5 Examples of Global Healthcare Innovation
According to Deloitte, global healthcare spending is expected to increase at an annual rate of 5.4% between 2017-2022, from $7.7 trillion to $10.1 trillion. Aging societies, global population growth, and an increase in life expectancy thanks to a burgeoning longevity industry are all putting a strain on existing healthcare systems. All the while, non-communicable diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes continue to grow. Spending across the globe remains uneven, with an average $11,674 spent on a US citizen versus $54 spent on a Pakistani citizen every year. The sector is ripe for efficiency improvements like personalized medicine, virtual care, and outcome-based healthcare.
We recently sent one of our MBAs to the “Land of a Thousand Lakes,” Finland, to attend Slush Helsinki, one of the largest tech startup conferences in the world. With more than 25,000 people in attendance, event attendees included around 3,500 startups and 2,000 investors who were all eager to get some ink on paper. Participating startups applied to showcase their products on stage, and Slush’s jury selected a handful of promising startups from various industries to present to investors. Under the “Health and Wellness” track, five startups from around the world were selected to showcase the latest and greatest in healthcare innovation.
Founded in 2016, Atlanta, Georgia, startup SensorsCall has raised $500,000 from investors to develop a senior care monitoring device. The number of people aged 60 or over has more than doubled since 1980, and is expected to double again by 2050 as the world continues to age. Since the majority of people prefer to age in their own homes, there’s a need for home monitoring and assistance. SensorCall has developed an IoT device that gathers data from eight different sensors and uses AI algorithms to learn the living habits of users in a week. The system detects changes in behavioral patterns of the elderly and notifies a family member or caregiver through a mobile app if anything is amiss.
Founder Fereydoun Taslimi highlighted the non-intrusive nature of the device during the demo. Nobody likes to feel helpless, and senior people are, in many cases, reluctant to carry wearables with panic buttons. SensorCall’s device was built to look like a nightlight in a wall socket, and doesn’t have any cameras to maintain the privacy of users.
The platform recognizes markers of emergency situations, detects loneliness and depression, and also acts as a memory aid for people with Alzheimer’s. It also doubles as a communication device which caregivers can use to remind seniors to take their medicine or pick up the phone. (Nothing like hearing voices coming out of the wall to bring back those old memories of Woodstock.) Besides selling their product direct-to-consumer, the company also offers its platform subscription to caregiver franchises, insurance companies, and assisted living communities. They’re currently accepting pre-orders and future software updates will extend the functionality even further.
Popit Medical Technologies
Founded in 2016, Finnish startup Popit Medical Technologies has raised $1.3 million to develop a patient adherence and engagement platform. According to the startup, half of all patients don’t take their medications properly, and two-thirds of these adherence issues are simply people forgetting to take their medicine. Contrary to what you might think, younger patients are more likely to forget since, presumably, people become more health conscious as they age. Popit’s solution is a clip-on sensor that, once attached to pill blister sheets, will make sure the drugs are taken in the right dosage and at the right time. If it detects a missed dose, a reminder is then sent to a mobile app on the patient’s smartphone which – in the case of young people – is glued to their face probably 85% of the time.
According to a clinical study done in partnership with Kuopio University Hospital in Finland, the solution was able to reduce missed pills by 81% and significantly improve the consistency of when pills were taken.
The startup has also partnered with pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Novartis to work jointly on decreasing the many adverse effects of medication non-adherence which costs the medical community billions of dollars each year. The sensor is only applicable to pill blisters at the moment, but that still manages to cover about 80% of all solid drugs. The startup’s long-term vision is to make all medications connected, and the team is currently in fundraising mode for any interested investors. (Be sure to check out some of the competing solutions in our piece on 9 Examples of Digital Medication and Smart Pills.) For interested patients, the device is available for purchase on the company’s website for around 43 greenbacks.
German startup PsyCurio has raised an undisclosed amount of funding to develop virtual reality (VR) psychotherapy solutions for clinics and practices, something we previously talked about in our piece on “10 Virtual Reality Startups for Mental Health.” Even in developed countries, 35-50% of cases of severe mental illnesses are not treated for any number of reasons, including patients who don’t feel they need treatment. Those who do seek treatment have long waiting periods, and the ones who make it through have a dropout rate of 35%.
PsyCurio thinks the answer to the global mental health problem is VR therapy. The human brain doesn’t differentiate between simulation and reality (there you go, Elon) so having a customized virtual therapeutic experience can result in a quicker and longer lasting effect on patients while preventing relapses. It’s also cheaper, quicker, and could be made available in countries that have a shortage of mental health professionals. The company’s VR platform includes eye tracking, motion tracking, haptic feedback, and avatar simulation for an immersive experience. It’s able to treat a wide range of conditions including anxiety, depression, borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and addiction.
A parent could meet a child in a virtual space, then switch viewpoints to see him/herself from the child’s eye, increases awareness of how they’re being perceived by their children. An alcoholic could be placed in situations where they’re offered alcohol and practice refusing it. Hyperactive children with ADHD could be transported to a calming beach environment that induces alpha brain waves and calmness. The system incorporates biofeedback to measure a patient’s reactions which allows the simulation to be fine-tuned in real-time. Now that the service has been validated in the clinic, interested parties can contact PsyCurio who takes care of the system setup and organizes workshops for therapists who want to implement it.
Another Finnish startup, Neuvola, raised an undisclosed amount of funding to develop a digital maternity healthcare platform delivered through an AI chatbot. According to UNICEF, 7,000 newborn babies die every day, and 80% of them die from preventable or treatable causes. The startup’s aim is to reduce newborn deaths and pregnancy-related deaths by providing a healthcare and maternity platform that delivers the latest know-how of the Finnish maternity care system in 50 languages globally. Users don’t even need to know how to read since the chatbot – developed jointly with IBM – delivers audiovisual content and interactive videos and understands speech.
Content providers are vetted professionals, and the startup plans to monetize the platform by charging governments, NGOs, and healthcare companies a subscription fee for access, and a separate fee for accessing all the “big data” that’s being collected by the platform. Neuvola has led a successful proof of concept in three Indian states, and is now looking to scale up in other regions around the globe with funding from social impact investors and global venture capitalists. The expectation is to have 100 million users on the app by 2025.
Advanced UVC Technologies
Finland startup Advanced UVC Technologies has raised an undisclosed amount from investors to develop a device that uses UV light to kill microbes and heal wounds faster. According to the startup, wound care is a $250 billion problem. At the moment, 40% of hospital beds are occupied because of wounds that were incurred through some form of trauma, and the management of these wounds takes up over half of all patient care resources. Advanced UVC has created a portable device that emits low-powered LED-generated ultraviolet light that accelerates the healing of diabetes ulcers, surgery, or injury wounds significantly. As the light is antibacterial and antiviral, it also reduces the need for antibiotics and remains effective against antibiotic-resistant infections as well.
The team has tested the device on a sample of 579 patients and has seen healing times improve by 30-50%, less scar tissue after healing, and reduced pain and itchiness during the healing process. The hardware will be commercialized as a medical device after it has passed on-going clinical trials, and will be available to the market in Q3 2020. Advanced UVC expects the benefits of faster recovery, more hospital capacity, and easier home care to quickly pay off the expected $4,500-$5,500 price tag. No mention is made of how much time your medical staff will need to spend standing around waving these wands over wounds.
With three of the five startups hailing from Finland, you might be tempted to think that someone’s palms were greased with a few bottles of Finlandia. The fact of the matter is that Finland is a country rife with innovation. What all these startups do have in common is a clear and strong value proposition along with having achieved some traction in their respective markets. After giving demonstrations of their products at Slush, maybe they’ll receive the necessary funding to scale up and capitalize on the 5.4% annual growth in the global healthcare sector. Given that one in ten startups fail, it’s important to figure out where your product offering falls short very quickly while attracting the interest of investors at the same time. Attending events like Slush Helsinki helps startups do just that.