Imagine this scenario: You’re at home, brushing your teeth before bed when you realise you’re feeling a bit warm. You’re only wearing a t-shirt and it’s the middle of March in Europe. After feeling your forehead you’re convinced you’ve got a fever. Isn’t that one of the main symptoms of Coronavirus? You reflect on the day, remembering a few key moments in which you felt a bit sniffly or sat next to someone with a cough, so you decide to take action. A call to the doctor’s office goes unanswered. You could go into the office, but then you’ll have to sit in a crowded waiting room, potentially contracting or passing on something. So how to figure out if you’re infected?
Many people across the world have found themselves in this situation in the last weeks. In this article, we take a look at Teleclinic, Kaiku Health and Zava, three startups using telemedicine (telehealth) to ease the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic on healthcare systems worldwide.
Healthcare services across Europe were overburdened long before the COVID-19 virus showed up. And now, with its seemingly unrelenting spread, it’s all hands on deck to be more innovative about how to contain and address the issue by protecting those most at risk and reducing the burden on our healthcare systems. Telemedicine is a major contender for helping care providers to steer patients in the right direction so that only those that really need offline care specifically are able to get it.
Teleclinic: Free Testing and Home Delivery Test Kits
I spoke with Katharina Jünger, one of the founders of Teleclinic, via Skype this week. She had a lot to say about why the healthcare system is underprepared for the coronavirus and how telehealth can step in.
Katharina said, “The way we deal with the resource doctor is crazy — in Germany, patients can go as many times as they want to whatever doctor they want so basically I could go ten times a day to whatever specialist I want to. I could go to the emergency room with no limitations. And then when we look at Corona, what do we want? We want that those people that have Corona stay at home, but that only those patients that actually need hospital care go to the hospital because otherwise there’s no space for those people that need care.”
Teleclinic, located in Munich, Germany, was founded in 2015 by Katharina, Patrick Palacin and Reinhard Meier. The company began with the mission to expand access and improve the quality of healthcare. Since the Coronavirus made its way to Europe the company has seen a 60% growth rate in its user base, week over week.
In our interview, Jünger also addressed how Teleclinic is directly addressing concerns about the pandemic. “We set up a questionnaire that basically is based on the guidelines of the WHO to see whether the likelihood for Corona infection is high. So basically you can fill in that form and then we have a team of medical experts screening what you filled in and then we give you feedback whether likelihood is high, yes or no and if the likelihood is high then you can talk to a doctor.”
The company has even taken it a step further. Starting the week of March 23, people who register on its screening process with a high likelihood of infection will be able to receive test kits delivered directly to their homes. Jünger also added, “What is interesting to know is that Teleclinic decided to offer our doctor treatments for free to anyone with a suspected corona infection because currently patients still have to pay roughly 30 to 40 Euros.”
The company is looking for partnerships with labs, government offices and funders to be able to scale up its systems and fight the virus more broadly.
Zava & Kaiku Health: Reducing Burdens Across Healthcare Systems
Another startup, Zava, from London, UK provides a platform for online screening for health services and offers treatment in the form of medication, test kits or phone consultations. Founded in 2010 by Amit Khutti and David Meinterz, its mission is to provide cheaper, more accessible healthcare to everyone. Following the onset of the pandemic, the team is seeing an increase in the number of people with chronic health issues using the platform.
Dr Zenon Andreou, Medical Director at Zava noted, “We understand in these times patients either cannot get an appointment to see their regular face-to-face GP or they may be reluctant to see their GP either because they think it might burden them in these times of increased activity for them, or they might be afraid to be in a busy crowded and possibly infected waiting room.”
“We are seeing many of our patients asking specific questions for coronavirus and for that end we have set up a free messaging service, for our patients, but also for any patient out there about how coronavirus might affect them, and how they are able to keep themselves safe for this. We have also launched a service where we give our patients up to date information on the Covid – 19 pandemic as well as offering to answer any questions they have on this virus, free of charge. We are aware that national helplines are overwhelmed at the moment and we wanted to offer some respite to them by answering questions from people who are well and just want the latest information on how to stay safe from a trusted source,” Andreou added.
Kaiku Health, a startup from Helsinki, Finland has built a speciality within cancer clinics and treatment, helping ease the burden of regular check-ins that commonly accompany cancer treatment. Patients can use digital check-ups that screen patients for symptoms that may require further investigation. The crisis has created a huge uptick in the number of patients it is seeing, namely due to the high risks for infection posed by the harsh impacts of fighting cancer.
Co-Founder Lauri Sippola spoke with me via Skype: “Cancer patients are one of the risk groups with Coronavirus and what we are seeing at the moment is, looking at our user statistics, it’s a bit early to analyze the statistics, but we are seeing an increase in user activity. Also, we are receiving requests from clinics to support them in implementing Kaiku health to wider amounts of patients, to really provide access for patients to avoid unnecessary clinical visits.”
Sippola added, “In addition to that, we just yesterday accelerated one of our new implementations in the Netherlands and [are] taking care of the whole implementation remotely and also the clinical staff training remotely, so definitely kind of doing everything we can to support the community and cancer patients during these quite special circumstances we have happening in the world.”
Coronavirus & Telehealth: Spread the Word
These telemedicine and telehealth companies are providing options for people in this trying time. In some instances, it’s just not possible to see someone face to face, but what this crisis is showing us is that telemedicine can be not only an alternative but actually an advantage in cases of highly contagious diseases.
To access any of these resources, please see the links in the description below. Companies are not allowed to advertise their Coronavirus treatments, so share this with your friend or your coworkers to get the word out about how to stay healthy.
To access the resources discussed in this article, you can visit:
Teleclinic – free online CoronaVirus Screening and consultation with a professional for those at high risk.
Zava – free online screening for the COVID-19 virus for anyone. Digital support for anyone experiencing health issues.
Kaiku Health – digital liaison between doctors and patients for those undergoing cancer treatment.