Finding a home for medical technology

An Ottawa entrepreneur who has spent the last decade developing health-care technology is hoping to find the prescription for success in a product designed to “keep patients out of the hospital and in their homes.”

MobileWellbeing was founded in 2009 by Rajiv Muradia, who has worked on several startups in over the last decade. His most recent success was with VaaSah, another home health-care software solution that was acquired by IgeaCare Systems in 2007.

Mr. Muradia started MobileWellbeing the month after he exited Healthanywhere, which was VaaSah’s rebranded form. The new company develops technology for phones, tablets and PCs that can be given to patients after they are discharged from hospital. Users then record vital sign results and answer disease management questions to make sure they’re on the right track in their treatment or recovery.

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A patient with diabetes, for example, could rent a tablet with the software installed to monitor their blood pressure levels using a glucometer app. The device would then track the data on a cloud service and the patient would only need to be seen by a doctor or personal support worker if there’s an alert status.

“Both my parents are sick, so I see their struggles,” says Mr. Muradia. “I very strongly believe the technology would really help them and others like them to be more independent in their homes.”

The problem, he says, is the Canadian market isn’t very receptive to the technology. The company has been attempting to test the system in the United States, but its most promising pilot projects appear to be in Dubai, Nigeria, Kenya, Malaysia, Singapore and India.

“Most of these markets have whole-payment arrangements. It’s not the government that’s footing the bill,” says Mr. Muradia. “The markets actually have the patients paying out of their own pockets, so the incentive is very high for the patients to reduce their visits and for the physician to take on more patients.”

Dr. Andrew Seely, an associate scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and associate professor at the University of Ottawa with experience studying and testing remote patient care, is a fan of the new technology.

He says to gain traction, Mr. Muradia’s product first and foremost needs to address a true problem and prove it offers a solution. Dr. Seely says companies such as MobileWellbeing would have the best chance in markets where a dedicated group of physicians serve patients at their homes, such as in assisted living situations.

“I think it’s exciting, encouraging and interesting technology,” he says. “For it to get to the next level, a real study needs to be done that shows the value of this technology.”

MobileWellbeing completed a six-month pilot with assisted daily living and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients at Arnprior & District Memorial Hospital last year. Mr. Muradia says he is looking for financing for five more planned pilots overseas.

Mobile monitoring systems and wearable sensors already exist in the marketplace, but Mr. Muradia says his company’s unique approach involves rewards: patients who use the system would be able to collect points and exchange them for free meds or medical devices at participating pharmacies. The company has looked into partnerships with Shoppers Drug Mart and Katz Group in Canada, Walmart and Walgreens in the United States, and other groups in Malaysia and Singapore.

Dr. Seely says the incentive system could have real promise in some of the company’s potential market areas such as Nigeria, “where the dominant rule is bad compliance.”

MobileWellbeing hopes to be on the market within the next 12 months. Down the road, the company hopes to eventually attract the attention of a mobile service provider like Telus Health that may be looking to acquire and adopt the technology.

Long before then, however, the company will have to find a way to commercialize the product, whether it’s on its home turf or overseas. It’s a challenge Mr. Muradia is happy to embrace.

“I’m passionate about health care,” he says. “That’s one of the reasons I’m still doing this.”

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