Digital Health Masterclass Challenge 2013: Px HealthCare
Px HealthCare recently came first place in the Digital Health Masterclass Challenge held by Janssen Healthcare Innovation and Johnson & Johnson Innovation. Here, Anne Bruinvels of Px HealthCare shares details of its tool for cancer patients that won this competition.
Janssen Healthcare Innovation and Johnson & Johnson Innovation. held an inaugural Digital Health Masterclass Challenge at the end of last year to help nurture the rising stars of digital health.
Twenty leading digital health start-ups from nine European countries pitched to a panel of experts and investors, and offered an exciting preview of how the latest technology is being used to improve and manage our health. Each of the start-ups has developed an innovative product, service or proposition using the latest technologies such as mobile apps, cloud-based solutions and wireless sensing technologies to addresses a particular healthcare need.
Here, Anne Bruinvels of Px HealthCare, who came first in the challenge, shares details of its entry – an innovative tool for cancer patients and how it changes the patient-doctor relationship – with pharmaphorum’s Managing Editor, Rebecca Aris.
RA: Your tool for cancer patients, which won this challenge, consisted of mobile apps to personalise medical support and improve the patient-doctor relationship, can you tell me more about how the apps work and how long they have been under development?
AB: OWise is more than a mobile app and website. It's a tool that cancer patients use to keep all information regarding their condition in one place, to receive personalised medical information and feedback, and it's a system that collects and analyses the fully anonymised and aggregated user data for medical research purposes. The idea is to help patients now, with smart mobile health tools, and in the future with the outcomes of the medical research aimed at improving the treatment of cancer.
With our first product, OWise breast cancer, users receive personalised medical information regarding their type of breast cancer and a tailor-made list of questions to ask their doctors. They can also track how they feel and see this back in graph form. All this information can be shared anytime with the treating physician who receives up-to-date information regarding the patient and enables him or her to adjust the treatment of the patient where necessary. The opportunity patients have to record the conversation with their doctor or nurse is also very important as it has been shown to improve the confidence of the user and allows the patient to be a better partner in the discussion with the medical professionals.
Px HealthCare, was founded in March 2012 and OWise breast cancer was formally launched in March 2013. It is our first oncology product and we are planning to roll out comparable products for lung, colon and prostate cancer.
RA: What challenges have you faced in the development of OWise and how have you overcome them?
AB: In the beginning it was hard to find the right people to design and build OWise. It was quite painstaking to get the right team together but by building a network in the IT and health IT sectors we found good people and enterprises who share our motivation and desire to build a system that on the one hand has extremely user-friendly patient support tools, and on the other hand is very solid and secure for use in medical research.
RA: How will OWise change the patient-doctor relationship?
AB: OWise (O stands for Onco) has been made to support cancer patients during and after their treatment. There are so many different types of cancer – even in the case of breast cancer there are more than 100 different types that can be identified - that patients need more personalised support to guide them through their journey. By offering patients, in an accessible way, background information on their type of cancer and a list of specific questions to ask their doctors, they can have a more constructive conversation with their doctor. In a small pilot study that is ongoing with the University Medical Centre Utrecht (the Netherlands), where 10 patients using OWise breast cancer are being closely followed and questioned regarding the effectiveness of the app, the treating physicians have already noted a difference between the patients using OWise and those who don't. The OWise patient appears more at ease and better informed which enables the doctors to discuss the treatment choices a patient has to make more effectively. The interim results of this pilot study will be presented at the European Breast Cancer Conference in Glasgow, in March 2014.
RA: What does it mean to you and your team to win the Digital Health Masterclass Challenge?
AB: Taking part in the Digital Health Masterclass was a great experience and we are grateful to the hosts, Janssen Healthcare Innovation and Johnson & Johnson Innovation, for the opportunity. It gave us a chance to interact with excellent tutors, question our business model and to get to know and connect with so many exciting European digital health companies. Winning the Challenge has been amazing. We thought that our products and business model would not appeal to the audience as we are a socially-motivated business that puts patients first and believes that making a financial return can go hand in hand with serving patients and making healthcare more affordable. That is why we were so pleased to see that both investors and experts from the field endorsed this point of view. We cannot wait to improve and expand on our first breast cancer product and to develop OWise further for a range of other cancer types.
RA: What is your hope for your apps – what do you see on the horizon?
AB: Our goal is to roll out OWise in different geographical territories. We believe that collecting this type of real-time patient health data worldwide is going to give us great insights into improving the treatment of cancer and to possibly work towards prevention of recurrence of the disease. We are looking for collaboration partners in different countries and we hope to roll out OWise breast cancer in other European countries in the very near future.
Finally, we believe that developing apps to help patients with their medical conditions is great but that it is equally important to make the collected, fully anonymised user data available for medical research purposes. That way, we can help patients now and in the future!
RA: Thank you for your time.
Read about the runner up in this competition here.
About the interviewee:
Anne Bruinvels is the founder of Px HealthCare. Prior to setting up Px HealthCare, Anne was Executive Director of the European Personalised Medicine Association (EPEMED), a not-for-profit organisation aiming to improve access to personalised medicine in Europe. Previously, Anne founded Curidium Medica, a personalised medicine company focused on identifying diagnostics and therapeutics to treat patients with central nervous system disorders more effectively. She started Curidium's business activities in 2001 and raised several rounds of angel funding before taking the company public on the AIM of the London Stock Exchange in 2006. Prior to founding Curidium, Anne led several research groups in neuroscience and neurogenetics at various pharmaceutical companies.
She has a MSc in Pharmacy (Groningen University) and a PhD from the medical faculty of Utrecht University (the Netherlands). She was presented with the London Biotechnology Network "Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award" in 2003.
Closing thought: how can health tech help to support cancer patients?