The journey began in 2006, when Dimitris Fotiadis, professor of Biomedical Engineering and Informatics and Spyros Konitsiotis, professor of Neurology at the University of Ioannina, took the first steps in the direction of this research. The objective of this research was to see if we could map the symptoms of the complex Parkinson’s disease, which cause many motor problems that are very hard to detect and record. And to do this remotely, with the help of artificial intelligence as well as wearable medical devices. This came into being from 2008 to 2011 with the so-called ‘proof of concept’. Through theoretical and practical measurements on 81 patients, it was proven that it is feasible, that symptoms can be accurately measured and that a doctor can remotely keep track of how things are going. The two founders joined by a business team of which I am the main representative, we worked for three years, and, sought business funds. That’s when the National Bank came along, with Business Seeds, becoming the primary source of help and their contribution was very significant.

Patients can use it for 2 to 5 days, once a month, once every two months, once every six months or once a year, depending on what the doctor requires. Some patients are in the initial stage of the disease, which is known as the “honeymoon” phase, and in this phase the symptoms are manageable, the treatment is what it should be, and the patient does not experience the so-called “fluctuations”, when the medication takes effect at times and wears off at other times. This is what their future will look like. Up until that point everything is fine and one might not even notice that a patient has Parkinson’s because the medication is strong, effective and everything is OK. However, as time goes by, unfortunately the so-called “neurodegeneration” progresses, the disease develops and the patient once again has the symptoms they had before starting treatment, but not continuously. They take their medication, as prescribed by the doctor during the day, but after a while the medication is no longer effective. The doctor then proceeds to prescribe a second dose, third dose, fifth dose, on this journey through time, hand-in-hand with the disease. This is where things start getting complicated. Because patients need to have the required dose and dosage at all times. It is impossible for a doctor to have this information without having a recording device as such.

Precisely. Look, this is a global disease. There are approximately 22,000 Parkinson’s patients in Greece and 13,000,000 across the globe. It would be unfair not to have a de facto outward-looking approach, considering that the needs are global. Unfortunately, it is widespread and it is a disease that significantly affects the entire family. Due to the fact that the disease is incurable, Parkinson's patients gradually come face-to-face with a huge struggle. And their loved-ones face it as well.
Then comes depression and many problems; they miss days of work; they are no longer productive, regardless of what stage in life they are in. Therefore, an outward-looking approach was the obvious choice right from the start. Applying an outward-looking approach has a high cost and requires one to consider how they will go about it, which associates they will find, how they intend to build a network, if they will be establishing subsidiaries or if they will be working with distributors.
We currently operate in approximately 10 countries, most of which are in the European Union and in the United Kingdom. We are directly interested in the Middle East, but most of all we are interested in the US market.

Health, whether it involves the provision of hospital services, medication, medical devices, physical therapy at your home or at a physiotherapy center, ultimately entails a degree of complexity as a system. It is very often the case that one person receives the service, another refers them to that service, they need to go elsewhere for said service, while somebody else pays for the service. What you are referring to is called “market access” and unfortunately, due to differences between countries, even within the European Union, each country must record everything related to the plan for penetrating the country before entering it. And this may seem self-evident for any business venture.
One must look into the steps that need to be taken in order for a medical device to receive compensation from the health system. For example, in the United Kingdom compensation is provided on different levels. It can be provided in a geographical region, in the corresponding CCG, which is the Clinical Commissioning Group, of Belfast for example, or it can be provided at hospital level or at the central level with a central buyer.
With different scenarios, different branches, a compensation network, and then we have the Payons, which can also be private insurance companies. They play a different role and participate in a different way. Health professionals also play a very important role as they are the ones who will recommend the use of a medicine or device, and therefore they must know about it and receive training. There must be clinical studies proving the product’s performance or, similarly, that it improves quality of life or, similarly, that it helps the health system save on resources. So, if you consider that all this is different by country – some common and some different – it creates the need for a very different mapping of each country.

We often feel like we are living the “Greek Dream”, something like the “American Dream”. In Greece, our country with our so-called “national mark”, which we are all drawn to because we have our history, our friends, the sea, the sun and whatever else inspires each of us individually. We can do these things here, provided there is a team, provided one has the right business idea, provided the recipe will work; in this way, things can progress because everything is much easier than it was when we started out. There are many funding sources – perhaps not as specialized as we would like, but they are improving, moving forward and trying to bridge the digital divide. Here we have a technology divide, compared to London – as mentioned earlier – or to San Francisco or Boston. Efforts are being made; there are some very good universities; there are some very good funds and I believe everything is easier, and I also hope that it will get even easier in the future.
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