Brisbane startup Cardihab helps heart attack survivors finish rehab


Heart disease is one of the world’s biggest killers. That’s as true in Australia as it is anywhere, and for the heart attack survivors down under, a large number aren’t following through with their rehabilitation. Survivors’ failure to complete rehab is what most often leads to complications and repeat heart attacks.

But using an app that keeps you organized and a doctor on your toes is what has one group of entrepreneurs excited in Brisbane.

“Cardihab makes it more convenient for patients by installing the app on phones that collects useful data during the week and at the end of each week they have a phone call with a clinician,” Cardihab CTO and Co-founder Simon McBride told Geektime during a press session at the Brisbane branch of the Australian e-Health Research Centre, located at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital.

Heart attack survivors who complete rehabilitation are 40% less likely to suffer a relapse and 25% less likely to die on account of their heart disease, according to the Cardihab team. But right now, less than one third of patients typically follow through with Australia’s standard six-week, 2-3 times a week rehab program. For McBride, it’s a chance to deploy a marketable technology with some risk to him and his partners, like any startup or spinout. But for the e-Health Research Centre, there is more at stake. It is the first such spinout to come out of the center in a nascent medtech and e-health startup ecosystem in Australia.

The founding team also includes eHealth researcher Marlien Varnfield, PhD; mHealth and information management pro Satu Marjomaa; and spinout-building veteran Leonore Ryan, MBA. After their founding in February, the team joined the HCF Catalyst healthtech accelerator program, one of Australia’s first accelerated efforts for the industry. They are also a member of the first cohort for the ON Accelerator sponsored by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

Cardihab links patients with clinicians and keeps them honest on their routine
Cardihab links patients with clinicians and keeps them honest about their routine

Cardihab argues they have research behind their method that other apps don’t, dubbing itself the world’s “first scientifically validated way to deliver remote cardiac rehabilitation.” Instead of having to go into the rehab center, the app entices you to do some of the work from home. They compared rehab completion rates between one group of 60 patients using the app against another group of 60 who weren’t. The result? They claim users were 70% more likely to finish their rehab than sufferers in the non-using group. That also included 89% fewer visits to the hospital or a doctor to deal with complications or relapses.

It might be parsing language to say they are the first with scientific validation. They are not the first to come up with this idea. Boston-based Wellframe has raised $10 million for pretty much the same formula, last raising $8.5 million in September 2014. They have since raised debt service according to a filing with the SEC.

McBride admits that given the group who used the app volunteered for the comparison, they may have been more predisposed to using it than another group of patients who may have been obligated to use it by a doctor. That doesn’t rattle him, though, seeing the disparity as overwhelming.

Cardihab founders Simon McBride, Marlien Varnfield, Leonore Ryan and Satu Marjomaa
Cardihab founders Simon McBride, Marlien Varnfield, Leonore Ryan and Satu Marjomaa

But it’s still a health app, meaning it has to be concerned with two sets of users: patients and their physicians. For the clinicians using it, the ratings are apparently good with some caveats.

“The clinicians think it’s a good idea so that means better patient outcomes,” McBride explained to Geektime. “The major concern is around their time, reducing the burden and making it more efficient to get them into the program.”

Doctors can monitor patient progress, send them educational materials through the platform and even detect minute signs of depression, something common in post-heart attack patients. The patients are responsible for their own programs, including manually adding in a lot of information. There is some automated data input, including things like an in-app pedometer (step counter).

Charging a fee to participating hospitals, their plan is to launch down under before going to the U.S. and the UK. But they might be limited by their linguistic abilities. They are not prioritizing entering China due to the complication of translation. But they also have yet to translate their app into Spanish, which could hold back and breakout in American markets considering Hispanics are at increased risk relative to whites for heart disease and heart attacks, according to the American Heart Association.

But the promise of something that can improve heart response rates is likely the big hurdle already cleared. At this point, it’s a matter of bringing it to the market.


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