European companies offering interactive mental health therapies, open source health care platforms and chronic disease management solutions are big winners in the EU SME eHealth Competition held as part of the World of Health IT (WoHIT) conference in Nice, France.
UK-based Big White Wall was the first prize winner of the contest's “Champions” category for the best eHealth application in Europe this year. The company's online community site for mental and behavioral health patients offers anonymous forums, group support and live therapy sessions with licensed professionals. Other existing forums traditionally offer a similar service but Big White Wall says it is one of the very first comprehensive early intervention programs aimed at the approximately 50% of people in the UK who experience psychological distress but who never seek help.
The site allows users to share their feelings anonymously and receive support from fellow users with the same problems. Online counselors called “wall guides” act as moderators and enforce online safety and engagement. Users can use a built-in drawing tool to make images and post them to “The Wall” for others to see. Tips and videos about coping strategies are also available online for self-therapy or users can opt to engage in a live therapy session with a qualified behavioral health professional.
Big White Wall claims 75% of its members talk about a problem for the first time on its site, 80% use online tools to manage issues and 95% reported feeling better after using the site. By placing control in the hands of users, the company says it ultimately motivates users to reach out to others as well, rather than solving issues on their own.
"Our solution encourages people to self-manage and take control of their own mental health," said Nicky Runeckles, director general of Big White Wall. "The goal is to allow people to feel better by adding quality years to their lives,” Runeckles told Atelier.
Slovenia's Marand won second prize in the competition with its Think! EHR Platform which is based in open source standards. The platform has the ability to launch health apps, clinical data models and clinical decision support applications using toolkits and visual tools. Finland's Medixine garnered third prize for its patient home monitoring and advanced patient portal. The company offers online disease management services to prevent hospital readmissions and reduce overall health care costs.
In the “Promises” category, the UK's Aseptika Limited won first prize for its home-based sputum test for patients with asthma, cystic fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The company was recently awarded a UK patent for its tracker that detects biomarkers of the pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa responsible for flare-ups of lung conditions.
Ireland's SureWash and Italy's CoRehab, which won second and third place respectively, earned recognition for applying gaming sensor technologies to their eHealth products. SureWash utilizes a video camera to monitor hand washing movements and give real-time feedback for health care workers in hospital wards. CoRehab's Riablo uses games and sensors that guide users during rehab and generates web reports for therapists to study exercise data.
The EU SME eHealth Competition was held to showcase the best eHealth solutions by Europe's small companies and entrepreneurs. During the WoHit conference, held in Nice from April 2-4, 2014, these companies networked with potential partners, investors, vendors, policy makers and other stakeholders in the health IT industry of Europe and beyond. The conference and exhibition, first held in Geneva in 2008, was conceived to focus on eHealth, one of Europe's six “lead markets” for innovation.
“The possibility to have conferences focused in the European community is something we are very lucky to have since they are more intimate and focused on learning by sharing common knowledge,” said Daniel Forslund, Chief Strategy Officer for Health Care Development at the Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems. “WoHIT is a unique experience to see how other countries are implementing and deploying IT on the health sector,” Forslund concluded.