Vidur Bhatnagar, the founder and CEO of Philadelphia-based Keriton, was a master’s-level robotics student at Penn when nurses presented their problem at PennApps Hackathon, looking for a more sophisticated way to manage milk. The manual process, they said, was time-consuming and prone to errors. Could there be an app for that?
Bhatnagar was intrigued. A self-described systems specialist, he had witnessed his sister’s emotionally fraught ordeal in the NICU, pumping and hand-labeling milk bottles after the premature birth of her baby boy.
He visited Penn’s NICU to audit the milk management problem, and then he hit the books. “I know so much about breast milk,” explains Bhatnagar, who read more than 500 pages of research during the development of Keriton.
The bottom line: “Babies who get more breast milk reduce the cost of care,” he says.
And NICU clinicians, who spend an average of 13,000 hours a year managing breast milk, according to Bhatnagar, can spend their energy on more important endeavors than “bartending,” the term used to describe the unwieldy process of labeling and processing breast milk.
The platform Bhatnagar created, Keriton Kare, is described as, “the first, end-to-end, fully automated milk management platform with two HIPAA-compliant apps – an app for the moms and an app for the nurses, LCs, and milk technicians.”
Designed by Bhatnagar with his sister in mind, the “Kare Mom” app offers secure photo sharing to “digitally fill that gap between the mom and the baby,” he says. (Many moms pump milk away from their infants, a tedious and often stressful process).
To troubleshoot potential problems, a direct chat feature allows moms to connect with clinicians for engagement and support. When they do arise, “interventions that used to take three to five days, we’ve got it down to three to five minutes,” Bhatnagar says.
“Kare Nurse,” the app intended for nurses and health care professionals, offers tools to track moms’ milk production in real time. Both apps are available on iOS and Android.
The response to Keriton has been swift and overwhelmingly positive. In 2016, the year it was launched, Keriton raised more than $1 million and has attracted investments from Penn Medicine, Wharton, Dreamit, BioAdvance, and Ben Franklin Technology PArtners, among others.
Keriton is currently active in Penn’s NICU and expects to be live at another 20 sites by the end of the year, Bhatnagar says.
Perhaps more importantly, Bhatnagar’s family, including his now six-year-old nephew, Savir, has embraced the concept. When the platform won the 2017 South By Southwest Pediatric Pitch competition, Bhatnagar’s sister was on stage with him to accept the award. “She absolutely loves it,” Bhatnagar says.