Years ago, one might have considered wearable technology to be a concept confined to Sci-fi movies. However, today, devices like Apple Watches and Fitbits have become integral parts of our daily lives, especially in the realm of healthcare.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the Singapore government has adopted a proactive approach to healthcare, focusing on early detection and continuous care.
As hospitals and healthcare institutions are experimenting with wearable technologies to achieve these objectives, many MedTech startups have also emerged with their own solutions for specific healthcare needs. Aevice Health is a notable example, specialising in the development of wearables, particularly stethoscopes designed for individuals with chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma.
Aevice Health originated as a MedTech spin-off from Nanyang Technological University (NTU), with Adrian Ang, Dr. Rex Tan and Dr. Ser Wee at the helm of the business, each bringing unique skill sets in business management, technology, and healthcare.
Dr. Wee boasts decades of experience in Science and Technology under his belt – he is most known as an associate professor in NTU and the co-founder of SPACE (MedTech), another startup that addresses health issues related to the heart and lungs.
Adrian and Dr. Tan first crossed paths as classmates in an Entrepreneurship class at NTU. During this time, they pursued separate ventures – Adrian in the e-commerce sector creating custom-made gifts, and Dr. Tan in early childhood education.
Unbeknownst to them, their paths would converge again in 2018, leading to the inception of Aevice Health.
We are on a mission to bring the same level of care from the hospital straight into patients’ homes, empowering them to achieve better control over their conditions.– Adrian Ang, CEO and co-founder of Aevice Health
His own experience with asthma spurred him to start Aevice Health
Asthma stands as one of the most common childhood illnesses in Singapore, affecting one in every five children. As a child, Adrian frequently found himself in and out of the hospital due to severe asthma attacks, causing a lot of distress and worry for his parents.
However, asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – a group of diseases that limit airflow to the lungs – persist into adulthood on a global scale. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 262 million people are asthmatic and 3.23 million people have died from COPD globally in 2019.
These findings fuelled Adrian and Dr. Tan’s determination to create a solution that enables patients to better manage their health and receive timely alerts as symptoms escalate. “The vision for Aevice Health is to develop technology that can offer greater peace of mind to parents of children with asthma,” explained Dr. Tan.
Much like a traditional stethoscope, the AeviceMD stethoscope relies on the transmission of sound waves to monitor patients’ lung sounds. What sets it apart is its compact design, allowing it to be worn by patients or their caregivers, catering to both adult and paediatric use.
This stethoscope is connected to a mobile application, which notifies the user upon detecting any unusual breathing patterns that may indicate potential asthma attacks. It also monitors long-term respiratory and heart rate trends, empowering users to react immediately.
Users can also schedule virtual consultations with doctors, who have access to their patients’ health data through the AeviceMD Monitoring System.
Their journey is marked with lots of trial and error
Despite their drive and enthusiasm, the research and development (R&D) process involved a considerable amount of trial and error. Dr. Tan stressed the significance of the design thinking process in conceptualising and creating the product.
The challenge then is to create the right solution that all stakeholders can, want, and will use. Each function of our technology is validated either in the lab or clinically. With each trial, the data collected is used to improve our solution.– Dr Rex Tan, CTO and co-founder of Aevice Health
Customer feedback is paramount to Aevice Health, and they conduct user studies to test how their wearables function in real-life settings. Adrian highlighted that achieving a product-market fit requires ongoing iteration and improvement of their product and service to align with market needs.
However, navigating the complex regulations governing new medical devices remains an ongoing challenge for the business. The team invests significant hours and effort to ensure their products comply with these regulations. Through sheer determination and grit, Aevice Health consulted industry experts and actively expanded their network in Singapore and the United States (US).
Their efforts have borne fruit, allowing them to gain traction in these markets and secure regulatory approval in both Singapore and the US earlier this year.
Providing continuous care to the masses
To date, Aevice Health is on the road to commercialisation, having secured US$3 million in investments and US$750,000 million in grants. They have also closed an undisclosed bridging round led by Coronet Ventures and East Ventures to support their expansion to the US and Southeast Asia region.
While the business is currently engaged in several pilot projects with clinics and hospitals across Singapore and the US, Adrian expressed the company’s intent to foster more partnerships with healthcare and R&D organisations.
He also emphasised the need to maintain a proactive approach to innovation to remain at the forefront of the healthcare industry:
The basis of healthcare innovation solutions should be on clinical needs. Our nimbleness as a startup puts us in an advantageous position as compared to larger companies and Institutes of Higher Learning.
We have worked with clinicians on both formal and informal relationships, and this allows us to understand the challenges they are facing. As such, our solutions can directly target specific problems, and they are customised to the problem resolution method.– Adrian Ang, CEO and co-founder of Aevice Health
Telehealth has become more mainstream following the COVID-19 pandemic, with more consumers opening up to virtual consultations with their doctors. Spurred by this changing consumer behaviour, Adrian and Dr. Tan believe that the telehealth sector will continue to grow in a post-pandemic world.
Dr. Tan envisions remote patient monitoring (RPM) solutions like AeviceMD playing a complementary role to telehealth in the future, especially for patients with chronic conditions who still need in-person clinic visits.
“Such solutions can enhance telehealth’s capabilities, allowing for continuous monitoring of patients with chronic conditions in the comfort of their homes, eliminating the need for frequent clinic visits,” said Dr. Tan.
Looking ahead, Aevice Health aims to establish their wearables as the standard of care for asthma and COPD patients. They envision widespread adoption in major hospitals and a shift toward a hybrid healthcare model, which focuses on effective chronic condition management at home, facilitated by RPM solutions connecting patients with healthcare providers.
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Featured Image Credit: Aevice Health