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…
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.
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…
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).
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.
And the work is never over.