New York-based startup Aetion offers a data analytics product called the Aetion Evidence Platform to provide real-world data validated by science. (Aetion)

Aetion is a winner of FierceHealthcare's Fierce 15 awards. See our other honorees here.

Transparent, real-world evidence can play an important role in helping medical professionals make decisions on treatment and payment for services.

Launched in 2013, the New York-based startup Aetion offers a data analytics product called the Aetion Evidence Platform to provide real-world data validated by science. It includes evidence from medical claims and electronic health records (EHRs) rather than simply relying on clinical trials, according to Aetion Chief Executive Officer Carolyn Magill. 

“Our co-founders developed the Aetion Evidence Platform specifically for the purpose of transforming real-world data into high-quality, transparent and replicable evidence that regulators can use to assess the safety, effectiveness, and value of health care treatments and diagnostics,” Magill told FierceHealthcare. “Our mission since inception has been to use data to improve health care decisions related to which health treatments work best for whom and how much we should pay for them.” 

Life sciences companies, drug manufacturers and regulatory agencies rely on this real-world evidence. Since the company’s inception, it has offered 9,000 treatment effectiveness analyses. In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration now uses the Aetion Evidence Platform (AEP) as it develops more modern drug approval and safety processes.

Available in the cloud, on-premise or in a hybrid format, AEP helps organizations perform rapid-cycle analytics and generate real-world evidence. In fact, the company’s name, which is based on the Greek word for “causality,” reflects the company’s focus on using real-world data to generate a “causal” deduction of clinical data.

“It’s an imperative to use real-world data to inform decisions related to safety, effectiveness and value of therapies,” Magill said.

Recently Aetion adapted its AEP platform for the COVID-19 pandemic to help healthcare professionals respond and adapt in real time as well as gain an understanding of the safety of treatments, diagnostics and vaccines for the coronavirus.

In the five years since Aetion launched, it has added global life sciences companies and U.S. payers as customers. The company reported a 59% compound annual growth rate since its launch in 2015 and has raised $94 million from institutional and strategic investors during that time.

Fierce Insights from Aetion Chief Executive Officer Carolyn Magill

CEO Carolyn Magill (Aetion)

What is your best piece of advice for launching a healthcare company that challenges the status quo?

Start with your north star to set the context for the problem you’re trying to solve and stick to your core strengths in pursuing it. Our founders are experts in epidemiology, and in using technology to assess data.

What is the failure you’ve learned the best lesson from?

Our most significant lessons relate to sticking to our core value proposition and resisting the temptation to pursue tangents. Early in my tenure at Aetion, a large retailer approached us about developing consumer-facing tools in comparative effectiveness, and we were wooed into considering whether to pivot in that direction. We are at our best when serving regulators, payers and biopharma manufacturers to transform real-world data into decision-grade, real-world evidence in a transparent, replicable way. 

What is the book you recommend to other healthcare leaders?

“The Book of Why” by Judea Pearl and Dana Mackenzie, about how causal thinking is paramount to addressing our most pressing challenges. It's essential reading for anyone who considers applying AI or machine learning in the context of healthcare.

What is your prediction for how the healthcare industry will change in 2021?

In 2021 the healthcare industry will adapt to the lessons we’ve learned from COVID-19. This year we’ve seen regulators, industry, academia, data providers and tech companies collaborate like never before to accelerate the development and adoption of RWE standards. I anticipate that this progress will extend far beyond COVID to speed drug development and help us prepare for future public health crises. 

In light of the national conversation that is happening right now, what advice would you offer to healthcare leaders seeking to make a real impact on systemic problems of racism?

I’m in listening and learning mode when it comes to making an impact on racism, not offering advice. Our first step at Aetion is looking inward, at our company and culture. We are asking tough questions that help build awareness about how racism manifests—in the form of microaggressions, as an example, and in recruiting practices. At Aetion we took the ParityPledge, committing to interviewing at least one person of color for every open position, VP and above, including the C-suite and board of directors. We are also devoted to using our expertise in epidemiology to reduce disparities in care by making clinical studies more representative of racially diverse populations. There’s no doubt more we can do, and we are committed to tangible impact.