On any given day, in the morning, we began to feel unwell, with a severe sore throat, upset stomach, and high fever. In the early afternoon, the discomfort has increased. We call the ER but they can only visit us late in the afternoon. Let's go to another assumption: lately we find ourselves with little energy, we sleep badly and we have lost our appetite. We make an appointment with the family doctor, but for another 10 days he has no free time.
Between 9 and 10 days is the average waiting time in Spain for our family doctor to visit us, according to the latest CIS Health Barometer. We live longer and longer: between 2000 and 2020, life expectancy at birth for men went from 75.9 to 79.6 years and that of women from 82.7 to 85.1, according to the INE. The more years of life, the more ailments. Diseases from which we used to die, now become chronic. The consequence of this? Increasing pressure on health care services, something that reached one of its peaks with the pandemic.
Hence, telemedicine is a sector in clear growth. VDM Health is an emerging technology company that was born in 2016 in Barcelona with the aim of increasing the efficiency of medical activity through technology. “We want, with an application, to act as a bridge between the doctor and the patient, to alleviate the workload for the former and to be able to make effective decisions, and, simultaneously, cover the needs of the latter, from the first contact and diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring of their health”, explains Jordi Ferrer, one of its founders.
This application is designed for all types of patients, but it is especially interesting for chronic patients and the most delicate or urgent ones (such as the example with which we began this article), since it enhances the interaction between patient and doctor. To achieve this, artificial intelligence (AI), machine vision and other advanced means of human-machine interaction are used. While working on this software, which we should be able to use within a year, the company is running an advanced personalized medicine project.
This consists of an artificial intelligence engine that allows prescribing drugs with complete precision based on patient data, cross-referenced with a drug data repository. When the doctor prescribes a drug, she registers it in the program and it studies whether there are adverse effects, contraindications, interactions with other drugs and even more favorable alternatives to improve the prescription. A first version of this software is already being used by the health systems of Madrid and the Valencian Community.
Another of this startup's applications analyzes the patient's clinical data and proposes dynamic plans for eating, exercise, emotional support and containment of addictions. This is possible thanks to the processing of data with complex algorithms and advanced learning technologies, also supported by the phone's camera: just by looking at our faces, it is able to detect stress levels, blood pressure, cardiac signs and even blood pressure markers. COVID-19. In 90 seconds, we will know our level of well-being.
In an evolution, this app will be part of a broader one that,
thanks, also, to artificial intelligence, it will emulate the behavior of the doctor and actively support him in his decisions (whatever his specialty). Thus, the professional will have accurate and screened information about the patient for when they have to visit him, in person or electronically, and will be able to save time, travel and speed up procedures to offer a personalized service.
A few months ago, the company settled in DFactory, the industrial and technological cluster that the Consorci de la Zona Franca de Barcelona recently opened to encourage the collaboration of companies from sectors that are decisive for the transformation of Spanish industry. "Having arrived here is being very beneficial for us because we are finding common work points in supercomputing or 3D printing," says Ferrer.
To become part of this hub, the essential requirement is, as explained by Pere Navarro, the State delegate to the Consorci, "to have a relationship with the industry, either manufacturing directly or with projects linked to it, such as those that work with artificial intelligence, robotics, sensors, 3D printing… We want to form a great community that has to do with the new way of manufacturing”.
Thanks to the companies that reside here, in a couple of years, VDM Health could use its software in a new generation of smart devices that coexist and talk with patients, take care of their health conditions and promote healthy habits according to their desires, in close collaboration with doctors and health professionals of all specialties. “Imagine an intelligent mirror that, by reflecting on it, tells us what our state of health is and warns us of possible problems”, concludes Ferrer. "Or a smart bed, which, when we lie on it, makes it easier for us to sleep."