EIT Health Germany Blog

Creating digital home healthcare for Europe’s elderly individuals – What it means to be part of the Digital Health Entrepreneurship course?

Technology could provide the answer to keeping elderly Europeans healthier, at home, and independent as they age. The DHE Course is the first step in that direction.

Europe’s population is getting older. Faced with this demographic crisis, it’s essential to develop new ways to help our ageing populations. If you have an idea on how to address this situation, RWTH Aachen University is offering a Digital Health Entrepreneurs course, helping students turn potential home healthcare solutions for older people into viable enterprises. The course will take place from October to December 2020 and the application deadline is 30 September 2020.

If you want to find out more about the DHE course prior to applying, continue reading our blog post written by Mohammadhossein, one of the former DHE participants, discussing his 5 takeaways from the course.

A new perspective on age and health 

During my second year of master studies, I decided to diversify my course portfolio and try something new. I came across the Digital Health Entrepreneurship course flyer and decided to do a little research on the topic. A few Google searches later and I was stunned. Europe’s population is getting older and the impact of this demographic phenomenon will reach its maximum levels in the coming decades. Faced with this change, governments have turned to technology to develop digital solutions for home healthcare and improve the lives of older people at home, in the workplace and in society in general. This course was the first step in the process.

My name is Mohammadhossein, I am a second-year Management Engineering student at RWTH Aachen University, and here are my 5 takeaways from the DHE course.

Empathise with the problem

In order to find a solution, you need to know what the problem is. So, that’s how the course started. By identifying the daily problems of elderly people, taking a closer look at their daily needs, mapping the infrastructure and services offered to them and getting a broader view of their status in society. Their problems are not new to me. I speak regularly to my lovely grandparents and I know how they feel. If I could help build something to make their lives better, I wanted to be part of it.

Better understanding and defining the problem was the initial step of the process. But beyond my desire to help my grandparents, the course also taught me the economic effects of our ageing population. More healthcare spending, less growth, a heavier fiscal burden on each working individual are just some of the challenges our societies will face as a result of this demographic change.

Digitalisation is the key

Before joining this course I imagined that people with engineering background working in the healthcare industry were mostly chemical or biomedical engineers, but I soon came to realise that my engineering background could contribute immensely to the project. The course gave me the opportunity to see how the combination of various disciplines such as industrial engineering, entrepreneurship, and business administration can lead to valuable solutions in the health sector.

The main idea of the course is to introduce innovative digital solutions for the elderly, with the goal of improving their lives. When we started talking about the “Care Cycle” of Germany, and some digital solutions already in place, I was convinced that digitalisation is one of the main drivers of change in this sector.

With my team members, we were given the task of working on an application. We have chosen the mental problems of elderly people because it was one of the core issues of the WHO. We decided to provide an app that connects elderly people with companies and young society in order to keep them active in society and give the feeling of usefulness to them near earning money. Also, companies and young generations could match with elderly people and benefit from their experience.

Teamwork 

They say talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships. This was particularly true for the DHE course. The main characteristic is diversity. Participants come from diverse educational backgrounds, and everyone brings something along with them to contribute to the end result. For example, in my group, there were students who studied industrial engineering, management, and business administration. Having little connection to these topics before, I was able to learn so much from them. On one hand, I learned the importance of teamwork and respect towards everyone’s contribution and what it means to be in such a diverse team. On the other hand, I got insights into some valuable skills, such as pitch presentation and app development. Brainstorming sessions were extremely fruitful and made me expand my horizons on so many issues.

From idea to market 

The course itself comprises interactive teaching modules focusing on entrepreneurship, user-centred app design as well as product development. What I found most interesting was the “design thinking” approach and how useful it was in the identification of problems and solutions. However, for me, the most valuable part was the entrepreneurship part, where I was shown the foundations of a start-up company, building a strong team and a valuable product. The journey from idea to market launch is long and enduring, but then again solving a healthcare problem is not easy as well.

Face to face with entrepreneurs

One of the most interesting parts of the course was having the opportunity to meet entrepreneurs who are already working on healthcare solutions and have found a brilliant way to merge digitalisation, engineering science, and entrepreneurship for the greater good. What we actually learned during the course in terms of starting your own company, building your market strategy, finding your primary users, was now much more real and tangible. Listening to their stories about the first days of the company, their challenges and problems they encountered over the years, how they managed to solve them and succeed in the end, was the most beneficial experience for me. You read about them in the papers, you hear about them on the radio, but when a CEO tells you directly that it was all worth it in the end, then it really makes a difference.