By Victor Allen Cruz
There’s a growing rank of start-ups focused on improving patient-care related communications, diagnosing Covid-19 victims before conditions worsen, and facilitating the process of getting prescriptions remotely — applying a kind of hipster gestalt in the process.
A Sensor Patch for Early Detection of Covid-19
Startup Sonic Health in conjunction with Northwestern University, Shirley Ryan AbilityLab researchers and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services is working on marketing an early warning system to Covid-19 patients. By utilizing a rubber-like wearable patch called ADAM, affixed to the base of the throat (hence its moniker), and about the size of a Band-Aid, the bio-integrated wireless sensor works continuously picking up data like the sound of coughs, breathing and blood flow signatures for heart rate monitoring. Having already collected 3,000 hours of these biometric values from test subjects, the data is uploaded to the users iPad then stored in the cloud where physicians can analyze it for signs of Covid-related symptoms.
ADAM was invented by Rogers Research Group principal Dr. John A. Rogers who boasts a list of medtech awards and lectureships that stretch about a mile long. Apparently, Covid patients have a distinctive cough and an erratic heat rate that ADAM sensors pick up as early warning signs before full infection sets in when the individual is still asymptomatic.
Hospital Pagers Finally Getting Buried
Olympic ski racer Dr. Arman Serebrakian who represented Armenia in the 2014 winter games in Sochi, is co-founder of the young startup Statum Systems whose mission is to finally put the death knell on pagers. Yes, those “beepers” in existence since the 1950’s are still actively in use. And for good reason. Pagers don’t rely on WiFi and can admirably penetrate shielded places like basements and radiology rooms. Beepers can operate when cellular towers are down and they can last a week or more on a single battery charge, very useful during power outages.
But the one-way message system is sadly inadequate for intense patient-care related communications. Since smartphones are also ubiquitous, Statum realized an opportunity to marry both form factors by essentially developing a Bluetooth device the size of a credit card that does double duty as an ID badge holder. It takes advantage of the reliability of both pager networks and the power and convenience of smartphones for a more hospital-worthy communications experience. The startup just opened a crowdfunding campaign on StartEngine.
Making Medicine Cool
The concept of telemedicine is not new, but it’s gotten a slick makeover. Companies like <https://www.keeps.com> Keeps (for hair loss), Roman (for erectile dysfunction), and Hims (for both) don’t just offer medications – they are developing into lifestyle brands. With strong branding, advice blogs, lots of social media advertising, and compelling (often sly, double entendre-filled)
ad campaigns, they are reaching out to a younger generation.
You may already be aware of Roman because of its TV advertisements where its 27-year old co-founder Zachariah Reitano admits his own history with ED. Keeps, too, has been running an effective ad showing several balding brothers and their younger sibling who still has his curly locks and intends to maintain them with the help of Keeps.
But the range of medicines entering the fray is rapidly expanding. Cove, for example, provides prescription medicine for migraine sufferers. Zero can help you stop smoking. Nurx offers birth control. Hims has offered its opposite sex, Hers, offering prescription skin care, yeast infection treatment, and more. And there are sure to be more to come.
With many of these businesses being founded by Millennials, it’s no wonder that they have a more youthful sensibility. That sensibility is reflected in marketing that appeals to younger generations who have perhaps been ignored by traditional pharma advertising (picture those Viagra ads featuring 60-something men). Millennials also take it for granted that nearly everything can be done online these days and are bound to be attracted to more flexible DIY options like telehealth conferencing, using wearables and monitoring wellness apps on smartphones.
There’s A Price To Pay
Customers are paying a premium for the convenience of online prescriptions and direct-mail medication, though. With a headline declaring, “Men Are Paying Sixfold Markups to Feel Cool About Buying Generic Viagra,” Bloomberg notes that customers are paying
$3 per pill for sildenafil, when they could get it for as little as 41 cents through some regular drug stores.
Some medical professionals are also concerned about a model that eschews in-person doctor visits and the traditional model of the doctor diagnosing the patient (rather than patients diagnosing themselves). This New York Times report reveals that some experts are worried that health laws have not kept pace with these online businesses, creating a “regulatory vacuum.”
Some of the success of these brands can be attributed to a generational cultural shift, with young people becoming increasingly disillusioned with the U.S. healthcare system yet interested in embracing the idea that personal wellbeing is one’s own responsibility.
About the Author
Victor Allen Cruz is a Boston-based tech writer whose articles have appeared in Cloud Computing Journal, Harvard Review, and PropertyCasualty360. He earned a BA from University of Michigan and an MFA from Bennington. His motorcycle travel stories appear regularly in Backroads USA.