MEDTECH STARTUP TURNS HOME INTO MEDICAL CLINIC

18 Aug 2015

Author: Christopher Niesche

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A world-first connected medical kit featuring a digital stethoscope and non-contact thermometer invented by two Australian doctors could revolutionise home-based treatments and save healthcare systems around the world billions of dollars.
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For most of us, healthcare means a visit to the doctor or to the hospital, but two Australian medical school graduates are trying to change that by turning the home into a clinic.

Andrew Lin and Hon Weng Chong are the founders of Melbourne-based medtech startup CliniCloud. CliniCloud’s first product is a medical kit containing a world-first connected digital stethoscope designed for home use, non-contact thermometer and mobile app.

The kit allows doctors to view a patient’s temperature, heartbeat and breathing pattern online and learn more about their condition. Alternatively, the patient can have an online consultation with a doctor. 

CliniCloud has teamed up with telemedicine service Doctor On Demand in the US. Doctor on Demand will soon start offering 15-minute video consultations using the data collected and shared via CliniCloud. 

“We aim to bring healthcare to the home and part of that mission is creating a clinic within the home. This is the purpose of our product,” explains Lin.

“We see a lot of potential for the global healthcare system to move services into the home; to have consults done remotely; and to have treatments that can be administered in the home.

“Essentially, we want to create a new healthcare model that is low-cost, convenient and a good experience for patients. That’s the ultimate goal of CliniCloud.”

There are plans to expand the range of instruments included in the kit to measure blood pressure, pulse and blood sugar.

Lin says what he and Chong have achieved so far is just the first step in a fairly long journey.

They see the present healthcare model as unsustainable at the current rate of spending growth, particularly as the population ages.

“The key to reducing healthcare costs is to lessen the need for patients to visit doctor’s surgeries and hospitals in the first place. That’s where we come in,” he says.

Technology can help in three ways.

The first is turning the home into a clinic by giving people tools they can use every day. 

The second is providing the software to link consumers and their data to medical professionals for treatment. 

The third is using artificial intelligence to analyse the data and reduce the amount of triaging and diagnosis that doctors have to perform. 

“Not every single person needs the attention and care of a dedicated health professional,” Lin says. “The role of doctors really isn’t to be a processor of data. It’s to be your personal guide to help you get healthy.”

Lin says CliniCloud allows for more personalised medical care because it gives doctors more information about their patients and keeps track of it over time.

While there are other companies around the world attempting to achieve these three aims, Lin says CliniCloud is the only one trying to build and integrate all three into one device. He likens it to the Apple iPhone, where Apple makes the phone, provides the operating system and offers ancillary services such as music and video sales.

Lin says he and Chong are uniquely qualified to do this. In addition to both being doctors, Lin has experience in business as a management consultant and Chong is a self-taught software engineer with skills across a range of platforms. 

“This whole process is extremely hard. It’s a medical device so it involves making new hardware that  previously didn’t exist. It’s about making software that is complex and using data science to power it. We are also operating in a highly regulated sector,” Lin says.

The pair started working on the CliniCloud idea in 2012 when Chong was in his final year of medicine at the University of Melbourne and Lin was working as a consultant for management consulting firm Bain & Co, having graduated the year before. 

The pair won a US$75,000 Microsoft Imagine Cup Grant, which provides students with funding and support to help transform their projects into social enterprises or non-profits that address a specific social issue.

They spent a couple of years refining the idea and understanding where it would fit in the healthcare landscape, then quit their jobs to put a team together and work full-time on the enterprise.

“It’s one thing being a doctor but another understanding how the healthcare system works and how the health landscape needs to evolve to meet the needs of people in the future, versus what it needs and can do now,” says Lin.

CliniCloud has 17 full-time staff and, along with its deal with Doctor On Demand, has signed an agreement with consumer electronics chain Best Buy to sell the product in the US and Canada. The company is working its way through European Union regulatory requirements ahead of a launch in Europe. It also hopes to eventually launch in Australia and China. 

In 2015, Chong and Lin were contacted by China’s biggest internet company Tencent, which led to US$5 million in seed funding from Tencent and Ping An Ventures, the venture capital arm of insurance and banking conglomerate Ping An.

Jiang Zhang, managing director of Ping An Ventures, explains the rationale for the investment. “The combination of mobile internet and healthcare will allow many existing medical services to be brought into the home, including common illness prevention, testing, diagnosis and treatment,” he said in a statement. “The products of CliniCloud are both medical-grade quality and convenient to use, with the ability to connect with the cloud and provide follow-up services – a perfect combination for the burgeoning mobile health market.”

Lin looks forward to a day when the CliniCloud kit is found in every home. “It’ll be like the home first-aid kit, there because it’s a necessity,” he says.