App-roximating Digital Health

By Michael Barbella, Managing Editor | 11.15.16

Medica's 5th annual App Competition features 15 finalists vying for cash, SXSW admission.

Steve Jobs wasn’t always a visionary thinker.
Indeed, he led the mobile computer revolution, reshaped the movie industry (thanks to Pixar), and changed the way the world listens to music. But he totally missed the mark on medical apps.
It may seem hard to believe, considering Apple Inc.’s late co-founder, chairman and CEO virtually single-handedly digitalized the planet, but retired Cedars-Sinai Medical Center cardiologist George Diamond can attest to Jobs’ rare blunder. In 1977, Diamond was developing cutting-edge devices and statistical methods to improve the diagnosis of coronary disease. Using an Apple II computer, he wrote a program that analyzed multiple diagnostic tests to detect heart disease.
“Now I thought it was really great and should be marketed, but it needed to be expanded with people who really knew something more about programming than I did,” Diamond recounted to Forbes two years ago. “So I picked up the telephone and called Apple in Cupertino.”
The secretary connected Diamond directly to Jobs. After listening to Diamond’s pitch, Jobs invited the budding inventor/cardiologist to his office to talk about his computer program. When the two met, Diamond emphasized the importance of his creation, telling Jobs that his program “should be on the desk of every doctor in the world.” He asked Jobs’ help in advancing the idea.
Although impressed with the program, Jobs passed on the opportunity.
“He said he was very impressed with what I had done, and that he agreed about the potential for the future, but ‘frankly, I’m not interested in working with you on this.’ I asked why,” Diamond told Forbes. “He said: ‘You have to understand. This is something that nobody in the world yet understands. I can’t be distracted. I’m trying to make the best hammer I can make, the best hammer in the world. You can use my hammer to tear something down, or you can use it to build something up. I really don’t care what you do with my hammer. I just want to make the best possible hammer. And what you are doing is a wonderful bit of construction, but to me it’s a distraction.”
A distraction now worth billions of dollars that Apple, ironically, is helping to develop. The global market for mobile medical apps is expected to reach $14 billion by 2020 as mobile devices become more ingrained among healthcare clinicians and patients.
Such integration was clearly palpable at Medica (held this week in Düsseldorf, Germany), which is holding its fifth annual App Competition on Nov. 16 in Hall 15, stand C24. Fifteen finalists are vying for a top prize of 2,000 euros and the opportunity to attend SXSW 2017 in Austin, Texas, next March. The winning app team also will receive admission to the Startupbootcamp (SBC) Digital Health Masterclass in Berlin, Germany, during the SBC Health program; a Philips Health watch; and the chance to work with Philips Health Innovation Port professionals.
Second- and third-place winners won’t walk away empty-handed, though. The second-place app team will receive 1,000 euros, a Philips Health watch, and an SBC mentoring dinner in Berlin, while the third-place crew will get 500 euros and one hour of SBC online mentoring.
Each of the 15 finalists will be given three minutes to present its medical app and two minutes to answer questions from a 10-member jury comprised of Dr. Urs-Vito Albrecht, M.P.H., deputy director of Hannover Medical High School, Peter L. Reichertz Institute for Medical Informatics in Hannover, Germany; Dr. Florian Frensch, head of strategy and new business development at Philips; Ralf-Gordon Jahns, managing director of research2guidancet in Berlin, Germany; Ronny Köhler, consultant, key account manager, head of Dresden branch office, wdv Gesellschaft für Medien & Kommunikation mbH & Co. OHG in Dresden, Germany; Maren Lesche, startup advisor, communications manager at VoiceItt (innovator of last year’s top app, Talkitt); Thomas Mitchell, CEO of Messe Düsseldorf North America in Chicago, Ill.; Levi Shapiro, founder of mHealth Israel, professor of the Media Innovation Lab at IDC Herzliva University, and partner at TMT Strategic Advisors; Dr. Klaus Stöckemann, co-founder and managing partner of Peppermint VenturePartners GmbH in Berlin; Tjasa Zajc, journalist with Medicina danes in Ljubljana, Slovenia; and Juliane Zielonka, managing director of Startupbootcamp Digital Health.
Medica organizers solicited app ideas from developers worldwide between mid-May and Sept. 30. A medical expert team whittled the total number of apps submitted to 15 based on specific submission criteria. The finalists represent a wide range of products, from an application that measures kinematic scores for shoulder function to a bedwetting treatment app. Some of the more interesting medical device-related apps include:
Biop Medical: This Israeli firm is developing a device that can monitor the uterine cervix tissue and identify both cancerous and pre-cancerous cells. Using advanced, high-resolution optics, Biop’s technology generates a real-time map of the cervix; executives believe the innovation also could apply to intestinal tissue, making colonoscopies faster, more comfortable, and perhaps most importantly, more accurate.

Watch the video below to learn more about Biop Medical's device


Elfi-Tech: Using non-invasive optical technology based on DLS (Dynamic Light Scattering), the device being developed by this Israeli company can continuously and non-invasively measure skin blood flow, blood velocity, coagulation, and vascular aging, as well as pulse and motion. The DLS sensor is capable of analyzing a high-resolution blood pulse wave, thereby enabling the product to measure respiratory rate, systolic blood pressure, cardiac contractility, cardiac valve dysfunction, and Traube-Hering-Mayer oscillations; as a result, the Elfi-Tech platform can detect heart irregularities associated with cardiac, vascular, respiratory, and neurological conditions.

Watch the video below to learn more about Elfi-Tech's DLS device:

Preventicus Hearbeats: This app from German medtech manufacturer Preventicus GmbH measures and records the exact moment a user’s heart seems out of sync. Clinical studies have shown this CE-certified medical device to be nearly as accurate as an electrocardiogram in detecting atrial fibrillation. “Cardiac arrhythmias are often sporadic in nature and sometimes imperceptible,” the company’s website states about the app. “Preventicus Heartbeats very clearly tells you if everything is alright and when there is a need for action. Knowledge brings certainty.”

Learn more about Preventicus Heartbeats by watching the video below:


UpRight: This small, wearable device aims to improve posture through multiple sensors and advanced algorithms. The unit beams data to a mobile app that informs users about “perfect posture.” The UpRight product is placed on the lower back with a gentle hypoallergenic adhesive, which the company claims ensures greater accuracy and real-time notification of bad posture through a gentle vibration. The device and its program work gradually to train the appropriate core muscles and build muscle memory, with the goal of helping its users maintain an upright posture almost entirely subconsciously.

Learn more about UpRight's wearable device in the video below:

GlassesOn: Described as a digital response to vision care, this app from 6over6 uses only a smartphone to measure the eye’s refractive error through the manipulation of light. The Israeli company’s CopyGlass and iPrescribe apps have both been proven accurate with a range of ±0.25 Diopters. The IPD (pupillary distance) app reportedly is the most accurate of its kind on the market, with a precision range of ±0.5mm error. To use the IPD app, vision-impaired smartphone owners hold a card with a black magnetic strip just above their eyebrows and, with their heads raised, hold their phones straight at eye level. Then, users must rotate the phone to face the camera with the flash and simply wait for the double flash.
Information about the 10 other finalists can be found here.