Navigating the crisis together: EIT Health start-ups offer a helping hand in managing the new normal

The COVID-19 pandemic poses new challenges for healthcare. EIT Health Germany supported start-ups lend a helping hand with creative solutions.

There is no doubt that the spread of COVID-19 has had a strong effect on the overall health system and people’s well-being globally. We have not experienced anything quite like this pandemic before. The current situation presents a challenge for both the health industry as well as society, thus there is a strong need for innovative pandemic-related products for the industry as well as individuals. EIT Health start-ups are using their existing solutions to take on the challenges that have arisen from the Covid-19 pandemic. Let us find out, what some of our start-ups offer society and the strongly affected healthcare systems to better deal with the new normal. After all, we are all sitting in the same boat, so let’s make this cruise as safe and sound as possible!

Managing your health at home

People are social beings and public health actions such as social distancing or lockdown seem to be key in reducing the spread of COVID-19 and maintaining a strong healthcare system. The new disease has brought uncertainty and feelings of loneliness, anxiety and isolation, which can often reflect on physical and mental health, such as the emergence of panic attacks. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, panic attacks are characterised by intense fear and the sense of feeling overwhelmed. Mindable Health (participation in Headstart 2019 2nd call) helps you to overcome your anxiety and panic for good. “Anxiety and panic attacks are increasing massively due to COVID-19, while psychotherapists are unable to fully satisfy the demand. Mindable offers an app-based treatment program for people with anxiety disorders. Psychotherapists are relieved, while users receive a valuable tool to independently confront their anxiety in times of social isolation,” explains Linda Weber, Co-founder and CEO Mindable.

Working from home can also pose mental and physical challenges. The home “office” set up might not be as ergonomic as at the familiar company workplace. Taking into account that for many companies remote work is likely to be included in the long term, Walkolution’s (Bridgehead Europe 2020 participant) first noiseless and manual walking treadmill desk really hits the nail on the head by providing employees with a real alternative to sitting. The COVID-19 pandemic is also impacting the desire for parenthood. While worries related to future economic difficulties and consequences on pregnancy might postpone the desire to become pregnant for some people, innovative solutions make it easier for those who say yes to a child.  Colorimetrix (e-boat 2019 participant) has developed an innovative mobile app and a testing kit “Pearl by Beurer” bringing laboratory diagnostic tools into the hands of everyone. The kit allows women wishing to have children to track their hormones, anticipate ovulation, and find clinically proven fertile days. Their product Pearl Fertility helps women chart 3 key hormones of the reproductive cycle at home, without needing to leave the house.

Easing the burden on hospitals

All around the world, hospitals are under very high pressure. Various measures are taken to slow down the spread of the coronavirus, provide effective patient care, and especially reduce the pressure on healthcare systems to manageable levels. The current number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care wards means there is no reason to breathe a sigh of relief. People’s bodies are reacting to the virus differently, which is why the symptoms vary. However, multi-organ dysfunction and failure is currently the main cause of death from coronavirus infections. Advitos (EHC 2019, EIT Health Catapult finalist) has created ADVOS – a highly technological solution for treating multiple organ failures to support the treatment of COVID-19 patients. “Many people dying from COVID-19 are a certain age and suffer from Multiple Organ Failure (MOF) syndromes. In simple terms, the kidneys, the heart, the liver and the lungs of these patients are not functioning correctly, as they are infected by the coronavirus, which is adding a severe pathology on top of these pre-existing conditions. To cure these patients, it makes sense to involve a device capable of monitoring all these organs simultaneously for better results,” states Dr. Bernhard Kreymann, CEO of Advitos.

Front-line healthcare staff working tirelessly in the fight against the virus are exposed to contagious patients on a day-to-day basis. As COVID-19 surges, staffing shortage calls for efficient time management tools to increase productivity. Cliniserve (participation in Headstart 2019 2nd call) offers a mobile application for nurses that reduces their administrative workload, helps them structure their work and communicate with their colleagues. An intuitive mobile application in each case makes work at the point-of-care possible – in line with the reality of station work. “Cliniserve helps hospitals in two directions: On the one hand, our TEAM solution helps nursing managers find replacement staff faster after illness or other shortcomings – something that unfortunately happens quite often in times of Covid. On the other hand, our CARE solution saves nurses lots of walking and hygenisation time through direct digital communication with Covid patients – ensuring they have more time to spend with patients in need.“, states Julian Nast-Kolb, CEO Cliniserve. Another time-efficient and cost-reducing software has been developed by Menutech (Headstart 2019 2nd call) to automate meal planning and menu creation in hospitals and nursing homes.

Supporting those most vulnerable

In order to support the elderly during COVID-19, it seems as if inventiveness for creating patient-centred and responsive care products has no limits for our start-ups. Moio Care (Medtech exchange Goglobal Medical Valley 2019) is developing a comprehensive technical support device in nursing care, a smart care patch. Worn directly on the skin by people in need of care, it automatically collects and interprets sensor information and informs caregivers as soon as there is a concrete need for action via a smartphone app. The smart seniors’ seat cushion from VISSEIRO (Validation Lab Bootcamp) measures and analyses vital data (heart rate, breathing amplitude, movements, …) – without any skin contact. The data can be viewed at any time via an app, which is particularly beneficial in times of social distancing.

Another intelligent elderly care solution comes from Advosense that is working on improving incontinence care products by developing a brief (adult diaper) with sensor technology that monitors patients for episodes of incontinence. Once a patient becomes wet, the system provides a real-time notification via a web application to the caregiver that the patient needs to be changed. COVID-19 has been devastating for not only our healthcare staff but also our elderly patients. Those patients and families suffering from dementia have been exponentially affected. Deep tech solutions such as Advosense are needed to advocate and ease the burden of caring for these vulnerable patients where it is needed most, at the bedside.“, explains Martina Viduka, Co-founder and CEO Advosense.

Mecasa (Headstart 2019 1st call) currently develops the first European matching platform for live-in caregiving: a place where seniors in need of support will be matched with loving and qualified caregivers based on individual character traits of the two people involved. An algorithm aligns a caregiver’s personality, values, individual way of caring, and communication patterns with the respective senior’s social preferences in terms of caregiving style and interpersonal communication.

Tools for healthcare providers – tests & diagnostics

Health systems are facing the most serious global pandemic crisis in a century. In order to work towards stronger and resilient health systems, reliable COVID-19 test and diagnostic tools are needed. Climedo’s (Headstart 2020 – Covid-19) eQuarantineDiary allows for consolidation of remotely collected patient data, giving researchers a holistic, safe, and affordable way of capturing and monitoring COVID-19-related clinical data. “As a digital health startup, we felt a moral obligation to apply our solutions in the fight against COVID-19 and were proud to end up working with the German Federal Ministry of Health. As a result of this project, public health offices all over Germany now use our Digital Symptom Diary to track COVID-19 cases in their area, which is saving them up to 80% of administrative work, such as receiving faxes or making telephone calls”, concludes Catherine Higginson, Marketing and Communications Manager Climedo Health.

RAMPmedical’s (Headstart 2020 – Covid-19) AI-based decision-support software enables healthcare professionals to find the right treatment for COVID-19 patients. The software analyses current treatment guidelines and medical research and presents the results in an accessible manner so that clinicians can understand the information and avoid errors. Spindiag (EHC 2017) will provide its rapid point-of-care screening system (Spindiag One) to test risk patients for all relevant drug-resistances at an affordable price. This allows doctors to make an informed decision – to isolate or not – on the spot. The start-up has completed EU market approval for their Rhonda PCR rapid COVID-19 test in November 2020 and will be launching soon.

At EIT Health Germany, we are very proud of the startup ecosystem’s resilience and commitment to do what’s needed to help curb the spread.