Nirmal Maitra (NHS ’17, MED ’25), a third-year medical student, received $5,000 for his health startup, Enna Health, as a finalist in Bark Tank, Georgetown University’s annual pitch competition for entrepreneurs on Oct. 26.
Enna Health is a mobile application that helps cancer patients log treatment-related symptoms and share this information with their care teams. Maitra and his fellow co-founders Abdullah Abdulkarim and Nikhil Maitra were inspired to create Enna Health after personal or familial experiences with cancer.
Maitra said after becoming aware of the struggles that all cancer patients and their families face, he wanted to create a way to support their well-being.
“Either through personal battles or by witnessing the struggles of close ones, we realized that the experiences we had were similar to those experienced by all families and patients who are fighting cancer,” Maitra wrote to The Hoya.
Maitra described how chemotherapy treatment — harsh drugs that kill fast-growing cells in the body — takes a harsh physical and mental toll on cancer patients, leading to barriers in sharing timely, accurate information about symptoms with their physicians.
“Cancer patients grapple with numerous overwhelming side effects from chemotherapy and other forms of cancer treatment,” Maitra wrote. “Exhausted from battling the disease and from treatment, many struggle to convey these ever-changing symptoms.”
Maitra said the app contains many other features specific to cancer patients, such as permitting caregivers to report data on the patient’s behalf, providing reading materials for patients and caregivers about how to navigate treatment, ensuring 100% HIPAA compliance, allowing for multiple entries a day and including 44 categories so that the wide range of possible symptoms can be tracked. To help support physicians improve their treatment plans, AI summarizes and analyzes the symptom reports.
By centralizing a patient’s self-reported symptoms in a thorough, organized manner, the app makes it easier for patients to show their oncologists how their bodies are coping with chemotherapy and allows doctors to make better-informed decisions. The app can log symptoms in less than a minute, making the logging process much faster than some of the other apps available on the market right now.
Maitra said many health issues that cancer patients experience are preventable and heightened by a lack of communication between a patient and their doctors.
“This communication gap results in unmanaged symptoms and avoidable complications as doctors cannot treat symptoms if they do not know those symptoms are happening,” Maitra wrote.
Maitra said Enna Health started under the premise that improving communication between health professionals and cancer patients would positively impact treatment outcomes and patient well-being.
“We founded Enna Health because we wanted to bridge the current communication gap between patients, caregivers, and clinicians in order to improve patient quality of life and make a significant impact in outcomes,” Maitra wrote.
According to Maitra, other symptom reporting mechanisms, such as hand-writing in a notebook or using other apps, are inefficient, disorganized and not specifically intended for cancer patients, and designers developed Enna Health with these issues in mind.
“Other tools that cater to the patient aren’t geared towards cancer or they aren’t optimized to share the information with their doctors,” Maitra wrote. “Individuals that try to track their symptoms with a notebook or by excel often get overwhelmed and it is difficult to organize and present this information to doctors.”
Benjamin Weinberg, an associate professor of medicine and attending physician at Georgetown’s Lombardi Comprehensive Care Center, said that while using a mobile app to track symptoms is convenient, some people may not be able to access this option.
“I think it’s the cheapest, easiest and quickest way to do it,” Weinberg told The Hoya. “But again, you are restricting your population to people who have smartphones. A lot of people don’t even have phones, period, and they have to have the level of education and technological literacy to be able to use this advantage.”
Since its success at Bark Tank, Enna Health is now preparing for the app’s launch in early 2024 and is focused on gaining users through domestic and international partnerships and conducting app trials with patients, physicians and caregivers.
Jeff Reid, the founding director of Georgetown Entrepreneurship and organizer of Bark Tank, said Enna Health’s approach stood out to him because of Maitra’s use of entrepreneurship to solve health problems.
“It’s clear that our health care system needs more entrepreneurial thinking to improve patient outcomes, and companies like Enna Health are using advanced data analysis to make a positive impact,” Reid said. “As a founder, Nirmal combines an understanding of both business and health, giving him a valuable perspective.”
According to Maitra, participating in Bark Tank was a rewarding experience after his hard work and dedication in building Enna Health over the past year. The monetary prize from Bark Tank will go toward improving the app’s functionality and impact.
“The prize funding is a catalyst for innovation, allowing us to enhance our app’s functionality and broaden its impact among our patients, caregivers, and clinicians.” Maitra wrote. “Our selection as a finalist at Bark Tank marks a significant milestone for Enna Health. It’s not just a win for us but a validation of our vision to revolutionize cancer patient care.”