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The Back Story
The FibriCheck Startup story started in 2013. But it was not an original story about a startup formation that was all about idea brainstorming and decision-making about the project development. On the contrary, the story began with the CEO of the FibriCheck app, Laris Grieten, and his father.
His dad was 51 and had been feeling healthy all the time. However, he suffered a stroke during one of the biking vacations along with his friends. It was shocking for everyone to witness it, let alone feel the panic that can overwhelm you. By the time he was delivered to the hospital and the doctors were able to conclude the diagnosis. It was a transient Ischemic Attack – a temporary blockage of a blood vessel in his brain. After a few days of treatment, his condition stabilized. However, what the doctors could find is the root cause of the problem.
That’s when his son started to work alongside the cardiologist team in Belgium, to determine the causes of the stroke. And it was not an easy task. The root cause can vary and the limits of the medical equipment didn’t allow Laris to identify it. He decided to rely on software technologies only and Big Data.
Fast-forward two years, and he had finished up his first working prototype. So when his dad started to feel unwell again, he measured his heart rate with the FibriCheck app. The results were truly astonishing. Almost immediately, he identified the medical problem he had – atrial fibrillation. After that, his dad started a treatment process and to this day they keep an eye on him.
This powerful, yet encouraging story has greatly impacted the mind of today’s FibriCheck CEO. He understood that with that digital solution he could potentially save millions who have yet to encounter their hidden diseases in their body. However, how exactly did he manage to go through such a long way and became so famous across the world? What kind of milestones did he encounter that we could relate to?
As we know the FibriCheck startup began its journey back in 2013 and has since passed down numerous challenges and milestones. Many of those have since developed into opportunities that allowed them to gain a high competitive advantage. Not only among the medical startups but healthcare industry vendors.
The Key Issue
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a true silent killer. Most of the common cardiac arrhythmia affects more than 10 million people in Europe. It was estimated that by 2050, the global population who has Atrial fibrillation problems will double to at least 92 million. AF typically leads to heart failure, coronary heart disease, kidney problems, and is the main cause of over 20% of all strokes. That’s where the FibriCheck app comes in to try to solve this global problem.
The key point of a FibriCheck app is to screen the heartbeat of all the patients across the whole globe. But how can you achieve that and properly get people to adopt it? That is the question FibriCheck startup was having. As you may already know, a good part of medical startups utilizes various wearable medical devices that assist in health screening. But, if this PPG sensors technology was to be implemented, a startup could spend a few million dollars for their first batch only. Therefore, they needed to seek other solutions that implement the same functionality.
To adopt the product to the people and have positive feedback, the FibriCheck startup needed to achieve a trust factor from the healthcare vendors. They were looking for recognition of their product as a device or a tool for assisting doctors in making the right diagnosis. Since there are so many diseases relevant to Atrial Fibrillation, that not lots of experts can diagnose. And Fibricheck app can provide valuable data assets that can assist doctors in making the right decision during a patient’s consultation.
When the startup group started their work in 2014, most of the doctors and health providers told them directly: “We don’t need your solution. Everything that we do and the devices that we have right now are more than enough to cover AF health problems”. And just like this, they understood that, in addition to the trust factor, they needed to achieve accurate results. Not only to prove that their product can greatly assist but to provide accurate results and try to prevent any AF-related causes or diseases.
As of right now, the FibriCheck app is considered by the first world’s medically certified app that assists stroke prevention. It detects atrial fibrillation and other heart rhythm disorders using only a smartphone or smartwatch in just 60 seconds. The app is used by more than used by 30,000 people, supported by various medical industries, communities, and various hospitals. Since 2017, it was commercially available all over Europe followed by the entire world. So how did they achieve such high awards and got famous across the world?
Back to the scalability question, how do you think the founder of FibriCheck has resolved the issue with the PPG sensors usage? To tell you the truth it was simple when you think about it.
The startup group was developing a mobile app platform the team didn’t want to complicate users with an extra pair of wearable devices. Instead, they focused on their consumer devices (mobile phones) and built this technology around them. You see, from a technology perspective, any PPG sensors are already in the camera of any phone. Thus, after producing numerous tests, 80% resulted positive, meaning the app can properly display the correct heartbeat. It was fantastic.
Not only did the company save millions of dollars, but they made it easy for their target audience to use it. More than that, now they can deliver their solution to any person in the entire world at a low cost. That’s how flexible their solution was, both simple and genius. And to illustrate how impactful this solution is, in under 48 hours their app can perform a screen of more than 65,000 users!
As the COVID-19 pandemic spread, it became difficult for patients to attend a physical visit to their doctor or clinics. Meaning that the screening monitoring and measuring processes of the patient’s heartbeat rate were absent. And if there is no concrete data or information about the patient’s health, how would a doctor diagnose a patient.
To solve this problem and gain more trust, FibriCheck has begun collaborating with various individual doctors, which first occurred at Maastricht University. Here what the doctor’s idea was. He knew that he had an online call with his patient next week. So this week he invites him to try FibriCheck so that by next week he has information about his heartbeat. Meaning that he would be able to make a correct diagnosis. This plan gained so much success, that within 2 months, the FibriCheck app was onboarding more than 40 European Centers with 2,000 patients.
Now, that the app has gained so much public attention, the FibriCheck team has started to customize its user experience. So many people were using the app, it became a necessity to differ the user experience for different age groups. Not only that, but they are trying to optimize the User Experience based on demographics.
Coming back to 2014, nobody knew what is FibriCheck app and how to use it. Since everyone was attached to the physical meetings with their doctors, who were monitoring their health. Step by step, Fibricheck started to cooperate with doctors, but it didn’t change the world’s opinion on their product at once. The startup has invested a lot of time and effort in the heartbeat algorithm for producing the most accurate results. As the company picked up the pace, after 4 years of consistent development work, they were approved by the American Food & Drug Administration. Now, FibriCheck was a medical smartphone application, that could have its way to the US market.
Even by now, the FibriCheck app has user feedback sessions twice a year and a feedback form, added in their mobile app. Both of these innovative solutions bring a positive impression on the users’ opinion when they utilize their heartbeat software tool.
All in all, the story of “FibriCheck” is an inspiring example of how a dedicated team of developers and business experts didn’t give up. There were obstacles and they pulled them through. They got numerous rejections
numerous times and their startup wasn’t getting anywhere, they believed in their work. As a result, their company is globally recognized and is widely accepted across various private and public hospitals.
Currently, FibriCheck is working under two major enhancements for their mobile application. The first one is a background service that automatically connects to the EMRs. Where you have risk profiling automated based on demographics, medical history, and biomarkers. Thus, those people who have high risks of cardiac arrhythmia will be automatically asked to use FibriCheck. And if there is anything wrong with their heartbeat rates, they’ll be immediately advised to a local doctor. This feature is currently in testing with 2 private Belgium hospitals.
The second one is a “diagnostics-as-a-service” model. This is a future extension that will allow the FibriCheck app’s algorithm to be available for 3d party integrations for other wearable devices. This means more data will be available for analyzing and researching the health of various users all over the world. As of right now, they are collaborating with the UK, Germany, and Netherlands, while Asia seems to be the company’s central focus.
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