Published in Russian Business Outlook (Nov 2013)
For the first time ever, the society is able to digitize human beings. Individualized care sets up the most exciting shake-up in the history of medicine and takes a whole different form. The digital revolution brings radical changes to the health care system, but only when developed properly.
IT-technologies used in medical world create miracles with new apps. You can press a button on your phone and get your blood pressure, digitized and archived in your phone and even shared with your doctor. You can also get glucose readings every five minutes around the clock, which allows doctors to do remote monitoring. Eventually everything becomes possible. The old-school mentality of one-size-fits-all medicine will soon be replaced by highly personalized solutions enabled by the breakthroughs in genomics (genomics – the branch of genetics concerned with the study of genomes, and the application of this knowledge in medicine, pharmacy, agriculture, etc.), and by the development of mobile devices that can remotely sense what is going on in human’s body.
Russia: the undiscovered area for digital health entrepreneurs
According to the World Health Organization, Russia ranks 130th in terms of the effectiveness of its health care system. This figure places Russia behind Western world, East European and Latin American countries. As living standards improve in Russia, higher demands to the healthcare industry drive companies to continue innovating and supplying improved health service. In addition, with still rising per capita incomes, despite the current crisis, and by far the largest population in emerging Europe, Russia retains huge long-term growth potential. All the above-mentioned factors seem to be encouraging investments in digital healthcare. Since there is a lack of experienced ‘digital health entrepreneurs’, those who have already tried the path in Europe and elsewhere, now have the opportunity to bring their know-how to Russia.
Of course, Russian startups are also ceasing the opportunity. Moscow is now home to a business –incubator called MedXpoint, which mission is to bridge the gap between entrepreneurs, doctors and IT-specialists. According to the company’s ongoing success, there is no shortage of local talent, but what is lacking are connections to established investors.
The new digital technologies and health apps such as e-booking appointments with doctors, electronic medical records are already used in some of the regions of Russia to improve health perspectives for general population. Let’s examine some of the most successful Russian startups in digital health industry.
The website aims to develop a common information framework of patient-level data that will link up and facilitate access to proven medical and pharmaceutical data. The content of the website is always proofread and edited by specialists in medical field. The portal was established in 2011 by Fast Lane Ventures and required a start-up investment of $1million.
The project is symbiosis of two electronic services: booking an appointment with a doctor online and comparing medical care providers (services and prices). The company works only with commercial clinics, potentially aiming at 400 medical providers in one city.
The world’s biggest social network for MDs was founded in 2009. It counts over 400,000 registered members. The network functions as knowledge exchange platform and seeks to serve Russian medical community by providing professional educational materials and supporting discussions. The project received a $1 million investment from Bright Capital Digital.
Laboratory Lab4U is a unique online service that allows anyone at any time to learn all about his/her health condition. The client can choose the closest laboratory to make the necessary tests, make an appointment and receive results even on the same day.
By using this service the patient can book an appointment with a qualified medical doctor to come to his/her home. The portal unites about 1,000 clinics all around the country.
Medical alarm system called “The Life Button” helps seniors and people with disabilities to call emergency services by pushing only one special button on a mobile phone. There are two sets of options for clients. The first option consists of a special phone with a SOS-button and a GPS cell phone tracker system, which is connected to a 24-hour medical call-center. The second option is a wristband with the same SOS-button plus a fall sensor and a speakerphone. The package price is around 120 euros, followed by a monthly payment of 14 euros. Since 2012 these mobile phones with a special SOS-button are being sold in more than 50 mobile shops around Russia.
This short list of examples demonstrates Russia’s first efforts towards reaping the benefits in the digital age of healthcare. In terms of digital health initiatives, the country remains a tabula rasa; the innovation will definitely help to cut down dependence on hospital beds in future and will hopefully reduce medical costs.