Mobile health (mHealth) is one of the biggest trends in the healthcare sector worldwide. Compact solutions that improve the networking of stakeholders in the healthcare system, e.g. for transferring data between doctors and for doctor-patient communication, continue their trajectory due to this. MEDICA is the biggest medical trade fair in the world with over 5,500 exhibitors, many of whom are showing us what these trending mHealth applications can contribute to uncomplicated, fast healthcare right now. MEDICA runs from 18 - 21 November 2019. The young companies participating in the following events provide perfect examples of this: the MEDICA START-UP PARK, the “Disrupt” sessions at the MEDICA CONNECTED HEALTHCARE FORUM, the MEDICA App COMPETITION and the HEALTHCARE INNOVATION WORLD CUP. These companies pulled visitors in with their creative ideas and innovative presentations and also drew attention from potential investors and business partners.
“We’re the only company to offer therapy using brain and muscle signals”, stated Dr. Subhasis Banerji of SynPhNe Pte Ltd. from Singapore, evidencing pride in his solution that competed in the finale of the 8th MEDICA App COMPETITION (19.11.). His presentation won the jury over and SynPhNe (pronounced “symphony”) became the overall victor, beating out the competition. The runners-up, DeePathology.ai in 2nd place (from Israel: an AI solution for digital pathology) and midge App (from Germany: a test app that facilitates taking blood samples and evaluating them, winner of 3rd place) also impressed the judges.
All 15 finalists, regardless of their placement, are certainly winners; they were given the opportunity to present their health app solution to the international professional audience at MEDICA, made up of business people that had travelled in from 170 nations.
Simultaneous training for the brain and muscles
This victorious mobile solution, SynPhNe, records brain and muscle signals simultaneously. It consists of a specially developed headset with neuronal sensors and an arm glove which is fitted with muscle activity sensors. The patients use this to perform tasks that are shown to them in videos. Movements and brain signals are synchronised in realtime using this technology. The patient carries these exercises out as an inpatient first and then they continue the treatment independently once they have been discharged as an outpatient. Dr. Banerji highlighted indications for the application such as recovery after stroke and treating dyslexia and attentiveness disorders in particular in his stage presentation. The app could also be used for injuries and a few other age-related impairments.
An AI toolbox for pathology
Nizan Sargiv, the co-founder of the DeePathology Studio from Israel, stepped onto the stage in trade fair hall 13 to represent his company. “We truly believe in what we do” was their confident motto, announcing that they intend to bring artificial intelligence (AI) for research and diagnostics into every single pathology laboratory as a result. Pathologists and researchers can produce AI solutions for their work easily using the DeePathology-developed AI algorithms. This new tool essentially gives them an AI toolbox. They can thus teach their intelligent helpers various tasks quickly, such as counting certain cells and different types of objects, how to segment tumour regions and much more. Sagiv underscores this point: “The advantage of our system is that it’s super fast and super simple”. First, the user keeps training the AI software tool and determines how the searched-for cells or similar structures, such as amyloid plaques which show Alzheimer’s disease, look. After a short training period, the AI will proffer its own suggestions, and these become more accurate as its degree of experience increases. During their final presentation, Sagiv emphasised that access to large amounts of data is not necessary for this. Instead, the system works independently on a laptop and has been conceived so that it can be implemented in any pathology laboratory.
Easy blood analysis via smartphone
The German developer team from midge medical won 3rd place in the MEDICA APP COMPETITION 2019 with a simple hardware and software solution for taking and analysing blood samples. To use this system, the user pricks their hand with a lancet. The blood that is produced seeps into a test strip integrated into a device. The test strip then changes colour. This colour is recorded using a smartphone, analysed to give a diagnosis and digitalised. The lancet is a single-use product, thus ensuring that the required hygiene levels are maintained. “Though it’s very easy to use, our system is actually very complex”, explains Laura Henrich, the Chief Marketing Officer of midge medical. CRP levels in blood can be measured using this device. C-reactive protein is initially a non-specific laboratory parameter for acute inflammatory conditions that can be caused by an infectious or non-infectious pathology. Together with other patient information, the doctor can use this data to determine, for example, whether antibiotics should be given or not. The doctor can be physically present or they can provide consultation via telemedicine. This system could also expand the possibilities for pre-existing telemedical processes. Henrich gave the example of being able to control processes. If the CRP level responds appropriately, the therapy has probably been successful. There are also plans to include other blood parameters in the system’s measuring function. Specifically, the application could also be attractive to German health insurance bodies with a view to telediagnostics. Laura Henrich is equally optimistic in welcoming the German Digital Care Act (DVG) that has recently been enacted by the German government. This act is intended to enable doctors to prescribe apps.
How do the established industry stakeholders, as potential business partners, evaluate the findings from this year’s MEDICA App COMPETITION? “The finalists represented the most important trends in digital healthcare, such as digital basic care, digital therapy and clinical decision aids. We are interested in all of these areas and are committed to helping innovators to continue developing and advancing their individual projects so that the results can be extended to patients and care teams” states Oliver Gassner, Head of Digital Health Intelligence at Bayer G4A.
Pain and needle-free administration of medicine
Gassner also watched the finale of the HEALTHCARE INNOVATION WORLD CUP with great interest. This event was held the previous day (18.11.) at MEDICA 2019. Here, innovative solutions from the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) took centre stage. The victor was Medicsensors, a Spanish start-up company. Their representative, Alejandro Ruiz, showed the development work that had gone into a system for needle and pain-free administration of medicine in their product, Medicsen. This system is physically comprised of a smart patch that delivers the active agents via the skin. In this initial phase, the main focus of the development is diabetes applications. Ruiz comments: “Currently, we’re working with insulin. In the future, we want to be able to transport other, larger molecules into the body via the skin as well.” The fact that the molecule size that can be transmitted has a strict maximum and that the active agent cannot penetrate the skin passively are two limitations here. Apart from these issues, almost anything is possible. Their defined goal for 2023 is as follows: The smart patch needs to be able to deliver active agents automatically according to an algorithm or be manually activated by the user. An automated delivery of insulin would be very similar to providing an artificial pancreas for diabetics.
Second place was awarded to MJN SERAS, who also hailed from Spain. Their device was a wearable that is used to measure brain activity. This means that patients can be warned a few minutes before they have an epileptic seizure, for example. The results of the clinical studies for this year and 2020 are still pending. Once they are out, the system will be launched on the market. The application could be expanded for observation and therapy of conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, bipolar disorder and sleep apnoea.
A German company took third place at the HEALTHCARE INNOVATION WORLD CUP too. Lukas Liedtke showcased heat it. This device combats the symptoms of itching, pain and swelling caused by insect bites or stings within a very short time. Dependent on the type of insect bite or sting and the patient’s level of sensitivity, the bite/sting area is heated for four to ten seconds. This inhibits the release of histamine, which causes itching. “We’re not the first to exploit this mechanism; however, we are the first to link it with a smartphone”, explained Liedtke. The device works with utmost precision for mosquito, wasp, bee and horsefly bites and stings.
You can find all of the information on the MEDICA App COMPETITION and the HEALTHCARE INNOVATION WORLD CUP, which are part of the MEDICA CONNECTED HEALTH FORUM, online at https://www.medica-tradefair.com/mchf2.
Author: Dr Lutz Retzlaff, freelance medical journalist (Neuss)
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