- Posted by Paul Towers
- On May 20, 2015
- 0 Comments
- Healthcare, Pathtell, Wearable Technology
Wearable technology has opened up new doors in the healthcare space and the rate of growth is accelerating. Never before have people been able to track key metrics of their health on a daily, hourly or even minute by minute basis. And while some people are questioning what is the point of having a smartwatch, companies like Pathtell are pressing ahead because they can see the bigger picture!
For one, the fact that you can realistically wear a watch 24 hours a day provides many different use cases that extend its functionality beyond that of a phone. By virtue of being connected 24/7 the data that you can collect and analyse increases at an exponential rate.
As eluded to at the start of this article one of the emerging use cases is in the healthcare space. Like my recent interview with Nick from Edisse I was extremely glad to have the opportunity to sit down with Tushar and learn more about his company Pathtell and the work they are doing to assist people with sleep apnoea.
What I was surprised to learn during our conversation was that 80% of people who have sleep apnoea go undetected. And that having sleep apnoea means you have a 30% increase in risk for having a heart attack. As a result having the ability to determine whether you fall in this at risk group can have an enormous benefit to your general health and longevity.
As with most founders I interview on Project Startup I am always interest in learning how they arrived at the decision for their end product or application. In Tushar’s case he was initially drawn to the healthcare industry as he knew the industry was ripe for change and he wanted to be an innovator within the space. His initial idea was a teleconferencing service that he built a Minimal Viable Product for. He then realized that there is a large amount of legislation to overcome and that a teleconference service was not as technically challenging. That is to say Tushar wanted to do something different, not just rinse and repeat something that already existed in some form.
As a result Tushar was looking for a new area to investigate. It was during this time that he spoke to many Advisors at the University of Sydney and eventually landed on his idea to develop an application to uncover people who were suffering sleep apnoea and therefore at a higher risk of many other lifestyle devices. A similar piece of advice was also offer to Tushar, as it was to Edisse, it is better to focus on the software and use existing hardware. This obviously decreases the capital required to get the idea off the ground and also reduces the time to market.
Immediately I asked whether the release of the Apple Watch was something that he had been eagerly anticipating. In my naivety I had imagined they would be leading the race in this space. However as Tushar outlined the benefit of wearable devices is being able to track and monitor key metrics over time. Unfortunately in Apples case they only record things like heart rate when you are in activity mode (i.e. running) and not when you a sleeping. While this can be manually overridden in the settings the Apple battery life also prohibits its potential to be worn overnight by the user.
Because of this Tushar is focusing on Fitbit and Jawbone to begin with. The longer term hope is that Apple realizes how important intraday heart rate is in the future and allows this to be accessed easier and in a device that has the battery life to support it. As Tushar went on to explain Fitbit also as the ability to last five days and a really strong partner API that will provide raw access to the application.
This will allow Pathtell to analyse the information you send to then to detect if you have sleep apnoea. In addition to heart rate providing your age, weight and circumference of your neck also improves the accuracy of the application.
Given accuracy within a healthcare setting is of the upmost importance I wondered how good this application will be. As Tushar went on to explain they are aiming for 80 to 85% accuracy initially and want to improve the accuracy as the company grows and they acquire to resources to bring in additional skilled human capital.
Providing this level of accuracy has important cost benefits as the only other way to determine if you have sleep apnoea is to spent $1,500 on in house detection. Because of the cost and intrusive nature of this product many people were hesitant to proceed with the analysis. Pathtell provides an intermediary step where for a much smaller fee people can determine their risk. If they are low risk or not suffering from sleep apnoea then they have saved the $1,500 and do not need to proceed with the more in-depth study. Conversely if they are highlighted as high risk they then have the information in their hands and the push they required to have a proper study completed and then work to improve their health.
Hearing Tushar speak about this model really made sense to me. For the time being at least there is still a need for these in-depth study, but as an intermediary step that reduces the cost and removes the barrier for determining their risk this solution provides an enormous step forward.
Clearly, Tushar has hit on a market that is ripe for change. The existing solutions are both time consuming and expensive. Our conversation then turned to how the company will monetise the application. Tushar has not locked in on a model yet as he is a firm believer in validating all assumptions, however, the leading idea at the moment is to offer a one time payment for detection, and a subscription service as we continue to be able to identify more issues. In addition to sleep apnoea Tushar hopes to identify over health issues that can be identified using wearable technology. This will help ensure that the business has the ability to growover time and beyond just their initial product offering.
Finally I wanted to get Tushar’s thoughts on being a solo founder and when the app would be launched. As a Software Engineer with an entrepreneurial mindset Tushar has the ability to do all of the work himself, so the need to bring on a cofounder has never been a major concern. That’s not to say he isn’t open to partnering with someone at a later date however. On timing, Tushar explained how this needs to be launched by November 2015 as it forms part of his Thesis. So the good news is we can all expect to be able to subscribe or by this app before the years out. To help generate early interest Tushar has also just announced a launch page where you can sign up to be amongst the first to access the product upon its release.
As with all the founders I interview it was a please to speak with Tushar and learn more about his company and app. I look forward to its release and following what Tushar can do next with the power that comes from the emergence of wearable technology and the healthcare industry.
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