Ireland's government looks to support its fledgling digital health companies

At the North America Healthcare Summit, MobiHealthNews spoke with five companies partnered with the country's ​business development and growth arm.
By Dave Muoio and Laura Lovett
04:28 pm

While it may be better known as the European home of several larger health and tech companies, the country of Ireland is also home to a number of homegrown health tech startups. Many of these are looking to expand into new markets and, if the recent North America Healthcare Summit in Dublin was any indication, they have the full support of their government.

“The indigenous sector is a hugely important component of the globally renowned life sciences cluster that exists in Ireland,” Minister for Business, Enterprise, and Innovation Heather Humphreys said at the event, which was hosted by the Irish government’s business development and growth organization, Enterprise Ireland. “It includes 211 exporting companies that are clients of Enterprise Ireland, who employ over 9,000 people and export over €1.7 billion. All in all, there are amazing things going on in this country, and we are very proud of our homegrown companies. These Irish businesses have extensive capabilities across the life sciences supply chain, delivering complex technologies, products, and services throughout the world.”

At the summit, MobiHealthNews had spoke one-on-one with a handful of digital health companies of various sizes, all of which hail from the Emerald Isle.

Dublin and London-based Beats Medical has built a smartphone-based digital therapy platform for patients with neurological disease. The company’s app directly delivers a range of therapies intended for daily completion, collects performance data and adjusts to better mold an individual’s particular therapy, and includes an easy-to-use interface so that it may remain accessible to older and younger patients.

Founded in 2012, the company has now embraced the growing digital therapeutics landscape and boasts one of the first such products in Europe to be reimbursed by a payer, Ciara Clancy, CEO of Beats Medical, told MobiHealthNews.

“Digital therapeutics was not what we called ourselves when we started — we started with Parkinson’s disease,” she said. “But in order to take clinically proven treatments out of hospitals, out of research papers, and into homes, you need to be able to accurately assess people with neurological conditions, and then take that data and apply therapies to it. So all of our therapies are tailored — whether that’s cognitive behavioral therapy, speech therapy, [occupational] therapy, they’re all tailored to the needs of the individual.”

Tralee, Ireland-based Salaso has built a digital physical therapy platform for patients with conditions spanning the range of the medical spectrum. This platform, which is sold directly to providers, hosts more than 2,000 protocol-paired videos that patients can view online or on a mobile device.

“No matter who you are and what you do, there’s always an exercise program that can support you to improve your health and wellbeing. The challenge is knowing what exercise to do and getting you engaged with that exercise on a daily basis, and that’s where Salaso fits in,” Founder and CEO Aoife Ní Mhuirí told MobiHealthNews. “We teach patients what exercises they need to do through video. We have little techniques for engaging you with those exercises — allowing you to set goals, measuring your progress over time, and so on — and those data can be provided back to the clinician or provider.”

Prescribing physicians — or more often a physician’s assistant, Ní Mhuirí noted — can also follow the progress of their patients through a provider dashboard. She also stressed that the platform does not require any specialized kits or hardware outside of a smart device, thereby removing a potential barrier to adoption by patients.

SilverCloud, a US-based company spun out of a Trinity College Dublin research project, offers an online suite of behavioral health interventions consisting of more than 30 programs. Delivered to patients through their provider organization, the platform consists of digital behavioral health education for mental health and chronic disease patients alike.

So far, the company said that it has delivered its product to more than 185,000 patients since 2012.

“We are looking to help de-stigmatize mental health and increase access. That is our mission: to improve the access by scaling,” Ken Cahill, CEO of SilverCloud, told MobiHealthNews. “What we have developed is an engaging mental health platform where a user is given access to evidence-based content programs and support, right across our content program library and in two key areas. One is mental health, and one is chronic disease.”

Dún Laoghaire, Ireland-based Jinga Life is looking to empower the family members in charge of their loved ones’ health. Through its cloud-based mobile platform, a single caregiver can record and manage the personal health information of their family, including their medical conditions, prescriptions, allergies, medical images, and test results. The platform is free to download, GDPR compliant, and can synchronize health data across users’ various connected devices.

“There tends to be one single holder or custodian of care information in the home,” Rachael Darkin, director of Jinga Growth at the company, told MobiHealthNews. “What we wanted to do was give this person the tools to do exactly that: to manage the care data for themselves and for family members, whether that’s a partner, husband, children, older family members, … and it can also be animals. Your entire family can be on this platform, and the goal would be that it … would be integrated with your hospital settings so that all of your data from a hospital visit would be feeding into this platform.”

Headquartered in Dublin and London, Inner Strength’s TickerFit is an exercise education platform built with cardiac rehabilitation patients in mind, although it’s now moving into primary prevention and pediatric-focused services as well. The product, which was supported by Merck and is currently working with a handful of NHS Trusts, allows clinicians to enter tags and information to the profiles of individual patients. These are then referenced by the system to tailor exercise content that is specific to the patient’s condition.

The company is also working to include data from external sensors such as wearables into this process, Avril Copeland, founder and CEO of Innerstrength Health, told MobiHealthNews.

“We’ve been working with Fitbit [on wearable integration] to date, but ultimately we’re kind of device agnostic … and we’re working on a blood pressure monitor and weighing scales for our heart failure patients as well to try to pull in as much data as we can to get a better picture of how the patient is doing, but I suppose also tailor the interventions as well,” she said.

Editor's note: This story is part of our coverage of Enterprise Ireland’s North America Healthcare Forum. Enterprise Ireland invited MobiHealthNews to the event and paid for travel and accomodations. As always, MobiHealthNews maintains its editorial independence and made no promises to Enterprise Ireland, including about the content or quantity of coverage.


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