30th MARCH 2015: Startup of the week: HEALTH MAPPER

For this 'Startup of the week' post, I caught up with Dan Bladon, co-founder of UK startup, Health Mapper.

[Disclosure: I have no commercial ties with Health Mapper]


1. What is Health Mapper?
Health Mapper is a free iOS app, created with patients and clinicians, designed for people to track single or multiple health conditions and then share their data with their health care professional(s), to support the future management of their health.

Users can track any combination of symptoms, medication, measurements and other variables (dietary or environmental factors for example) through a flexible system that empowers them to personalise their tracking to their own needs.

Launched in October 2014, we now have over 6,000 users, tracking hundreds of conditions and thousands of symptoms, medication and measurements. The app is also integrated with the Apple HealthKit and utilises other iOS features such as Touch ID.

2. Could you explain the essence of Health Mapper, i.e it's core values?
The inspiration for Health Mapper came from co-founder Stu’s Dad who was manually writing health reports to share with his clinicians when managing his Parkinson’s. 

We saw an opportunity to create a tool which he could use to track and analyse key elements of his health, find insights and then share his data with his clinician.

We know that people’s health is complex; 15 million people in the UK alone manage more than one condition. So we created a system which allows people to track multiple conditions as well as other factors important to them, things like sleep, stress and exercise.

And we wanted to do it with design panache and a focus on user experience because design is very much under appreciated in healthcare, and it is important to us that our users think Health Mapper is a pleasure to use.

3. What's the business model you're operating under?
We’re exploring various models at the moment but retaining the majority of our focus on creating the best possible tool that helps improve people’s lives.

Of course we’re also interested in finding our product/market fit. And to do that we’re working with the University of Sheffield to find pilot sites within the NHS, and other healthcare organisations, where we can deploy Health Mapper, evaluate its effectiveness and evolve the tools so that it’s a genuinely useful product meeting real clinical needs. 

Once we’ve begun to create a validated, evidence base, we can spend more time thinking about how to create a sustainable business.

4. Is there anyone else doing the same as you?
There’s lots of activity in digital health, which is exciting to see, especially for self-management. There’s also lots of tracking apps for specific conditions, some done well, others not so much.

We differentiate because of our focus on comorbidities and through offering a completely flexible tracking system which users can tailor to their needs. Indeed, the average Health Mapper user tracks 2+ conditions, 20 symptoms, 5 measurements and 5+ other variables. We also stand out through our desire to align clinical robustness with design panache and offer a great user experience.

.We also wanted to create a tool which wasn’t hidden behind an organisational paywall, that was easy to find, free to download and use. And stand out through our commitment to including users in our design process through interviews, workshops and surveys.

5. Was there one moment which compelled you to begin the journey of working on Health Mapper? 
As well as talking with Stu’s Dad, we were excited about the design challenge in creating an app which could track any health condition and which could be of genuine use to people. So we put our money where our mouths were, and got on with it.

6. What have reactions to Health Mapper been? Do different people perceive it differently?
Reactions to Health Mapper have on the whole been very positive, but also varied. 

We’ve had lots of great feedback from our users. Some love the flexibility and design of the app. Others request new features.

The reaction from the healthcare industry has been interesting. Again, some absolutely love our approach and want to work with us, others are occasionally intimidated by the apps extensive flexibility. 

We pitched the app at a Pharma event late last year and some members of the panel seemed aghast at an app which allowed users to track anything they wanted. It just didn’t align with their fixed ideas about research and clean data. I told them this wasn’t an app for Pharma as an industry, this is an app for the people.

We also had the CEO of a leading mental health charity quickly dismiss Health Mapper, telling us it is ahead of its time and that nobody would use it. I disagree - so do our analytics!

We’re happy for Health Mapper to be a love/hate product. That will help us identify the right people and organisations to collaborate with. 

7. Given that Silicon Valley is the world's innovation hub, it's inspiring to see a startup from the UK pushing boundaries. Do you see more ground breaking innovations in Digital Health coming from outside Silicon Valley?
Of course, but as we know the US and Silicon Valley in particular has a different mentality to investing in start ups. People raise seed funding behind broad ideas without even talking about business models. 

We want to raise money but some of the people we’ve spoken too are concerned that we don’t know what our business model is. How could they invest in something where there isn’t a clearly defined way for them to get a return on their investment? Maybe we’ve just not spoken to the right people yet.

We decided to self-fund the first version of Health Mapper on a shoestring budget, because we wanted complete control over the whole process. We did a lot for our budget but of course we will need more funding to take things forward.

Lots of digital health projects in the UK are grant funded. We’ve gone for some grants and not been successful which is frustrating.

Funding through organisations like Nominet Trust can be up to £50k+, which is given out to a range of people, sometimes just to evolve a prototype. We wanted to do more than that.

We self-funded Health Mapper, and wanted to create a consummately designed tool which people could use straight away and derive real benefit from. In the US it seems they’re more concerned about the value proposition and the product. Find the market fit, and the return will come. And they are heavy investors in digital health. 

Still, successful start ups can exist anywhere including London. City Mapper (one of our favourite apps) is a good example. But there’s no doubt, living in and working in Silicon Valley can lead to individuals developing an incredible network of people that make ideas happen regularly. 

8.   What are the weaknesses of Health Mapper and what are you doing to address them?
We’re happy with the first version of the app, but we also know that it’s at a very early stage of it’s evolution. We’re currently using our user feedback, analytics and data to design version 2 of Health Mapper which will offer users a more refined experience and crucially help them derive more insight, quicker.

9. Two years from now, in 2017, what would success for Health Mapper look like? What are the barriers to success?
Success for us would be Health Mapper becoming an essential part of the patient-doctor relationship, where patients and clinicians collaborate using the Health Mapper platform.

Health Mapper would also be a sustainable business with sufficient resources to continue to invest into making a brilliantly useful tool continually evolved through evaluations, piloting, research and feedback.

A barrier to this would be a lack of funding to invest in the development of the platform and limited opportunities to pilot the app within the NHS, restricting the development of an evidence base for Health Mapper.

10.  If people feel inspired by your journey, and want to do something with technology to improve Global Health, what would your words of wisdom be?
If you have the vision for an amazing digital health product that can help people, don’t procrastinate, just do it.

Health Mapper is on Twitter and click here for the Health Mapper website. The iOS app can be downloaded using this link.