The first instalment of our focus on CEE startups in the medical and health sectors deals with the prospects for Digital Health
For centuries, people have been coming up with ways to cure their pains and ailments –and for many of them, it has proven to be a lucrative business field. With aging societies and people increasingly willing to invest in their personal well-being, the sector is expected to experience even higher growth in the near future. Unsurprisingly, an increasing number of startups, particularly in web and mobile, are aiming to provide digital medical solutions and tap into this market.
A recent study by PriceWaterHouseCoopers on “Connected Life” expressed high hopes in regard to mobile health (mHealth) solutions: By 2017, it could help save 400 billion US dollars in the healthcare systems of developed countries, while in Sub-Saharan Africa, over a million lives could be saved through mobile interventions.
mySugr companian helps diabetes patients monitor their blood sugar levels. Credit: mySugr.comOn the financial side, the global market for mHealth is expected to reach 10,2 billion US dollars by 2018 from 1,3 billion in 2012 at an annual growth rate of 41.5%, according to a report by Transparency Market Research. The largest share of this market revenue is currently generated in North America followed by Europe and the Asia Pacific region, with India emerging as one of the mHealth hotspots. Differentiating between monitoring services, diagnostic services, healthcare system strengthening and other services, the study assigns the highest potential to monitoring solutions. In 2012, they had contributed about 63% of the global mHealth market revenue.
Monitoring health conditions
mySugr offer such a mobile monitoring service for diabetes mellitus patients (see our previous reports). The Austrian startup co-founded by Fredrik Debong has developed an app, which helps with the tedious checking of blood sugar levels.
mySugr’s Fredrik Debong and his son presenting mySugr Junior. Credit: mySugr.comAfter one year on the market, about 10.000 diabetes patients mainly in Austria, Germany and Italy are now using the mySugr app to monitor their therapy. Debong, who is a diabetes patient himself, is aware of the market potential of their product and hopes to grow their customer base to 60.000 users by the end of the year.
More than just helping to cut administrative costs, Debong is convinced that mHealth can also improve the quality of healthcare: “Mobile health solutions can help to engage patients and motivate them to do something about their condition, for instance by employing the principles of gamification, and to stick to their therapy – half of the medication prescribed by doctors gets thrown away. Moreover, it can facilitate communication and the exchange of information between doctors and patients. In hospitals, a lot of time is invested in administration and not the patients directly.”
IDerma co-founders Josipa Majic (left) and Ana Burica. Credit: facebook.com/iderma.bizUpcoming Croatian startup IDerma has, similarly, set out to solve problems in the communication between dermatologists and patients suffering from skin conditions. With a cloud-based tool, founders Josipa Majić (CEO and Sales) and Ana Burica (Product Manager), aim to enable patients to track and monitor their health condition and thus get directly involved in the treatment of skin conditions, the majority of which are of psychosomatic nature.
The startup is bootstrapped and has been working on their product for less than a year. Now, IDerma have reached a point, where negotiating potential investments and strategic partnerships makes sense for them, the founders told inventures.eu. According to Majić and Burica, a couple of regional private clinics are already preparing to implement IDerma. In addition to doctors and clinic owners, they say that insurance companies in the US have shown interest in their solution, opening a new perspective for IDerma on the international market.
Helping doctors with their work
Symptoma founder Dr. Jama Nateqi. Credit: Romy SiglAs for global market shares, diagnostic services aiming to assist medical doctors with their work make up the second most important business field in the Digital Health sector. Two Austria-based pioneers of such offers are Symptoma and Diagnosia, which were both founded by medical doctors.
German-born Dr. Jama Nateqi developed Symptoma – a “Google for physicians” – to answer to a shortcoming he encountered during his medical studies in Salzburg. The information available to him when researching symptoms online was not satisfactory to the ambitious student. Out of this discontent arose the idea of fusing his IT and medical skills to build up an online database of diseases. “97% of physicians are not satisfied with the current professional and medical research options. Unfortunately, they don’t have the proper tools and resources to check differential diagnoses efficiently,” Nateqi told inventures.eu.
Symptoma facilitates differential diagnosis. Credit: Symptoma.comThis seems to be the background of an alarming statistic: “15% of all diagnosis of life threatening diseases is actually misdiagnosis. This means that per year, there are around half a million of patients worldwide who could have been saved, had they been correctly diagnosed.”
Nateqi sees the greatest market potential for Symptoma in the US, where the disproportion between costs and performance of the healthcare system is highest. Americans spend more than double the amount of money on healthcare (8.000 dollars per person per year) as citizens of comparable industrialised countries (the OECD average is 3.200 dollars). Yet, their life expectancy (78,2 years) is lower than the EU average of 79,76 years.
The Diagnosia team in 2011: Eric Pfarl, Fritz Höllerer, Marco Vitula, Lukas Zinnagl, Stefan Weixelbaumer (f.l.t.r.). Credit: Diagnosia.comIn a similar vein, Dr. Fritz Höllerer, Dr. Lukas Zinnagl, and Marco Vitula started Diagnosia as a cloud-based service to provide reliable information on pharmaceuticals to medical professionals. The Vienna-based startup was awarded “best European eHealth Startup“ at the 2011 Doctors 2.0 conference in Paris. Based on medical decisions and expert information on pharmaceuticals, the team are developing the Diagnosia Index, which is a novel approach to providing pharmaceutical information.
More Digital Health startups from CEE:
MIRArehab from Romania develops video-games to provide a more effective way for physiotherapists to treat their patients.
CaverSoft s.r.o. from the Czech Republic has created CAVER, a software tool for protein analysis and visualisation.
mcule is a Hungarian startup founded in 2011 offering an integrated drug discovery platform. They are the winners of the 2nd prize at the Hungarian InnovationTechshow 2012 and were featured at Startup Sauna Fall 2012.
Stay tuned for part two of our med and health focus, to learn more about developments on the sector in the EU.
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