eCare: How startups are driving the digitization of healthcare
eCare: How startups are driving the digitization of healthcare
Everyone is talking about startups and digitization. eCare is yet another concept that is gaining momentum in healthcare settings. What opportunities does digitization offer? And where are its limits? Startup companies and representatives of the healthcare industry searched for answers to these and other questions at this year’s REHACARE. Find out which innovative products make life easier, learn why startup companies are driving innovation, and discover how healthcare can benefit from all this in times of skilled labor shortage on REHACARE.com.
Thomas Link is founder and CEO of Varomo UG. At REHACARE he presented CAREcules, the small mobile robot table.
CAREcules makes it possible for people to transport things in a self-determined way, even if they can no longer walk quite so safely themselves. In this way, the risk of falling can be avoided.
Gabriele Bunse (right), CEO of AKVIGO, answered questions this year at the booth in hall 7 as well as at the eCare day in TREFFPUNKT REHACARE.
TAB in TIME reminds of the punctual intake of medication and can also notify relatives or the outpatient nursing service if the intake was not happening, incorrectly or twice.
Eleftherios Efthimiadis from ichó systems explained at this year's REHACARE how exactly ichó works and can be used.
Individual and interactive – this is how Ichó is to become a smart companion in everyday care. Originally, the ball was developed for people with dementia.
In recent years, the leading international trade fair for rehabilitation and care has also seen a marked increase in young, innovative and dedicated business owners and entrepreneurs. And that's a good thing. "I think the difference between startups and established companies is that we can be more open-minded and are able to quickly respond thanks to faster decision-making processes. We are more adventurous and bolder because we don’t have quite as much to lose. Plus I think that startups are more innovative, because they typically consist of active young people, who tend to be more perceptive of future needs," says Thomas Link. And he knows a thing or two about this subject. After all, he is the Founder and Managing Director of Varomo UG. At this year’s REHACARE, the young company introduced CAREcules - a small mobile robotic table.
CAREcules is a modular transport robot that follows people at a specified distance to transport objects. Tracking is based on radio technology. The table follows a transmitter, which is embedded in a remote control. It can position the CAREcules robot based on the user’s needs. The transport robot aims to prevent falls. Especially elderly persons are at an increased risk as they tend to be less mobile and unable to safely transport things at the same time. CAREcules can climb an up to 15-millimeter incline, without the objects toppling over or spilling.
To protect user privacy, Varomo UG doesn’t require cameras or Internet access to operate CAREcules. That being said, tools such as telemonitoring systems are a retrofit option. However, the primary objective of the technical solution is to meet the user’s need for usability and unobtrusiveness.
The startup AKVIGO has similar objectives. The company’s TAB in TIME and DRINK in TIME tools feature an integrative design. Gabriele Bunse, Managing Director of AKVIGO, explains how the intelligent, interactive assistive technology promotes safe medication management: "Our system reminds users to take their medication or liquids without drawing undue attention to their deficits and disability.
When another person administers or prompts patients to take medication, the affected persons are instantly reminded of the fact that they are no longer able to manage this activity on their own. Our devices are designed to where they don’t look like a medical device or auxiliary aid. By resembling a coffee machine, they are inconspicuous and blend into the kitchen background."
Not only does this make patients feel less self-conscious about their deficits, which can have a very positive impact on their self-esteem, but it also eases the burden on family members and caregivers. Link agrees and adds, "Relatives generally like to help their affected family members and offer their full and undivided support. But patients don’t want to depend on the help of others all the time. The ultimate goal is always to help people regain independence or to stay independent for as long as possible."
TAB in TIME is an acoustic, visual and digital assistive technology system that reminds people to take their medication and notifies care services or family members in case of a missed, double or wrong dose of medication or a power outage incident. Blind and visually impaired people also benefit from the system thanks to its acoustic feature. By swiping a finger across the touchscreen, the user prompts an announcement of the current time and notification about the next medication intake.
Ichó pursues a different approach: The small interactive ball works with visual and auditory stimulation and collects data. Admittedly, the tool has a different target audience. The team of Eleftherios Efthimiadis aims at helping people with dementia to communicate again. The little ball collects data from playful interactions and applications that can be controlled via an app. "This allows a better understanding of the disease as not much is known about its trajectory. We can garner valuable and interesting insights into the disease just by monitoring data pertaining to the reaction time of patients for example.” These insights in turn support the development of better treatments.
Ichó is an interactive ball designed to activate and promote cognitive and motor skills. This is done via a variety of applications that can be selected by using an app. The list includes favorite music, dream vacations, audiobooks, movement and trivia games or fairy tales.
What’s more, ichó is not only suitable for people with dementia but can also be applied to other target groups and disease patterns - including children with special needs, people with autism and those suffering from Parkinson's disease, for trauma treatment or use in rehabilitation after a stroke for example. For Efthimiadis, this is the benefit of digitization: "I can create a completely different application context and adapt it to a different clinical picture with one program line."
This also allows users to address the individual needs of patients that arise despite the general and common symptoms and manifestations of a disease.
Despite different products and starting points, all three startup founders agree that innovative ideas need more support. "I would like to see a better understanding at the political level and less bureaucracy for startup companies," says Bunse. Efthimiadis had similar experiences with his team. The company actively communicates the lessons it has learned on its route to market and conveys them during state parliament visits. "We want to remove these barriers and hurdles for subsequent startups. That’s why we launched an initiative with other startups to increase awareness on these issues."
At REHACARE 2019, the entrepreneurs connected with visitors, experts, their target audience and other company founders. "You can find a fair cross-section of the community, but everyone also has an appreciation or a sense of health," says Link. Bunse is also pleased that AKVIGO was a participant at the trade fair in September. "A startup usually has to spend a lot of money to be an exhibitor at a trade fair, which new, small businesses are generally unable to afford. We are truly grateful for the opportunity and get a lot of feedback from a diverse audience."
Whether it is an idea, a prototype or a market-ready product – everyone has a place at the table at the leading international trade fair for rehabilitation and care. And it goes without saying that it also takes established, large or medium-sized enterprises to drive digitization. After all, they have more financial leeway and a broad range of experience pertaining to what their users want, what might actually work and what merely sounds good but isn’t likely to actually work. It is this mix of vision, innovation and experience that stimulates developments, whether it pertains to economic or social processes. At REHACARE, both sides can come together and join forces.
Anne Hofmann (translated by Elena O'Meara) REHACARE.com