Meet the winner of the WIRED Health 2017 Startup Stage
The EY Startup Stage at WIRED Health 2017 gave a platform to the entrepreneurs working on the next innovations poised to transform healthcare for the masses.
Thirteen startups came from across the globe to pitch for ten minutes to three judges – Pamela Spence, Global Life Science industry leader at EY, Hakim Yadi, CEO of Northern Health Science Alliance, and Liat Clark, WIRED’s commissioning editor – for the chance to speak on the main stage, to a room packed with WIRED Health delegates and speakers. The prize has held previous winners in good stead: last year’s winner, virtual nurse app Sense.ly, raised $8 million in a Series B round of venture funding in February.
While 2016’s pitching sessions were abundant with apps, this year there was a focus on hardware and machine learning, and a continuation of a trend we have seen for some years now: placing control back into the hands of patients through technology.
• Founded: 2016
• Founders: Kit Latham
• Location: London
Kit Latham is a founder, but also an A&E doctor. He has launched a tech company to deal with the one problem that always hindered his work: tech. “Medical software slows doctors down,” he says. “As soon as you remove pen and paper, productivity decreases and it takes doctors more time to see the same number of patients. It makes the job more stressful. As we digitise more processes, the problem gets worse, not better.” According to Latham, in the UK and US where many processes have already been digitised in hospitals, productivity drops by 30 per cent. This is down to three things: lack of buy-in from clinicians; lack of interoperability; and lack of user-centred design. With drfocused, he wants to address all three.
He has pooled a database of “nerdy doctors” interested in software and improving their skills. The Doctors’ Digital Collective has 800 members globally and drfocused can dip into this group to test and trial software design and get feedback. As a result, mobile applications the startup has built have decreased the time it takes doctors to complete tasks by 90 per cent. For now, the startup is starting on the matters that concern physicians most, in terms of time wasting: messaging, HR, and monitoring hours and breaks. It’s currently working with the Whittington Hospital, Great Ormond Street, Health Education England and others to develop a digital back office that helps physicians from medical school up to retirement.
Subscribe to WIRED
“We hear a lot about technology being the future,” says Latham, “And robots taking jobs. That’s great, but we can’t forget we teach the robots. Caring is a uniquely human task based around needs and emotions of real people. So we need to support the people delivering healthcare with better tech.”
• Founded: 2015
• Founders: Dominik Schniertshauer, Shady Yacoub, Claudiu Leverenz
• Location: Munich
Unfortunately not a chair made of glass, this startup offers something far more useful: a smartglass app for electric wheelchairs. It means anyone suffering from a condition that renders them unable to control movement in their hands (spinal cord injuries, ALS, Parkinson tremors), can steer their own wheelchair using only head movements and voice commands.
The startup came out of a university project centred on Google Glass. Although that piece of hardware is long dead, smartglasses are still on the market and more are being developed. Based on the fact there are 100,000 electric wheelchair users in Germany, Glasschair estimates its product has a six-million-person marketplace worldwide.
The app uses sensors in the glasses to track head movements, allowing the patient to turn left when they look left, for instance. The startup has links with the two main electric wheelchair manufacturers in the world and the shops that sell them in Germany.
“In the future we want to create an everyday life assistant for wheelchair users,” says cofounder Claudiu Leverenz. “Smarthome automation, for instance, so people can control appliances in their homes and other things around them so they are more independent.”
• Founded: 2015
• Founders: Muslim Doctors Association, Empower Hack
• Location: London
WIRED Health 2016 startup stage: changing healthcare with an app
One in ten women refugees from the Middle East, living in or travelling through Europe, are pregnant. And one in five have had no access to antenatal care. The results can be devastating. Hina Shahid, a GP and chair of the Muslim Doctors Association in the UK, travelled to Lesbos in 2015 as a medical volunteer and witnessed the difficulties first hand. “I was absolutely shocked by the number of pregnant women taking this dangerous journey,” she says. “There were life threatening emergencies, no treatment, and variation in clinical care on the front line – many volunteers were not up-to-date with the latest best practice in obstetrics and gynecology.”
Seeing how integral smartphones were to everyday life even in refugee camps across Greece, Shahid wondered if there might be a way to educate women and clinicians – who would sometimes see 100 patients a day – working in these area via an app. “We wanted to empower them to manage in their pregnancy, improve access to reliable up to date and culturally appropriate information, reduce misconceptions and social isolation. We also wanted to create an electronic health record for pregnancy, which is really important.”
Hababy, is the result. An open-source app developed at a hackathon conducted by Empower Hack in collaboration with the Muslim Doctors Association. A prototype, which includes medical history, a symptom checker and log, and a peer-to-peer forum, was sent to NGOs and doctors working in the field. “The main area of need is primary health care workers.” Hababy has partnered with the Syrian Medical American Society to extend its reach. So far, the app has been tested in Jordan, Turkey and Greece. There are plans to run 18-month-long trials, and newer versions will have a GPS-led clinic finder, more language options and visual features for illiterate users.
• Founded: 2016
• Founders: Isabel Van De Keere
• Location: London
Seven years ago, Isabel van de Keere found herself in hospital after a hiking expedition in Ireland went wrong. She endured more than six months of rehab and told the WIRED Health startup stage how it “robbed me of independence, and was very boring and demotivating”. As a biomedical engineer, she wondered if she could adapt the long and arduous process of rehab to become a more engaging, and even fun experience. By introducing virtual reality to the process, she believed she would be able to “reinstall” the broken connections between the brain and the body.
“You can change and adapt your brain through interactions with the environment; you can retrain your brain by interacting with objects. We can let one part of your brain that is not damaged take over the damaged part of your brain. VR allows people to engage with objects again to achieve this.”
Part of the reason the VR setup is more engaging is there are no weights involved – you can move invisible objects in VR, training the brain as you go, without the frustrations of failing in a normal physical therapy environment.
Immersive Rehab is working with hospitals across the UK and abroad to run trials, some linked to research (including a project with Imperial College London of 30 spinal cord injury and stroke patients).
“We have validated the platform at a qualitative level; we want quantitative data.”
So far, the startup has a business-to-business model because of the high cost of the VR goggles. Eventually, van de Keere wants to see the setup used at-home, via mobile apps. For now, too much computing power is necessary for it to become a smartphone app. The startup is looking for investment, and plans to incorporate machine learning to make the system more personalised.