On 13 November 2020 we hosted the demo day of the second round of Headstart Programme within the Frontiers Health conference. Three start-ups impressed the jury and took the Headstart Award home: Advosense GmbH, flowbone SA and MedKitDoc. Congratulations to the teams and we hope the Headstart award will give them the boost needed to bring their ideas to fruition! If you want to find out more about the winning teams, we briefly chatted with them on the challenges encountered so far, next moves, and their thoughts on the digitalisation of healthcare. Here is what they said…
Dorian Koch, MedKitDoc: The story of MedKitDoc is a personal one: Every time my wife and I went on holidays, we called my brother for medical advice in case of an upcoming illness (which for some reason always happen to one of us only during vacations). He is a doctor and always tried to help us out via Facetime or Chat pictures. When our grandma got older and less mobile, those calls got more often and more serious in nature. My brother – and now co-founder – was always asking for medical devices to better conduct remote diagnosis. I developed connected devices in the past and thus we started to combine both our knowledge. So we started to build our first MedKit for private use within the family way before the corona pandemic.
Martina Viduka, Advosense: In Berlin, in November 2018, we started our journey at the Hacking Female Health event with a team of six. After this inspiring weekend, we decided to continue on the journey of using innovation to help our patients and our health community. Erin comes to Berlin from the United States and has a passion for and expertise in health systems, and is motivated to find novel solutions to providing care. Martina has worked at the bedside as a Registered Nurse in Canada and abroad. She is in Berlin using this experience and her passion to advocate for our elderly population by giving her fellow nurses the tools to do so. Grace-Anne comes from the UK and brings a different angle to the team, her start-up and marketing expertise, to strengthen our strategy for the healthcare sector. This is just the beginning and we can’t do this alone; we are excited to expand the team and bring more curious and passionate people onto our mission.
Ulrike Kettenberger, Flowbone: I discovered the “local bone seeding” technology of flowbone during my Ph.D. thesis at EPFL. After the discovery, it took several years to better understand the functioning and develop the production process before the startup was founded in summer 2020.
Dorian Koch, MedKitDoc: MedKitDoc connects doctors, certified medical devices, and patients in a way that may be characterized as revolutionary for remote medical consultations – in that respect, we can almost double the capabilities of today’s telemedicine providers. By using MedKitDoc, doctors can obtain remote access to patients’ vital parameters via our “MedKit”. This kit consists of several connected medical devices that can measure blood pressure, pulse or blood oxygen, record lung sounds, and even take an electrocardiogram. By enabling doctors to diagnose and consult patients via our platform, we reduce the risk of infections, save patients’ valuable time, make good healthcare more accessible for everyone, and enable doctors to work remotely from anywhere in many more cases than before.
Martina Viduka, Advosense: Advosense is on a mission to improve geriatric care for patients and clinicians worldwide. We are starting with incontinence because it affects so many geriatric patients – over 70% in German nursing homes. The care process for incontinence produces a lot of waste in the healthcare system such as time, money and materials and is a significant pain point for not only the organizations and clinicians but also affects the quality of life of our patients and families. We are developing a sensor system for an adult incontinence brief (diaper), which in real-time notifies the caregiver when the patient becomes incontinent. By providing this data to the clinicians we are empowering them to provide easier and better care, streamlining the process. Particularly with our product, we focus on integrating easily into their current care routine, which holds the key to success.
Ulrike Kettenberger, Flowbone: flowbone is developing an injectable, bioactive gel for the strengthening of osteoporotic bone to prevent devastating hip fractures.
Dorian Koch, MedKitDoc: Of course, as founders, we had to overcome many challenges to reach our current status quo. One condition that makes building a digital health startup particularly challenging is dealing with a high number of regulatory difficulties. Don’t get me wrong – these regulations definitely have their right of existence to secure the patients’ safety. However, it took us quite some time to figure out the specificities of each and every legislation until we now reached a point at which we know how to position and certify MedKitDoc during the upcoming months. As a result of overcoming these challenges, we were able to experience several great successes during our first months of building MedKitDoc as a team – from unpackaging the first fully functioning MedKits, receiving the first inbound requests to finally winning the EIT headstart grant. One moment that particularly stands out among these milestones was receiving the first positive feedback from the initial patients who used MedKitDoc. Seeing how our product and service can improve patients’ access to high-quality healthcare motivates us to work hard and give our best to increase the availability of MedKits within the European health system.
Martina Viduka, Advosense: The whole team coming from abroad has its many challenges. However, we have cultivated an extensive network of amazing people within Germany, the EU and of course our home bases. Through the Vision Health Pioneers Incubator Program, the Deep Tech Community, the willingness of the start-up ecosystem here in Berlin to connect and share, and now the EIT support network we feel incredibly successful in the community we have built, especially in these times. We are incredibly grateful for where this has launched us.
Ulrike Kettenberger, Flowbone: Our biggest challenge is the regulatory pathway of our highly innovative product. The greatest success was the winning of a series of important grants, including the EIT Health Headstart, lately.
Dorian Koch, MedKitDoc: We will focus on bringing our solution to the public healthcare system. Already today, we are able to serve privately insured / self-pay patients. However, especially in Germany but also some other European countries, most people are in public health insurance that requires additional certifications and procedures.
Martina Viduka, Advosense: Celebrate! We are very pleased to have been selected as one of the winners of the Headstart Award, not only will the funding enable us to continue our product development while we secure further funding, but the access to the EIT community and networks will be priceless. Our next big move will be to focus on further development and assessment of our product and we are currently looking for clinical partnerships for testing the Sensa System.
Ulrike Kettenberger, Flowbone: Our next big step is moving out of the EPFL premises into our own office and lab space including setting up a cleanroom production. Once this is done, we will start the official pre-clinical studies.
Dorian Koch, MedKitDoc: Dr. on Demand, It is really a great example of a positive user experience for a telemedicine provider, especially on Android.
Martina Viduka, Advosense: We have been fortunate to be healthy and not need to access much of the health system these days. Though, we have turned more towards wellness and prevention applications for mindfulness and mental health, along with physician booking platforms, making it much easier to schedule and access assistance when needed.
Ulrike Kettenberger, Flowbone: I used a telemedicine service lately and was really happy with the efficiency and saving of time.
Dorian Koch, MedKitDoc: MedKitDoc, of course. 😉
Martina Viduka, Advosense: We are really hoping to see more care (nursing) related innovations that help with care routines. COVID-19 has made it even more clear that our clinicians need digital innovations and support not only to meet the basic care demands but also to provide quality, compassionate care to our patients.
Ulrike Kettenberger, Flowbone: Hmm, at the moment I cannot name anything. But I also haven’t looked much in what is in the digital health pipeline.
Dorian Koch, MedKitDoc: MedKitDoc will become the leading European player for complex remote consultations. Our MedKitDoc platform will enable the integration for all relevant medical devices and enables seamless data transmission to physicians and all patient health records. Furthermore, patients can access remote diagnosis including a huge variety of tests at the point of care.
Martina Viduka, Advosense: This is just the beginning of our journey and we will continue to innovate alongside our clinicians to keep creating bedside technologies to help patients and carers worldwide.
Ulrike Kettenberger, Flowbone: We see the “local bone seeding” as a technology platform, adapted to treat bone fragility and loss from various origins. Therefore, we project flowbone as an R&D-focused company with the mission to bring highly innovative bone biomaterials to the market.
Dorian Koch, MedKitDoc: Medicine becomes more decentralized and personal. We reduce inefficiencies and waiting times in our healthcare system enabling people to access innovative health solutions with just a few clicks. Quality of care becomes the most relevant criteria for selecting a service – not the geographical proximity to the patient.
Martina Viduka, Advosense: We think digital trends will continue to get traction and find a place not only in healthcare organisations but increasingly in care provided at home. Our product development reflects many of the key industry and socioeconomic trends such as value-based healthcare, staffing limitations, and now with COVID-19, the trend towards digital health solutions and remote monitoring. We anticipate other startups in Europe will find new opportunities to grow in these areas.
Ulrike Kettenberger, Flowbone: One clear trend that we see is the use of AI in diagnostic tools and for the planning of individualized therapies. Many startups are already working on solutions based on AI and we expect this to become a rapidly standard of care for many fields in medicine.