The so-called patient perspective typically gets lip service at industry events, but it is rarely profiled as effectively as it was at MedTech Forum 2012 in Brussels last week. To illustrate the current shortcomings as well as the future opportunities of mHealth technologies, event organisers Eucomed and EDMA invited Bastian Hauck. The articulate thirtysomething German has lived with diabetes for most of his life, but he has not let his lifestyle be defined by his condition. A passionate sailor, one of Hauck’s proudest achievements is embarking on a six-month sailing trip around Cape Horn. Medical technology has made his adventurous life possible, but it could do much more. In fact, medical device manufacturers must do more—and do it faster—if they want to prevent the likes of Apple, Microsoft and Google invading their turf. (Qualcomm, of course, is a harbinger.)
Hauck explained in great detail to MedTech Forum attendees on 11 October how he manages his diabetes today and how the process could be vastly improved using existing technology.
As you might expect, Hauck’s logbook is not a pen-and-paper affair but an app. The one he uses is called MySugar, which he runs on his iPhone. He gave me a quick run through, and it’s quite an impressive little program that allows him to keep a record of everything he eats, his daily activities, blood glucose levels and amount of insulin taken. The app was developed by a team of diabetic university students and recently received the CE marking.
His insulin pen is fairly advanced, keeping track of the dose taken and when, but—and here is the first of many frustrations—it can’t transmit that data to his app. “Why not build in Wi-Fi or Bluetooth?” he asks.
His doctor may want to take a look at his logbook, but here again, Hauck must find a work-around for “devices that don’t talk to each other.” He has to pull the data off the iPhone and export it to his computer so that it can be pulled into a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet is printed out for the medical secretary, who methodically types this data into the system that the doctor consults. This duplicative work—and let’s not forget the potential for error each time a manual keystroke comes into play—could be eliminated. It simply requires business resolve, as the technology is readily available. Granted, there are a number of regulatory hurdles to overcome, as well.
Hauck’s message was simple: Young people with a chronic condition who have grown up with smartphones and social media and the constant advance of technology won’t accept devices with a technology lag of several years. If device companies can’t fulfil this need, tech companies will find a way. And some smart kids in a college dorm will build the apps.
File that under one more aspect of value-based innovation, an overarching theme at MedTech Forum 2012. For more reporting on the event, read “MedTech Forum 2012 and Winning Europe in 2020.“
And if you would like to keep up with Bastian Hauck’s peregrinations, his German-language website is www.tadorna.de.Norbert Sparrow