The imec.istart company recently took part in the Go Global DigiHealth mission, a five-day internationalization program aimed at European eHealth start-ups.
Building a reputation in the Belgian healthcare scene
Working together in an international ICT company, in 2013 Arne Wauters, Wouter Willaert and Simon Dusauchoit decided to take the leap and start their own consultancy business for web and mobile applications, Typework. Shortly after launching the company, the founders managed to secure an important project in the field of Orthopedics, which acted as a gateway into the healthcare sector.
Thanks to the contacts and the reputation they gained, the company gradually began to focus more and more on the eHealth business, developing applications and websites for different public and private organizations.
“We really started to make a name for ourselves in the field”, states Wouter Willaert.
Filling the gap in the field of chronic patients’ care
In 2015 the start-up was contacted by AZ Sint Lucas in Ghent to develop a digital platform for patient management – also called EMR platforms – for their nephrology department, as the current available solutions would not suit their needs.
In strict collaboration with AZ Sint Lucas – which acted as a key advisor and co-creator – Typework developed NephroFlow, a web and mobile application specifically designed for dialysis treatments. The solution allows for seamless, real time communication between doctors and nurses, and a complete digitization of patients’ records.
“Dialysis treatments are typically four-hour sessions, performed three times a week, and have a high impact on the patients’ wellbeing. Treatment complications – such as patients experiencing blood pressure drops or having adverse reactions to medication or a dialyzer – require on-the-spot changes in treatments plans,” reveals Wouter. “These adjustments, together with all treatment observations, need to be recorded in the patient’s file, which used to mean records were printed over and over again with notes handwritten on them. We managed to fix that.”
NephroFlow is made up of two interconnected environments:
- A desktop version where doctors can view their patients’ medical records with real-time updates and make adjustments to their treatment plans.
- An iPad application, designed for nurses to easily access patients’ profiles during dialysis sessions, in order to adjust medication and comment on each patient’s status and response to the treatment.
The latter also includes protocols to follow in case some complications might emerge during dialysis, which are activated as soon as the nurse registers the issue. This unique feature allows for a standardized approach in emergency situation, potentially decreasing the risk of human error.
The added value of co-creation
AZ Sint Lucas – which has three dialysis centers, all of which are now using NephroFlow – was involved in the development process from the beginning. This assured that the solution would perfectly meet the needs of the department and would effectively help healthcare professionals monitor patients more efficiently and provide care with increased quality.
The first believers
Early 2016 NephroFlow was selected to join imec.istart. Aside from the program’s financial support, the start-up also welcomes the unique contacts with leading domain experts in the program resulted. Moreover, the Entrepreneur in Residence – an imec.istart initiative where an experienced imec entrepreneur acts as an advisor for a start-up – has helped them tackle the complex regulatory issues which are typical of the healthcare sector.
In October 2016 the start-up also managed to secure strategic investment from a private corporation active in the field of dialysis water treatment.
Going global with imec and EIT Health
Mid-September NephroFlow joined an exclusive group of 12 European eHealth start-ups for a five-day internationalization mission to San Francisco. Go Global DigiHealth was developed by EIT Health, together with imec and aimed to tackle the main challenges start-ups face when entering the US market.
Still at a very early stage, NephroFlow’s goal was to have a closer look at the US healthcare scene, particularly in the field of Nephrology. The trip made them realize that it is a much more mature market, with much more investment in the sector.
Though the US is not out of the picture for NephroFlow, the founders have decided to focus on Europe at this stage, namely France and Germany, after establishing themselves in the Belgian market.
Possible future collaboration with imec
Internationalization is not the start-up’s only goal. Together with European expansion, the entrepreneurs also aim to branch out to other fields in Nephrology, namely peritoneal dialysis, which I still not widely used in Europe. This dialysis modality – a more patient friendly and cost-effective alternative for hemodialysis – allows for end stage renal disease patients to have their treatment in the comfort of their own homes.
Committed to strengthen their reputation in the field, NephroFlow plans to develop a platform to be used by patients to communicate with their healthcare professionals and provide updates on their status without having to go to the hospital. In order to make sure that the solution truly meets the patients’ needs, the start-up plans to make use of imec.livinglabs’ expertise in user-centric research and have their innovative solution developed and validated by its users prior to launch it in the marketplace.
Company Name: NephroFlow
Founders: Arne Wauters / Wouter Willaert / Simon Dusauchoit
Team (October 2016): 5
imec Support: imec.istart program