Chronic disease – a major target for e-health players
An increasing number of e-medicine entrepreneurs are now focusing on the care and treatment of patients suffering from chronic disease. These niche products and services offer the prospect of advancing general understanding of these kinds of illnesses, but clear evidence that digital is having a real impact on patients’ health is still lacking.
Paper published in parallel with the L'Atelier's e-health Learning Expedition to Silicon Valley.
It was about two years ago that we first noticed a growing interest in health-related problems. The number of startups in the field of e-health is now growing at a fast rate, investments are on the increase and enablers such as noted health industry incubator RockHealth are working to enable the various players in this relatively new ecosystem to forge links. A good many of the innovations in this sector are simply designed to help the average person in his/her everyday life and encourage a healthier lifestyle. However, an increasing number of startups are now turning their attention to chronic illness. In contrast to most well-being products aimed at the general public, the services, applications and devices that are designed for patients with chronic disease take a decidedly niche approach to e-health.
Helping patients cope with illness on a daily basis
Usually the product or service in question is designed to monitor the patient on a daily basis from both a physiological and psychological viewpoint. For example, AliveCor has developed an iPhone case with embedded sensors which enable patients suffering from chronic heart problems to monitor their health, and Glooko is marketing a device and a mobile app to help people with serious diabetes to track their blood glucose levels more efficiently. Startups entering this sector are targeting people who have serious needs – for instance to be more ‘connected’; to obtain reassurance at any time by checking their pulse rate or tracking glucose levels; to be able to get in touch with their doctor easily. One business advantage of this chronic disease solutions market is clearly that it focuses on people who may well become loyal customers over the long term.
Effective treatment as well as better understanding?
In the world of Big Data, the increasing number of niche products and services allow data on both diseases and very specific populations to be collected. This means that research can be more precisely targeted and helps to advance general understanding of a range of chronic conditions, which may then lead to better treatment. Asthmapolis, which allows asthmatics to monitor the progress of their symptoms, also enabled researchers to identify the geographical zones which are high risk for asthma by aggregating and sifting the data, and then correlate these results with local air quality. However, opinions regarding the effectiveness of some services and products vary. In the case of diabetics, for example, a recent study shows that online self-management programs have had almost no effect on patients’ blood glucose control and have not been able to bring about significant changes in their lifestyle.
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