Startup Designs App to Improve Cardiovascular Disease Detection

Cardiovascular diseases are the most common cause of death, according to WHO (2020). Powerful Medical, a new Slovak startup, hopes to reduce these deaths by introducing an AI-based diagnostic tool that detects cardiovascular conditions and provides recommendations tailored to patients' needs.

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powerful medical team
Slovak startup Powerful Medical hit headlines as the first organization to obtain EU certification on Medical Devices. Photo: courtesy of Powerful Medical

Last year the Slovak startup hit the headlines as it was the first organization to obtain EU certification on Medical Devices. Its renowned product PMcardio introduced an AI-based cardiac diagnostic tool to empower physicians. Currently, the startup is expanding and has around 30 employees. Powerful Medical is aware that its niche market and data availability may soon reach its limits. The company is planning to expand and implement AI diagnostics for other diseases.

What is the procedure?

The product is a smartphone application used by medical staff. The AI-based diagnostic tool is currently able to detect 44 cardiovascular diseases by analyzing an ECG scan. Once the ECG is examined, the application asks a set of questions, such as the underlying reasons for the ECG examination of the patient and symptoms. The app identifies the condition. The next step is a set of follow-up questions to specify the symptoms and medication taken.

Data entries are evaluated in accordance with the data authorized by the European Society of Cardiology and sourced from academic research databases. Combining this data, the app displays a diagnosis and complex medical advice. If the condition is severe, such as martial fibrillation, the app informs the user that immediate action is needed. The last step is optional and consists of sharing one’s experience with the app.

The six-step process is groundbreaking in the vast amount of knowledge contained in the app, equal to a doctor with 30 years of experience, and steadily expanding. The AI-based technique shortens the duration required for diagnosis and allows immediate action. Additionally, the diagnosis can be detected by a general practitioner and does not require visiting a medical specialist for cardiovascular diseases. The diagnosis may help to challenge the diagnosis issued by the doctor and prevent human error.

Often, it is too late by the time the patient gets an appointment with the doctor. The app can help fill the market gap as the EU is facing a significant deficit of medical professionals.

Powerful Medical Product Development

Powerful Medical was created in 2017 by the Herman brothers, who have maintained a supervisory board of medical experts. In 2019, they embarked on two successful research-based cooperations with MIT and a hospital in Belgium, which was one of few in Europe to store patient history data on the cloud. While MIT made 300 thousand data entries available, the hospital in Belgium provided only five thousand data entries at first. It did not take long, and the hospital was so impressed by the analysis conducted by the AI-based tool by Powerful Medical that it increased the number of data entries to 450 thousand and became a research and business partner.

The new EU certification on Medical Devices allows Powerful Medical to certify new products via an accelerated process. These permits drive competitiveness and enable the startup to expand to other markets and start new ventures. Apart from Slovakia, Israel, and the United States, Powerful Medical is planning a major launch in the United Kingdom. Recent news claim that their Value Proposition made a good impression at a conference in the United Arab Emirates, but their expansion to this country remains unconfirmed.

As the co-founder Robert Herman stated in an interview with Startitup, their advantage is that their technology is the most modern in the European market. Currently, their competitors have access to much smaller medical datasets. Furthermore, ECG machines are readily available in hospitals in the EU. The price of a single ECG scan varies from €5 to 20, making the product affordable to doctors and their patients.

PMcardio: Challenges and success

Apart from the diagnosis, the startup can predict the lifespan of a patient following the AI paper from the European Cardiology Association. This is believed to open further opportunities for collaboration with health insurance companies. One has already entered into an agreement to test the application in Slovak hospitals. The founders of Powerful Medical hope that the application will be able to detect as many as 60 diagnoses in the future.

However, the available datasets and research on diagnosing cardiovascular diseases are limited. Powerful Medical is aware that its niche market and data availability may soon reach its limits. The company is planning to expand and implement AI diagnostics for other diseases. For example, the startup has already founded a daughter company called Medannot, dedicated to the analysis of X-rays.

Although the story of Powerful Medical may seem like a seamless fairytale, with its CEO winning several prizes for science and innovation, the progress was not always straightforward. At first, Martin Herman, one of the co-founders, did not succeed with his business in Silicon Valley. After failing to launch the business, he returned to Slovakia, where he started a software project from which he helped to fund the foundation of Powerful Medical.

As Herman once stated for the DennikD newspaper, the development of technology products reaches a higher quality in this region than in the United States. Nonetheless, selling a high-tech product is more complicated.

Martin Hochel

Martin Hochel comes from Bratislava, Slovakia, and has also lived in Belgium and the UK. He holds a BA in history and politics from Birkbeck College, University of London and is currently studying for his masters at the Central European University in Vienna in nationalism studies. Martin also works as a junior analyst at the Government Office of the Slovak Republic. In his free time, he likes to read, play the piano, and travel.

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