New innovator: TickerFit
Dublin-based start-up is supporting patients’ recovery remotely
Avril Copeland and Greg Balmer of TickerFit
In the past most patients have relied on healthcare professionals to manage their conditions. Now, getting patients to self-manage where possible is seen as one way of relieving the burden on overstretched healthcare services worldwide.
Helping to make this happen are rapid advances in smartphone and wearable sensor technologies. Now Dublin-based start-up TickerFit has brought the two together to help support patients’ recovery remotely.
“TickerFit can be used by both health professionals and patients,” says physiotherapist and exercise science specialist Avril Copeland, who co-founded the company with IT professional Greg Balmer in 2013.
“TickerFit extends the reach of health professionals by enabling them to prescribe, educate and monitor a patient’s recovery from a distance. Based on the patient’s health status they receive a tailored programme to support them during their recovery via their smartphone. Once they receive their plan, they are in control and can progress at their own pace,” Copeland says.
“The patient’s plan incorporates educational material about their condition and how to manage it.
“There’s also a daily exercise plan monitored via their smartphone,” she adds. “Currently TickerFit supports patients in primary care who may be at risk of developing a chronic condition, those recovering from cardiac events and those who have undergone treatment for cancer.”
Copeland first hit on the idea for TicketFit while working at Beaumont Hospital. A keen sportswoman who has played hockey for Ireland and now participates in Expedition Adventure Racing, Copeland has a big interest in the role of physical activity in patient recovery.
“There are other remote systems out there but they generally deliver generic content, are not focused on specific conditions and don’t put the patient in control,” she says.
“They are mainly used for monitoring vital signs without delivering any self-management element or tailored exercise plan.”
Greg Balmer is the driving force behind the development of the technology that powers TickerFit. He has spent the last two years working full-time on the product which uses wearables and data analytics to deliver bespoke programmes for each patient.
Balmer is no stranger to this multidisciplinary approach. He worked with the Cork-based technology company, Carma Technology Corporation, on the development of one of the very first car-sharing apps based around a combination of GPS, GSM, Geographic Information Systems, internet and iPhone technologies.
“TickerFit monitors patients’ progress and adds more information as needed or gives them feedback on how they are doing. Making the patient take responsibility for his or her own recovery is a key part of the TickerFit philosophy,” he says.
The company employs five people and its TickerFit product will be launched in May of this year. The product is on trial with the Department of Health’s Health Innovation Hub and also with the NHS in the UK.
For now the company is focused on cracking the Irish and UK markets. However, the management of ageing populations, chronic diseases and lifestyle-related illnesses such as diabetes is a big problem globally so TickerFit has international appeal.
North America is the company’s next target market. Typical customers will be large public and private healthcare organisations.
It has cost about €475,000 to develop TickerFit so far with funding coming from personal resources with assistance from Enterprise Ireland. In 2015 Copeland and Balmer participated in the Future Health pre-accelerator programme at the National Digital Research Centre and TickerFit is one of four companies selected from 160 applicants to take part in Telefónica’s Wayra Velocity digital health accelerator in London.
This is run in conjunction with Merck Sharp & Dohme and is worth £65,000 in investment to TickerFit.
“We believe TickerFit has the potential to be disruptive as it empowers the most underutilised resource in healthcare – the patient,” Balmer says.
“To date, patients have largely been passive users of the healthcare system. Changing this mindset could have major financial and other benefits for healthcare operators worldwide.”