Due to the corona pandemic, the healthcare sector is more relevant than ever. The pressure on medical staff is enormous and we are all doing everything we can to live and move as healthily and freely as possible. Quite a few Birdhouse start-ups are working on these themes, including IntelliProve and Tyranos. How do they see the future of the health sector? And what needs to change urgently?

Harmen Jans (Tyranos)

Harmen Jans studied Pharmaceutical Sciences, took over his parents’ pharmacy in 2011 and is now a triathlete with knee troubles. No wonder he started looking into the world of food supplements. Harmen: “Natural ingredients, such as turmeric and boswellic acids, can have a strengthening effect on our body. But I often came across unreliable brands in the pharmacy world that could not help me with my knee problems. That’s why I decided to start Tyranos, my own nutritional supplement brand.”

Harmen is convinced that many supplement brands do not deliver on their promise because of the lack of legislation and control surrounding the product. “If you put a supplement on the market, you need a notification file that specifies which ingredients you use. If you get approved, you receive a NUT number and can sell the supplement. So many brands do not have this. Also, there is no guarantee of high-quality ingredients, correct dosages and purity. This is just not verified.”

“With Tyranos, I want to propose an honest solution,” continues Harmen. “Our supplements are tested by three independent laboratories for content, dosage, purity and quality of ingredients. They are also tested for illegal substances and doping. We adhere to the dosages that have proven their effectiveness in scientific studies. It’s safe to say that our supplements meet stricter requirements than we are legally obliged to.”

“Tech companies will become key players in the health sector.”

When it comes to the consumer, Tyranos wants to be completely transparent. There are legal communication guidelines to follow, says Harmen. “As a food supplement brand, we are not allowed to use claims that guarantee a diagnosis or offer a cure for a disease. This is only allowed by law in the case of medicines. We try to inform our customers as accurately as possible about the origin of our ingredients, how they work and the science behind them. That way, they can confidently decide whether our supplements are right for them.”

Harmen believes that the foundation of a healthy lifestyle still lies in a balanced diet, sufficient exercise, sleep and relaxation. Supplements can complement this perfectly, but Harmen has also noticed interesting new technological developments. “There are already players on the market who use technology to combat pain and allow people to move freely, such as Compex (muscle stimulation) and Sana (VR technology for physical recovery). It’s early days still, but a lot will change.” Specialised companies are not the only ones working on healthcare technology, major tech companies are also getting involved. Harmen: “Apple, for example, is offering a growing number of healthcare services via Apple Watch. Google bought Fitbit, a brand that is primarily known for its fitness watches. Amazon recently took over Health Navigator and Pillpack and just launched Amazon Pharmacy. I am convinced that this trend will continue, making tech companies key players in the healthcare sector.”

Niet alleen gespecialiseerde bedrijven houden zich bezig met gezondheidstechnologie, ook de grote techbedrijven storten zich erop. Harmen: “Apple biedt bijvoorbeeld een groeiend aantal gezondheidszorgdiensten aan via de Apple Watch. Google kocht Fitbit, een merk dat vooral bekend staat om zijn fitnesshorloges. Amazon nam recent Health Navigator en Pillpack over en lanceerde onlangs Amazon Pharmacy. Deze trend zal zich verder doorzetten en zal van techbedrijven centrale spelers maken in de gezondheidszorg!

Joeri Tulkens (IntelliProve)

“One of the most time-consuming medical tasks is measuring the vital signs, such as the heart rate or blood pressure,” explains Joeri Tulkens, one of the co-founders of IntelliProve. By using innovative technologies such as machine learning, the start-up has allowed healthcare providers to measure the vital signs with a smartphone. A short video recording of the patient is enough for the app to determine them accurately, quickly and without the need for contact.

Together with Maxime Mattelin, Tanguy Sanglet and Brecht Dhuyvetters, Joeri launched IntelliProve a few months ago after a year of market research and development. Joeri explains: “What we are seeing now during the COVID-19 pandemic has been going on for a long time. The workload in the health sector is extremely high. In Flemish hospitals, there is only one nurse available for almost 10 patients. 70% of the nurses admit to making mistakes because of the high work pressure. Our solution has to improve this situation.”

For the development of their product, the entrepreneurs called on a medical board of caregivers, carefully selected for this purpose. They provide valuable feedback at regular intervals. Joeri: “Their input is crucial in the development of our application. It helps us to build a user-friendly product, according to the exact needs of the end user.”

“Through Birdhouse, we have a direct line with decision makers in the medical sector.”

“Currently, our biggest challenge and ambition is to obtain a medical certificate,” Joeri continues. “Software like ours is considered a medical device. It must always have a CE mark (Conformité Européenne, in accordance with European legislation, ed.). To obtain this, we have to carry out clinical studies that assess its accuracy and safety. That will be a long haul, but it offers enormous potential to create an impact within the healthcare sector.”

IntelliProve founders. F.l.t.r.: Tanguy Sanglet, Joeri Tulkens, Maxime Mattelin en Brecht Dhuyvetters

At Birdhouse, the founders are working hard on the business side of their innovation. “Together with our mentors and advisory board we are defining our business model and go-to-market strategy. Through Birdhouse, we now have a direct line with decision makers in the medical sector. This gives us key insights into the business structure, purchasing process, decision making and specific expectations of our target group!”

According to Joeri, the medical world is far behind in terms of innovation and new technology. However, he has witnessed a true healthcare revolution that has been accelerated by the pandemic. “We are seeing a shift towards patient-centred healthcare, with a clear focus on prevention and rapid diagnosis. Medical tools and tests will only become more accessible and be used more frequently outside of the hospital.”

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