Technology is revolutionizing healthcare, with startups leading the way in breakthrough intelligent solutions that can change the way healthcare is administered. Healint is one such healthcare startup based in Singapore that aims to make healthcare monitoring ubiquitous using the most readily available technology today – smart phones! Migraine Buddy, an advanced migraine tracking and reporting app, launched seven months ago by Healint has quickly become the number one migraine tracking app on Google Play. Healint’s main focus is providing health data analytics which aim to integrate technology and healthcare.
Healthcare is on the brink of a revolution. Gone are the days when medicine used to follow a “find it and fix it” approach. With the advances in the field of genomics, proteomics, gene therapies and medical technologies we have a deluge of information available, which we couldn’t have envisioned even a decade ago. If healthcare is to be improved, it needs to shift to an approach which believes in prevention of diseases and should intervene early and effectively incase it occurs. The current trend in healthcare is to determine an individual’s risk for development of disease, also known as ‘Precision medicine’.
Currently, the healthcare system focuses on the far end of the disease progression curve, with treatment being provided long after the onset of the disease. If we take advantage of the scientific and technological capabilities available today, we could move the curve far to the left. We could be in a stage that would allow us to give a risk-profile analysis for some of the chronic diseases afflicting us today.
Chronic diseases like Migraines which develop over time, provide ample opportunities for personalization, prevention and intervening coherently. This is where Migraine buddy is making a mark, with its ability to track the progress of migraine, predict a possible migraine attack and empowering patients to deal with it effectively. Since their launch in July 2014, they have revolutionized the concept of crowdsourcing in healthcare.
What is Migraine buddy?
Migraine is a chronic neurological disease that causes splitting headaches typically in one part of the head and lasts from 2 to 72hrs. Migraines occur due to a mixture of genetic and environmental factors and typical symptoms include nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light, sound or smell. There are various triggers for migraines like lack of sleep, stress, aged cheese, alcohol, excessive sensory stimuli, weather etc. Most patients perceive an aura: a transient visual, sensory or motor disturbance (wiki) that precedes the headache.
Migraine Buddy was designed with the help of neurologists and data scientists, making it not only a tool to improve the lives of migraine sufferers but also one to advance migraine research.
Smartphones have become an indispensable part of our lives and in many cases, it has become more powerful and accurate than wearables. Exploiting this, Healint has designed an intelligent platform that collects and analyzes self-reported data like migraine incidences, habits, sleep, medications (from patients) and passive sensor information from the smartphones such as accelerometer, luminosity, weather. The app uses data that a patient inputs and cross-checks it with data received from the app’s sensors- thus ensuring higher accuracy of the final migraine report.
There has been an exponential growth of Migraine buddy users and the tremendous amount of data generated everyday (0.5MB/second) has enabled them to predict when a migraine would occur. As the CEO, Francois Cadiou explains: “Now that nearly seventy thousand migraine sufferers are using our app and have collectively recorded over half a million migraine events, we are well placed to segment users and form clusters to analyze the common characteristics of their migraines. Through this analysis, our data scientists have already begun to decipher how various factors such as lifestyle choices, geographical location and preventative measures affect the onset of migraine and when it is likely to strike for a particular cluster of patients.”
During regular checkups with doctors, sleep data becomes very crucial as lack of it has been widely considered as one of the migraine triggers, but without empirical evidence one cannot draw that conclusion. The sleep diary in the app could detect the user’s sleep timings accurately based on their movements. This is when the humungous data gleaned by Healint were used by its data scientists to conclude that a person who slept less than 7hrs a night was more likely to experience a migraine in the morning.
Considering the amount of information which patients input voluntarily in these apps with the data received from these phone sensors, the concept of crowdsourcing in healthcare is gaining more prominence. Crowdsourcing refers to obtaining data from a large community of people and using it to better healthcare, in this case. This is akin to a large scale clinical trial, with patients willingly keying in real time data!
An example of how this platform is helping in disease prediction is shown in this graph that was obtained by patient clustering. It grouped all patients having similar disease characteristics in the center and the more unique cases were grouped towards the periphery. With this knowledge, a doctor can quickly determine the most effective treatment plan for a particular patient – especially for the new ones.
The Healint team presented these findings at the recently concluded Asian Regional Conference on Headaches 2015 (ARCH 2015), a neurology conference, which is usually led by neurologists who have specialized in headaches.
From the purview of the patients, they are an extremely satisfied lot, who feel the app has helped them restructure their lifestyle based on when a potential migraine may hit them. The wholesome data available to their physicians is helping them get better treatment and are making their appointments more efficient.
Their future plans include working on neurological conditions like Asthma, Allergy, Spinal stenosis etc. In the case of Spinal stenosis, they use smartphone sensors to analyze the gait of an individual, which is unique to every person. Since the gait of a person is affected in patients suffering from Spinal stenosis, the data gleaned from the phone’s accelerometer, will help the doctor keep track of patient’s progress. They are working in conjunction with Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) and the results are positive so far, with plans including a roll out to a bigger population. Also, an iOS version of the Migraine buddy app will be launched by the end of this month.
The passionate team behind Healint are the three INSEAD MBA graduates- Francois, Veronica and Ali who want to find solutions for chronic illnesses. Francois has over 13 years of extensive experience in Pharma and med-tech industry while Veronica who has worked in GE healthcare before, has experience in medical technologies and Pharma industries- bringing affordable innovation into emerging markets. Ali, who left a high potential track at IBM is the technical and scientific brain behind this and has extensive experience with IT solutions.
Their work is perfectly summarized in the words of Dr. Surat Tanprawate, Director of Chiang Mai Headache Clinic and Chair of ARCH who states: “Technology has become part of our daily lives. Using mobile technology in clinical practice is inevitable. It is providing follow-up and monitoring when patients are not seen by their caregivers. Combining with complex and intelligent analysis, this will help advance research in headaches and migraines.”
We are indeed in the verge of a great transformation in medicine.