A Positive Spin

Noga Leviner used her experiences as a patient to start PicnicHealth.
Noga Leviner used her experiences as a patient to start PicnicHealth.

Crohn’s disease isn’t typically associated with positive outcomes, but battling the chronic disease was the impetus for Noga Leviner, 34, to start PicnicHealth.

PicnicHealth helps patients retrieve and organize their medical records — a sometimes overwhelming task
— that can burden those managing a chronic illness. Collected records are stored and organized electronically in an easy-to-read format so that any clinician can quickly access a patient’s full background history.

“Coordinating medical records when you’re seeing doctors in different health care systems is a huge
hassle,” said Leviner. “As a patient, I’d have to stay on top of whether my latest lab tests results got sent from my primary care doctor to my GI specialist. This can mean lots of phone calls, waiting on hold, faxing and mailing requests and carrying around binders between doctors.”

After Leviner decided to drop out from her previous business, Lumni USA, which helped underserved students access low-risk student loans, she tossed around ideas with her husband, Lukas Biewald.

“I asked her, ‘what else do you know or have insight into?’ She said, ‘I know what it’s like to be really sick,’” said Biewald, adding that “most people who have a serious condition like Crohn’s are not in a position to start a company.”

However, Leviner, who has been able to manage her symptoms, was an exception. Through mutual connections she would eventually meet her partners, Troy Astorino and Gillian Hanson.

“I’m a doctor, and I have a hard time getting my records,” said Hanson, director of medical informatics at
PicnicHealth. “I can’t imagine what it’s like for someone who has no experience with the health care system.”

Hanson has firsthand experience with the issue PicnicHealth is tackling. She was diagnosed, as a child, with a rare bleeding disorder, similar to hemophilia.

“I think for most people, if you are healthy, you have no idea what it is like to manage your medical forms,” said Hanson.

Leviner likens the task to filing tax forms, a chore most people deal with only annually, whereas patients of chronic illnesses need up-to-date information ready for numerous doctors on a regular basis.

Most companies who have tried to help patients compile their records, such as the no longer existing Google Health, have used a top-down approach, where the company works with the hospital to implement their system. PicnicHealth learned from their predecessor’s mistakes and took another route.

Instead of implementing systems within hospitals, PicnicHealth uses its knowledge of the medical system to request a patient’s medical files on their behalf quickly and efficiently. This also means it can service patients’ in any part of the country.

John Marquette, 59, lives in Pennsylvania but visited Baltimore for a memorial service this past January. After landing in Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, he made an unexpected
hospital visit to St. Agnes when he started experiencing severe pains.

“When you go into a hospital they ask you to rate your pain from 1 to 10 based on the pictures of the faces,” said Marquette. “I know what it feels like to be past a 10; it was so bad I lost consciousness.”

The pain he was feeling ended up being kidney stones.

Marquette, who is active and makes an effort to lead a healthy lifestyle, takes several medications for conditions, which, on their own, are not serious or atypical for men of his age. Nevertheless, it is imperative for all of his doctors to be “in the same boat at the same time.”

When he lived in California his provider and insurer, Kaiser Permanente, had already invested in an organized medical records system. Marquette quickly realized that, in Pennsylvania, many of his doctors were in different practices and didn’t communicate with each other.

Marquette heard about PicnicHealth last year through a blog, and being a historian by practice, he did his

“PicnicHealth lets me pull together and have good control over all of my medical records, and God forbid something happens, I can provide that information to the doctors who need it,” said Marquette.

PicnicHealth recently partnered with uBiome, a company that provides patients the tools and data necessary to understand their own bodies and ultimately live a healthier life.

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