Itheum in the Health Insurance Industry
The following is an excerpt from an interview our founder had recently regarding possible applications of Itheum’s Proactive Data Collection abilities within the health insurance industry.
Q: What problem or issue is your Startup solving?
Healthcare (around the world) is incredibly reactive. This is driving healthcare management costs to unsustainable levels. Proactive healthcare initiatives like Telehealth and remote care are solutions but are struggling to gain any real traction as they don’t effectively address the fundamentals of “what makes healthcare reactive?”. We have identified some key initiatives that need to happen at a “grassroots” level to drive a future of proactive healthcare and have built a platform to offer these. Our goal is to create an environment of automated patient engagement, patient oriented data control, health education and open and incentivised interoperability in order to compliment existing Telehealth and remote care provider’s service offerings and boost adoption of their proactive healthcare products. Think of Itheum as a foundation of features that can be used to enable proactive healthcare initiatives.
Q: What experience do you have in this area?
We have close to 6 years experience working specifically in this area providing consumer driven health innovation for both the private and public healthcare systems. Our focus is on understanding why proactive healthcare initiatives have issues gaining traction and then creating tools to address those issues. We have been working on our own product for close to 3years now and have released an open and free public beta that anyone can join and use. You can try it out at itheum.com/beta
Q: Tell us how you came up with the idea?
Around 3 years ago we were looking at building a hardware offering for the consumer healthcare space. We set out to solve the issue of remote data collection from a patient’s home by seamlessly connecting to and collecting data from devices such as blood pressure monitors, glucose monitors, weight scales etc. we choose not to just build an “app” that does this and instead to have a plug and play device that you can purchase that when unboxed in your home would immediately identify and connect to (supported) hardware devices and patients seamlessly contribute data as needed. We released the alpha version of our hardware called the “sense health hub”. We tried to raise investment and take the product to market. But the production costing of the hub was not feasible and as we were up against stiff competition in the smart hub space (google, Amazon etc) so we decided to pause the idea. But we then very quickly realised that the real value of our product offering was the cloud platform we had created to manage users, orchestrate data collection, educate users, enable reporting and interoperability etc would be a lot more attractive to companies and businesses that were trying to provide Telehealth and remote care. Our cloud platform then became our product as it had matured enough to operate on its own and be a “platform as a service”. We now are working to gain adoption of our platform service.
Q: Who is your ideal customer?
In our platform we have 2 high level roles, in our terminology we refer to them as “data providers” and “data promoters”. Our customers are basically any entity that wants to promote the collection of more data in order to improve cost efficiencies in their business. This can mean that an insurance company can be a “data promoter” and can build and run a customer engagement program to incentivise their customers (users) to be more proactive in their health and wellness and in term reward them with premium discounts (a model already implement by John Hancock in the US). The overhead of building, operating and managing the remote engagement program is handled by Itheum’s platform. Another key customer segment we are going after are “value based care” organisations. These companies offer services like Telehealth, remote and connected care etc. the services they offer are highly incentivised in countries like US where pay for performance models yield incentive payments from governments. Most of these service providers have highly specific products like video consulting but don’t have a viable way for providers to holistically engage with patients remotely, this results in “data gaps” where the provider who does video calling will ask the patient to come into for a physical consult. Itheum provides a platform that can be used to compliment these value based service offerings.
Q: What traction has your company achieved to date?
We have a fully operating public beta platform that is available for free to anyone in Australia(and a few other countries). To demonstrate how the platform works we built a concept engagement program called the “red heart challenge” which is a 3 week program that you can join and learn more about the health of your heart (try it out at itheum.com/beta). The platform runs autonomously without any hands-on management from any central entity. Users are engaged, educated and incentivised to follow a program schedule that collects research driven data metrics (in this case blood pressure from both arms, stress, diet and expertise metrics). All data and analysis are available to the user via their own health portal. At the end of the 3 weeks, a comprehensive report is emailed to the user who is asked to give it to their doctors on their next visit. You can try it out for yourself at itheum.com/redheartchallenge We released the red heart challenge program at the beginning of September 2018. We don’t actively promote of market it at this stage. The feedback from a majority of the users has been overwhelmingly positive and we can share that if needed. In one instance, a user got insights into how their condition of hypertension (high blood pressure) was not being accurately managed by their medication and this has opened up the opportunity to have a discussion with their doctor and seek a better treatment plan. In terms of funding we raised some initial funds from friends, family and self-investment which sustained us as we built out a majority of the platform. We are actively seeking a seed round to grow our business and adoption of our product.
Q: What do you believe is the size of your market?
We are after the global patient engagement market which is estimated to be around 20 billion in 2020.
Do you have competitors (that you know of) that are solving the same problem in Australia and globally?
We have a few competitors in the US but as far as we know there is no one in Australia that offers a similar product. Our primary US competitor is WellTok (a well established company with an estimated annual revenue of 200 million) and also Conversa Health and Dacadoo. These companies offer health and wellness products that are used for remote patient engagement. This is huge business in the US due to the government incentive models around value based care/pay for performance/Medicare savings share. Last year we reached the final round of the largest US based health incubator Startup Health’s global call for health innovation startup. We see our competitors as working to solve a real problem but are still retaining a lot of the value they create i.e. the data they collect is still under their ownership and this does not solve the silo and fragmentation issues around health IT. Also the innovation is not bottom-up and patient are still a small component of their offering (they are largely provider centric and inclusive only to certain people). Itheum aims be the first bottom-up provider of this innovation, where the end user (data provider/patient) controls their data, shares their data as they feel fit and joins programs they want to participate on. The incentive model designed into our platform facilitated this patient centric model of value. We feel the next generation of software architecture revolves around user owned data models (the recent issues Facebook has had proves this) and Itheum aims to be the worlds first provider of user owned data innovation in healthcare.