6th APRIL 2015: Startup of the week: myhealthpal

For this 'Startup of the week' post, I caught up with Mike Barlow, founder of UK startup, myHealthPal.

[Disclosure: I have no commercial ties with myHealthPal]


1. What is myHealthPal?
myHealthPal is a powerful digital companion that enables people with long-term health conditions to take control and manage their condition. It is a single platform for managing multiple conditions.

We’ve launched the app’s first condition pack for Parkinson’s patients as I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in my early forties and have spent the last few years trying to find ways to better manage it. 

It captures and visualises data, transforming information into knowledge for family, doctors, and research.

2. Could you explain the essence of myHealthPal, i.e it's core values?
It's all about using smart phone technology to enable better health — making the day-to-day more positive for patients and their families.

The core values of myHealthPal are centered on patients, their family and carers, first and foremost, helping them improve both their day-to-day living with the symptoms and challenges of a chronic condition, as well as helping others long-term by donating their
data to research. There are many ways myHealthPal help patients.

Primarily, and because we are designed by patients for patients, we are aware of how big a challenge it can be to ensure the correct medication is taken at the right dosage and at the right time. myHealthPal provides an effective and simple way to schedule medication and be reminded to take it. 

Another example is myHealthPal helps make consultations with medical professionals more effective. Often the first question asked during a consultation with a consultant such as a Neurologist is "so tell me how you've been?" A simple enough question but given the time between consultations it's not easy to answer with any degree of certainty as very few people keep manual logs and even those that do have to read through pages and pages of notes to summarise “how they’ve been”. When you consider that in the UK the average time a PD patient has with their consultant is 12.5 minutes every 5 months, and in the US a PD patient may see their consultant only once every 12 months, you can begin to appreciate the challenge. 

3. What's the business model you're operating under?
myHealthPal is an analytics platform which generates data such as medication adherence and general health information. Through the aggregation of this data, myHealthPal can provide insights for patients and doctors. myHealthPal is free to use for patients, but we ask users to donate their data to us.

This data is de-identified and monetised by selling it on to scientific research institutions and organisations. Meanwhile the myHealthPal dataDonate programme, ensures that a share of the revenues made by selling the user’s data will be donated to a charity or research of the users’s choice. dataDonate is intended to provide a share of the revenue to the charity, that means something to the person who donated their data.

So for me, as a person with Parkinson's I will use dataDonate to support research with the sole purpose of trying to find a cure or new treatments of Parkinson’s Disease. Therefore, a share of the revenue generated from my data will go to a charity or charities that conduct research in the field of Parkinson’s.

myHealthPal uses HIPAA certified technology and meets both EU and US data privacy requirements

4. Is there anyone else doing the same as you?
The space is increasingly being driven by the development and availability of wearables, as well as Apple and Google's (amongst others) interest in exploding the digital health space. Soon, we will all have our own individual health analytics dashboard, and for those
people who are living with chronic long term conditions, such as Parkinsons, Alzheimers, IBS, COPD and Diabetes, the ability to collate meaningful health data longitudinally will result in better treatment regimens, as well as research and thus, better health outcomes.
mpower, Gluko, GlucoSuccess, and the advent of Apples HealthKit and ResearchKit, sets the scene for an exponential growth in the market of potentially billions of USD.

NEA is a significant investor in this space as are the major health and biotech VC's, as well as Blackberry, Blackstone and Celgene. myHealthPal is disruptively better because we are designed by patients for patients. Our team is led by people who come from the commercially dynamic and driven world of ad:tech, medical research and financial services as well as myself being someone who has been in mobile for the last ten years, and developed the platform to answer a specific set of patient centric needs. The data myHealthPal generates is of massive value to pharma research, healthcare systems, clinicians and patients families.

We have overcome incredible hurdles in developing myHealthPal as a HIPAA compliant technology that meets the regulatory requirements of IRB Mount Sinai and is supported and championed by one of the world's leading research and teaching hospitals.

5. Was there one moment which compelled you to begin the journey of working on myHealthPal? 
Having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s I quickly discovered there was no effective way to manage my medication and measure its effectiveness, track my symptoms, log mood, diet, exercise and others inputs from daily life and explore how these data points
interacted with, are effected by medication and impacted on my quality of life.

6. What have reactions to myHealthPal been? Do different people perceive it differently?
Reactions have been overwhelmingly positive and supportive. In general the medical and investor community are looking at myHealthPal as one of the future applications and platforms that will integrate with the move to EHR (electronic health records) for

Patients and their families who have heard about the app, are just delighted that there is a simple digital solution that helps them manage their day to day data. As a boot strapped start-up, our challenge is getting the word about myHealthPal out to the
community of patients, their doctors and their families.

7.   What are the weaknesses of myHealthPal and what are you doing to address them?
We are a start-up and as such we have a very small but dedicated team. The challenge is now raising the investment to enable us to scale and build out the multiple condition packs so we can get to as many patients in this space as possible.

8. Two years from now, in 2017, what would success for myHealthPal look like? What are the barriers to success?
myHealthPal will grow by personalizing the front end of the application to be specifically designed for people living with long term chronic conditions including Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD), HIV/AIDS, Diabetes and Alzheimer’s. 

We hope to have hundreds of 000’s of users and be helping people living with chronic conditions to manage their data, feel empowered by that information and improving their health outcomes on a global level.

According to the World Health Organisation over 421 million people are living with these diseases worldwide. With an ageing population the penetration of smartphone technologies and the ever increasing costs of healthcare, myHealthPal makes sense for
users as it enables them to take control of their conditions by monitoring their data and to help others by donating their data to help researchers find new treatments and potentially cures.

9.  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?
Using technology to improve people’s lives is a fantastic motivation. Often times you may happen on large corporate interests that will ‘scoff’ at your lack of resources and ‘insider expertise’. Don’t give up or be disheartened. If you feel truly passionate about
innovating in the interests of patient wellness, use your insights to build a better solution, and disrupt the status quo!

On a final note, April each year is Parkinson’s awareness month and I would like to say thank you to all the groups, charities and people that get involved to make it happen. Parkinson’s isn’t something that creeps up on you unannounced, there are symptoms, which you
may experience over long periods, unfortunately often running into years before you are successfully diagnosed. As there are no commonly used tests such as a blood test or a MRI scan to confirm diagnosis, it usually relies on eliminating possible alternatives, observation and responsiveness to Parkinson’s medication. It’s a cruel disease, but with early diagnoses, medication and management can have a huge effect on the quality of life for those living with Parkinson’s and those around them.

There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s, please support its research and Parkinson’s awareness month.

myHealthPal  is on Twitter and click here for the myHealthPal website.