Surgisphere’s COVID-19 Tools are Deadly Fraud

June 12: Surgisphere’s website is suspended by the hosting provider.

Updated on June 10. Links to Surgisphere’s sites and pages, deleted by the company since May, are replaced with links to their archived versions. A reference and quote from an article about promotion of Surgisphere’s tools in Africa is added

Based on fake Surgisphere’s data from “169 hospitals located in 11 countries in Asia, Europe, and North America“, a NEJM study, concluded that “Our results did not confirm previous concerns regarding a potential harmful association of ACE inhibitors or ARBs with in-hospital death [in COVID-19]“.

Surgisphere’s website hosts an application or applications, pretending to assist physicians and patients with COVID-19 diagnostics and decision making. These applications are called Rapid Triage, Severity Scoring, Diagnosis, Mortality Risk. In fact, these are simple Javascript exercises without any health care value. But they accept input and give output, and a user might be deceived to believe that they provide functionality, described in the Surgisphere’s press releases and other promotional materials.

There is no “advanced machine learning” or “global research network” behind them. Even as calculators, they are far off mark. For example, Surgisphere Mortality Risk Calculator shows that a 20 years old smoker, infected with the coronavirus, has 2.2% probability of death. In reality, the probability of death from COVID-19 for this age is less than 0.01%.

Claims are made that Surgisphere’s Diagnosis Decision / COVID-19 Triage Tool(s) have been validated and are in use in >1,000 hospitals worldwide! Worse, these “tools” are advertised and offered not only to doctors, but to patients and the general public.

In February-March 2020, Surgisphere’s founder, part time employee, and CEO Sapan Desai quit his full time job in Northwest Community Healthcare. Following are quotes from Surgisphere’s press releases from March 2020.

03-12: Rapid Diagnostic Test for Coronavirus COVID-19 Now Available from Surgisphere

Surgisphere Corporation announces the availability of a rapid diagnostic tool for novel coronavirus. Leveraging the power of its global research network and advanced machine learning, Surgisphere has developed an intelligent tool that uses as few as three common laboratory tests to identify patients likely to have coronavirus infection. With a sensitivity of 93.7% and specificity of 99.9%, this highly accurate test can help limit transmission of this deadly virus …

Surgisphere used its cloud-based healthcare data analytics platform (QuartzClinical) to identify patients diagnosed with COVID-19 in five countries. A machine learning model using decision tree analysis was created with clinical and lab data on infected patients to develop this decision support tool. This resource is now available at https://www[.]SurgicalOutcomes[.]com/. These advances have been submitted to a leading medical journal for rapid peer review and publication.

Highlight (Side Panel):

Meet the first effective weapon in the battle against #coronavirus. Early diagnosis @Surgisphere means faster care and lives saved. Learn more at https://SurgicalOutcomes[.]com. #machinelearning #bigdata

03-16: Surgisphere’s COVID-19 Response Center Now Online For Physicians and Patients

 With feedback from the WHO, Surgisphere has developed a validated rapid diagnosis decision support tool and mortality risk calculator to aid in the battle against COVID-19.

Since becoming operational last week, Surgisphere’s diagnosis decision support tool has already been used by over 45,000 people in 59 countries. With an overall accuracy of 99.99%, this tool helps to identify patients likely to be infected with COVID-19 without the usual 1-2 day waiting period.

The COVID-19 diagnosis decision support tool and mortality risk calculator are available at https://www[.]Surgisphere[.]com. Users can access the tool via their computer or smartphone.

03-19: Surgisphere Releases ‘Rapid COVID-19 Triage Tool’ Internationally

… healthcare professionals on the front line can triage a COVID-19 patient in under a minute.

This triage tool has been prospectively validated and has a 95.5% overall accuracy. 100% of patients who require immediate attention are correctly triaged. This smartphone app can be accessed at https://www[.]Surgisphere[.]com. 

Highlight (Side Panel):

#COVID19 surge will overwhelm hospitals. @Surgisphere triages patients in < 1 min w/ smartphone app to save lives worldwide. #machinelearning @CNNI @EricTopol MDs use it now at https://www[.]surgisphere[.]com. Prospectively validated and submitted for peer review.

03-26: Surgisphere’s COVID-19 Machine Learning Platform Receives International Endorsement – Now Clinically in Use at >1,000 Hospitals Worldwide

In use by front line nurses and doctors in more than 100 countries, Surgisphere’s clinical decision support tools are helping to guide medical care for tens of thousands of COVID-19 patients. 

… four decision support tools – all of which are prospectively validated and in clinical use throughout the world. Surgisphere’s Diagnosis Decision Support Tool is a highly effective screening tool that helps identify whether a patient has COVID-19. The Rapid Triage and Severity Scoring tools help determine the severity of infection. A Mortality Risk Calculator offers a quick prediction of survival in infected patients. These tools are freely available at https://www[.]Surgisphere[.]com and also in the form of a smartphone application.

 Surgisphere’s fraud has been quite convincing, so far. The Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine (CEBM) listed three Surgisphere “tools” – Surgisphere Mortality Risk Calculator, Severity Scoring Tool, Triage Decision Support Tool – in the article What prognostic clinical risk prediction scores for COVID-19 are currently available for use in the community setting? (April 22, CEBM.net)

An article Prediction models for diagnosis and prognosis of covid-19 infection: systematic review and critical appraisal , published in the high impact British Medical Journal (The BMJ) on April 7, mentioned Surgisphere tools as “web risk calculators launched for use while the scientific manuscript is still under review (and unavailable on request)”, but did not include in the review.

There is a promotional editorial about Surgisphere’s tools COVID-19 Severity Scoring Tool for low resourced settings in the peer reviewed African Journal of Emergency Medicine (the publisher has renounced them later) 

Surgisphere Corporation

  • Surgisphere’s website does not display its directors or executives, other than its founder-CEO Sapan S Desai (SSD) (About)
  • The website surgisphere.com is excluded from Archive.org – a sure sign that the company does not want people to know what it looked like in the past.
  • SSD worked in Surgisphere only part-time until February 2020, according to his profile in LinkedIn. His last full-time position was “Full-time clinical vascular surgeon, Medical Director of Surgical Quality, and Director of CME at Northwest Community Hospital” in Arlington Heights, IL
  • LinkedIn also shows profiles of four other employees. The three employees visible to me were hired in February 2020 or later. All of them live in different areas of the USA.
  • The address of Surgisphere is a private house in Palatine, IL, probably SSD’s home. (Buzzfile)
  • Surgisphere is not listed as a tenant at the address listed on its websites (875 N Michigan Ave, 31st Floor, Chicago, IL 60611)

In other words, Surgisphere Corporation existed mostly on paper, until February 2020, when its founder decided to become rich from the COVID-19 epidemic. Now it has half a dozen remote employees.

 The Surgical Outcomes Collaborative

The Surgical Outcomes Collaborative has its own website surgicaloutcomes.com. Surgisphere markets it as an analytics platform. Nowhere does it  claim possession of or access to patients’ information from multiple hospitals. Further, its website is a re-branding of another company’s website vascularoutcomes.com. Another Surgisphere’s website is quartzclinical.com.

Surgisphere charges for joining the Collaborative, starting with $295/year.

LancetGate has more research on Sapan Desai and Surgisphere. It is in French, but Google Translate works.

Catherine Offord, Surgisphere Fallout Hits African Nonprofit’s COVID-19 Efforts

According to Wallis [the AFEM advertorial’s author], Desai said the Severity Scoring Tool had been developed using advanced machine learning methods on data from 13,500 hospitalized COVID-19 patients—a claim repeated in Wallis’s editorial on the tool in the African Journal of Emergency Medicine in early April. He says Desai also told him the tool had been validated on around 45,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

Published on May 26. Updated on May 27, June 10.

4 thoughts on “Surgisphere’s COVID-19 Tools are Deadly Fraud

  1. Desai is now focused on Surgisphere, which currently has 11 employees, he tells The Scientist. Surgisphere’s website states that, “When Dr. Sapan Desai founded Surgisphere Corporation, the mission was simple: to harness the power of data analytics and improve the lives of as many people as possible.” Desai tells The Scientist that his company has always been involved in data analytics.

    When Desai established the company in 2008 while a surgical resident at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, Surgisphere Corporation’s most visible activity was marketing textbooks, produced by Surgisphere, to medical students.

    Sapan Desai says he can understand people’s concerns and that the burden of proof rests with Surgisphere.

    Reviews of the company’s products on Amazon are polarized, and a handful of positive reviews that appeared to impersonate actual physicians were removed when those doctors complained to Amazon. Kimberli S. Cox, a breast surgical oncologist based in Arizona, tells The Scientist that she was one of several practicing physicians who in 2008 discovered five-star reviews next to names that were identical or very similar to their own, that they had not written. She and her colleagues successfully persuaded Amazon to take the reviews down.

    Desai denies that he knew about or was in any way involved in the posting of fake reviews for Surgisphere’s products.

    https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/disputed-hydroxychloroquine-study-brings-scrutiny-to-surgisphere-67595

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