want to have too much confusion or complexity in our business lines and I find that the service of operating and running clinical trials versus technology platform builds to be quite different business models, although they will complement each other. And so we think, again, anticipating the potential of a spinout would be a great opportunity for our followers and shareholders.
TMH: How does AI improve the success rates in the recruitment of patients?
McAuley: I think it’s got a major impact to be played here. As we’ve been delving deeply into the operations and the processes of clinical trials over the past year, I’m still a little bit astonished at how antiquated some parts of it are, particularly around the prescreening, screening and ultimate recruitment of patients. We’ve got administrators in the industry who are really combing through hundreds and sometimes thousands of patient records to try to find matches for potential candidates for the studies and if we can then bring AI and machine learning and really tremendous algorithms to play to help, actually filter … Imagine taking 10,000 patient records and bumping that up against a study protocol to identify that top 20% of candidates and focus on them, not worry about the 80% of patients who would not qualify for that study anyhow.
TMH: Part of your operations includes medical trials – how does that part of your business work?
McAuley: Clinical trials and research are a tremendously important part of the healthcare ecosystem and, in fact, it’s massive. I think we all tend to understand what big pharma is and the role that they play with new drug development and medical device development. Our role as a site management organization is to be that kind of go-between, between managing the facility, doctors who are researchers and their patients and their patient roster on one side.
On the other side, it’s interacting with the contract research organizations and ultimately the sponsor, big pharma, on their research protocol. Our job is going to be pulling that all together, getting our clinics signed up, getting our patients recruited and ultimately running oversight on the particular study to be able to provide relevant and high-quality diverse data back to big pharma, so hopefully they can ultimately get their FDA approvals.
TMC: You have signed new agreements in this area – and are approved to process multiple clinical study applications from pharmaceutical sponsors. What does this mean?
McAuley: What this means is, I mentioned earlier that we’ve got two big medical centres under contract in Dallas, Texas. We’ve got six principal investigators. We have 13 unique study protocol applications underway, and we just recently received the nod on two of those and what that means is the pharmaceutical sponsors have now indicated they want to come and do site visits for their particular trials. That puts you at the very end stage of having a new study contract being awarded.
TMH: What are your next steps and what would you like investors to know about Empower Clinic’s long-term value?
McAuley: I want our followers to understand that this segment of healthcare and attachments to big pharma is critically important to us and it’s really about focusing on one of the largest segments of the entire ecosystem but also focusing on a really strong cashflow model.
In the capital markets constrained times that we’re in right now, having speculative business plans is really not attractive to investors. We need to have a solid cashflow plan and this part of the industry is very much that. We don’t rely on medical billing, we don’t rely on Medicare or Medicaid. All of the funding and the payments and the contracts come from the big pharmaceutical companies on regular 30-day invoices. It’s a very kind of unique, different part of the healthcare system and has the potential to have very strong top line but also very good margin for our shareholders.
For more information on Empower Clinics, check out empowerclinics.com.
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