Not much was known for us as a team MediKeep consisting of all HIV-negative people (or that’s what I assume), of what HIV really is today. There is no health condition that is as stigmatised as HIV. Are you sure those closest to you are HIV-negative? Perhaps they are just hiding it and trying to go on with their lives on their own (often alone) and act as normal as they can?

But what most people don’t know is that the disease can be prevented. There is no cure for it, but people living with the disease can manage it well enough that the virus does not spread or develop into AIDS, as long as they take their medications correctly and decide to live on their new terms. Yes, there are new drugs that a patient has to take probably every day and there is the fear of being stigmatised. It is up to every one of us to make a change by making sure to take all necessary steps to prevent spreading the virus. “Get to know your status! Take a test if you have not done so yet!” — as promoted by another hackathon team, LiveHIV. Yes, the awareness seems scary but take it for a minute…

HIV awareness: epidemic in Estonia
HIV awareness: epidemic in Estonia

So we presented MediKeep for the HIV+ patients and jury on the first HIVdigital hackathon day in August 2016 and offered MediKeep mobile app as a solution for health tracking and as a reminding tool. We also presented drug-drug interaction check for the patients based on their personal medication and did a live demo on the stage with the app. We didn’t know much about the seriousness of the situation: HIV medication is handled by the clinics in Estonia not by the prescription centre, and because patients can decide whether or not to let their general doctor know about their condition, drug-drug interactions can happen especially between antibiotics (AB) and antiretroviral (ARV) drugs. MediKeep had a working solution for that from the day one.

Is it really a condition patients and doctors are concerned about? From one side, yes, it is. We all know what is the right thing to do, but from the patient’s perspective… Ignorance is bliss.

We will publish just some results from our research among HIV+ patients.
We will publish just some results from our research among HIV+ patients.
From a survey we ran among HIV+ patients in autumn 2016, we figured out that the feature is on the 5th/6th position among all other features we listed for the patients.

Our initial idea included future developments for the HIV+ patients and as we all know, scalability is a must — we saw the potential of covering more than just HIV patients with the same solution in the future. We wanted to create a desktop app for nurses to monitor their patients, starting from HIV clinics and patients. It was going to be a pilot project…

Interview results from 2016 quiz, mostly taken in Tallinn and Linda Clinic in Narva.
Interview results from 2016 quiz, mostly taken in Tallinn and Linda Clinic in Narva.

This feature is also covered by the winning idea — hINF, moderated by the head of Infectious Disease Clinic, Dr. Kersti Kink and her daughter.

We also quickly learned that the competition attracted more HIV+ related people than regular startups. Maybe that was the reason for MediKeep not standing out with the idea and a proven team with close-to-ready-made solution, against teams that were just generating and starting their ideas from the scratch.

From the startup perspective, not winning anything or winning everything makes a huge difference in team motivation. So the question for every startup in any field is: is it worth it to risk the challenge for the team morale? Some teams are just made for the hackathons and fall apart just after the event, while some prove their durability and keep working on their goals.

We decided to move on with the HIV+ project even when we were left behind by the PRAXIS and Estonian General Practitioner Association and another winning team DigiScreen (the team got divided later and another project was formed for the Grand Finale in December 2016).

Hackathon first day in August 2016
Hackathon first day in August 2016
But no, we were not finished with the hackathon! MediKeep is operating on a path that not many have taken yet (medicine-supplements, patients and monitoring). There are no local examples nor are there even proven solutions anywhere, worldwide. The total amount of money that a startup has raised does not equal the actual value of the proposition.

Obviously, the next step was to take the connections we made and dig more deeply into the field of chronic diseases and interview the patients of such diseases. We fought our way back into the competition and with the help of Tehnopol, we ran questionnaires and met with both patients and doctors. We also got the main clinic in Tallinn and their nurses educated about MediKeep.

The result: one sleepy nurse and one good student who wanted to try it all out of 10 attendants. Should apps be prescribed for patients? I think they should! Now it’s a question of what apps should be prescribed in a world where everybody wants to build an app of their own; from supermarkets to cinemas, pharmacies to hospitals, because building an app is a question of in-house innovation?

But think for a second if that is what the patients/clients/users really need? Do YOU want to have 1000 cluttered apps (an app for your leg, an app for your heart or mental issues from different providers) or just connected service for different needs on the medical fields. MediKeep strongly stands for co-operation, co-working and connecting different services for the patients/users. We see patient as a whole.

If the health condition changes, the health app should change with the patient, not that one has to find another app.

So by the end of November, 2016, MediKeep was back in the hackathon preparing for the grand finale but just before the event, we decided to pull back. We had got what we wanted — close communication and research among certain chronic disease patients. It further helped us to determine what the patients or just regular people needed from their supplement app and decided that the final presentation for the VIIV Healthcare (sponsor of the hackathon) would tear us away from our discoveries and focus. Presenting something just for the chance of winning was not worth it.

HIV+ patients are interested in…
HIV+ patients are interested in…
For startups, the vision is never really clear. You might come up with one idea, but tomorrow there is another, as more and more opportunities unveil — for a digital health app, there are so many paths to go. It is a question of what the available resources are and how to make them work.

And the work is never over.

May 10, 2016

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