What HealthTech Ventures Can Learn from Beta Testing
Takeaways from an Interview with AssistMe’s CPO, Silke Grimmer
Innovating for a Growing Healthcare Challenge
One of the future’s most significant socioeconomic challenges stems from demographic change and its impact on health and care services. Next Big Thing AG covered this pressing topic before, and at AssistMe we continue to do so. Because if we examine this change more closely, and understand what sort of impact it’s having, we can continually explore creative and sustainable ways to grapple with it.
According to the UN, “Globally, the number of persons aged 80 or over is projected to triple by 2050, from 137 million in 2017 to 425 million in 2050. By 2100 it is expected to increase to 909 million, nearly seven times its value in 2017.” If you then consider that there is only a 36.9% retention rate of professional caregivers in elderly care, you can immediately see the shortage of healthcare professionals for this growing group of people.
Anticipating Demographic Change: IoT meets Healthcare
Looking at the potential of IoT technologies to alleviate the impact of an aging society.
Now if we take a look at what is happening globally, 200 million people suffer from incontinence. In terms of care homes, 70% of people suffer from incontinence, and of those, up to 8% suffer from related skin issues and 17% from subsequent internal infections.
Paying attention to this increasing global aging demographic is vital from a care perspective, and it also makes sense from an economic and business perspective to reduce costs while reaching a big market. The incontinence care market will reach close to US$25B by 2022. So there’s a critical importance to scaling up solutions that accommodate the growing needs of this market.
Berlin-based HealthTech Venture Steps Up to the Challenge
At AssistMe, we believe our innovative solutions play a vital role in alleviating this impact and that doing so is both ethically and economically sound. We are developing technology to empower care service providers and professionals in delivering high-quality care, transitioning from a standard to a personalized care model. Our connected solutions help caregivers manage workloads efficiently and with ease while providing a dignified and healthier lifestyle for care recipients.
In order to develop our first product, AIDMATE, we recently conducted a beta test with our first solution. The unique thing is that we tested in care homes, and not just in the lab. To share more of this milestone, our CPO Silke Grimmer was recently interviewed by Elisheva Marcus, Senior Content Manager at Next Big Thing AG. She asked Silke to share the significance of the test done in-situ and the implications it has on healthcare settings.
Welcome Back from Testing, Silke Grimmer!
Hi Silke, thanks for talking with me. You were on-site for much of AssistMe’s beta testing and have naturally been integral to all stages of your startup’s product development. Please explain to our readers the significance of the test and the implications it has on healthcare settings.
Sure, I am happy to have this chance to reflect. It’s been an intense few weeks!
Purpose and Scope of AssistMe’s Beta Test
Let’s start with this: What was the purpose and scope of your beta test?
The purpose of our beta test was to conduct the test in the care home environment in order to verify the functionality of our assistive incontinence care system, AIDMATE. In addition, we wanted to validate the usability and general acceptance of the user-interfacing system components, particularly the mobile app and reusable hardware components. In order to do so, we integrated and tested our system in the daily incontinence care procedure.
Regarding the scope, we tested our AIDMATE system in 2 German care homes. This included 10–15 residents and multiple caregivers who participated in the test over the course of 2 weeks at each care home.
Why is a beta-test critical for IoT hardware product development?
Especially in the care and healthcare sectors, a considerate alignment with the multifactorial environment, human behavior, and established workflows have an essential influence on the success or failure of any tech- or non-tech device/system.
Testing a complex new system in the real-life setting is essential for detecting technical obstacles and unexpected human behavior early on in order to optimize the functionality and design in an environment- and human-centered manner.
What specifically did AssistMe aim to achieve in its beta test?
We had a number of aims: First of all, we wanted to validate our AIDMATE sensor functionality with real users within the care home environment, further improving our software algorithms, and collecting data from different care recipient profiles in order to optimize the sensor output. We also wanted to understand the usability of the user-interfacing system components and gain first insights into the impact on the care workflow and outcome.
Learnings and Surprises from Testing
That sounds ambitious! What were the main learnings from the beta testing?
The list of learning is very long and goes from technical changes that need to be implemented to changes to the applications. I believe that the key takeaway from the testing are situational deviations between the absorption capacity and the caregivers judgement about the need for changing an incontinence product. It is fair to assume that is due to a number of external factors that are considered by caregivers e.g. how long is the time to the next diaper change routine round, or does the resident have a well known & predictable excretion pattern.
Clearly, a system such as AIDMATE functions as a decision assistant for caregivers to take well-informed and timely actions in order to deliver high quality care. Yet, it won’t and shouldn’t substitute caregivers’ in their holistic care expertise and decision making responsibility.
We perceived a high acceptance of the overall system by caregivers and a willingness to integrate the system permanently and adapt their daily workflow.
Also, the usage of a smartphone as daily support tool for incontinence care is not yet common which is likely to change quickly as smartphones are already used for other purposes and expected to be used for more applications in the future.
What surprised you most? How were the reactions of the caregivers?
Even though we are still testing a prototype, which has its limitations in its functionality, the caregivers experienced the benefits related to the care-recipients wellbeing, to the prevention of inefficient and unnecessary working steps at first hand. This was confirmed by their strong consensus in wanting to integrate and use an assistive system for incontinence care such as AIDMATE permanently during their daily work routine.
In terms of disrupting the workflow of caregivers by making use of AIDMATE, it was surprising to note that caregivers perceive the additional step of attaching and detaching a clip to a diaper as easily manageable and no significant change to their workflow.
Advice for Other Startups
Your team worked tirelessly in covering 4 weeks of day and night shifts in order to thoroughly assess the systems functionality in multiple situations, different caregiver and recipients. A true team effort! What’s the vision that holds your team together?
We want to empower caregivers to deliver precision care for best possible outcomes despite challenging circumstances, thereby ensuring that care recipients can live and age in a healthy and dignified way.
Our team strongly believes in the positive impact that our system can bring to care recipients and caregivers in today’s highly challenging care environment that requires supportive solutions. This awareness drives us to develop our system at top speed, not only to respond to the care crisis in Germany but also to help the care sector in establishing modern care standards.
What advice to you have for early-stage startups either from the healthtech, care, or hardware perspective?
Glad you asked. To answer you, I pulled together a list that hopefully helps other startups:
- Critical thinking and the need for behavioral change amongst the user group might be your greatest challenges along the way.
- Expect to enter a highly complex stakeholder environment in which you need to do your homework in understanding each stakeholders’ pains and gains in great detail.
- Plan your development timeline with reasonable buffers, especially when working on a combined hardware-software solution.
- Find investors with sector expertise and networks, who understand and believe in your product to an extent that makes them willing to go the extra mile with you.
- Don’t let regulations, cost or the sector complexity scare you off quickly. Perseverance is essential in the healthtech sector, just like renowned advocates and in person interaction with users.
- Manage stakeholders’ expectations well at all times.
How did you wrap up the testing? What was the reaction from the caregivers?
Generally the impression was that caregivers were rather sad to see us go back to Berlin as one of the caregivers told me that they could not wait for the second test. Another caregiver urged us to be faster as he thought it was great! These personal statements and compliments we receive from the caregivers and patients motivate us to keep pushing this venture forward.
Reach out to Us!
At AssistMe we are on the path towards our Series A round later this year and are constantly looking for partners to join us on our journey to improve healthcare through innovation.
If you are interested in partnering with us or are an innovation leader in the healthcare sector interested in our solution, reach out to us on our website.
AssistMe develops technology to empower care service providers and professionals in delivering high-quality care, transitioning from a standard to a personalized care model. Our connected solutions help caregivers manage workloads with efficiency and ease while providing a dignified and healthier lifestyle for care recipients. Visit us at assistme.io.