This Startup Wants To Tackle An Ignored Problem Of Elderly Care

October 1, 2020

It all started in November 2018 in Berlin, where the co-founders Martina and Erin attended a 'Hacking Female Health' event. When participants pitched their ideas about improving female health, they were disappointed that no solutions were focused on improving the health of geriatric women. With Erin's prompting, Martina pitched an idea focusing on an area of geriatric nursing care that needed much attention. They became a team of six over that weekend and came up with the idea that ended up winning the hackathon.

How did you build the team?

Advosense is a team of three women, with Erin and Martina as the founding members. Martina and Erin have over 15 years of practical experience in the field of nursing and healthcare management. We met at Maastricht University in 2016, where we both completed our master's in Healthcare Policy, Innovation, and Management. Since March, we've been joined by Grace-Anne Marius, who Martina met through a friend here in Berlin. She has worked with startups and scaleups, bringing expertise in developing go-to-market strategies, product launches, and global strategy.

Weren't you afraid to tackle such a sensitive, taboo topic?

Afraid, definitely not. If anything, we are empowered to bring light to this topic. Patients suffer from incontinence every day, all over the world. Incontinence affects over 77% of the German nursing home population, and the healthcare system is struggling to manage patient care, especially in the context of all of the associated complications.

Do you think that patients will accept innovation? Geriatric care is challenging – patients require an empathetic approach; they can have mixed emotions and feelings about technology. Some patients, for example, are ashamed to communicate their problems regarding incontinence.

We are very mindful of creating an empathetic technology that is not invasive and supports the patient's dignity and privacy. That is why we are developing a technology that is invisible to the patient, their families, and visitors. Only the caregiver receives a personal notification, so our solution keeps patient privacy in mind. No alarms, no yelling out, no family members coming to visit only to find their mother sitting a soaked brief.

We aim to transform the way we feel about ageing and nursing care for our elderly

Regardless of technology or not, caregivers need to know if their patients are wet or they will end up with complications such as dermatitis or urinary infections. So, rather than requiring a caregiver to physically take off the patients' briefs to check every time, or a patient remaining in wet briefs with an unpleasant odour because their caregiver may be unaware, our solution allows the caregiver to respond to this problem in a more empathetic way. Our innovation lessens this burden and gives the voice to patients with limitations who cannot communicate that they have become incontinent.

The solution will also influence the way nurses work. Will they accept modified workflow?

Patients everywhere today are using adult disposable incontinence briefs without sensors. When using our disposable brief with a sensor, changing the actual brief will not require any additional steps. If anything, Advosense can eliminate unnecessary steps, such as finding a patient wet and having to go gather all materials or additional staff to help by preparing the caregiver with the information they need to provide the best care.

Things like checking patients for incontinence and waking them up, only to find them dry, or alternatively finding a patient soaked, requiring extra clean up or bed sheet change that could have been avoided if the brief was changed in time.

Our solution will have a positive impact on the efficiency of the task at hand. Yes, nurses may have to change briefs more often as they will now know that it needs to be changed. This does not mean the nurse should drop everything they are doing and run to clean the patient. Instead, it means they can prioritize their care more effectively and therefore save time in the end. Packing, cleaning, and dressing a pressure ulcer wound caused by improper management of incontinence is much more work than changing an extra brief and a substantially different quality of patient care.

What added value does the solution offer?

Not only does our solution provide value to the patient through increasing the quality of care they receive, but it is also directly linked to critical patient and quality indicators of healthcare organizations. These include patient and staff satisfaction, the prevalence and cost of hospital-acquired complications, and the process for materials management. The Advosense solution also adds value to direct clinician care through efficient workflows and time management.

What is the stage of innovation development?

We're currently building our MVP (minimum viable product). We are working with a great group of external partners who have expertise in hardware, Internet of Things, and software development to get our product tested and ready for the market.

Moreover, we have lots of activities that are keeping us busy! This includes testing our product, preparing for medical device regulation, reaching out to potential customers, and securing funding. Though we have a great founding team, we are not yet complete and are excited to expand and further diversify the Advosense team. This is just the beginning for us.

What's your motivation to launch the solution?

We exist to transform the way we feel about ageing and nursing care for our elderly. That is the ultimate driver for us. We want to give caregivers the tools they need to provide the quality of care our patients and grandparents deserve.

What are the biggest challenges you expect on your way?

Many. We know that healthcare is not an easy industry to disrupt, since the system is so complex, and each market entry path has its own challenges. The technical readiness of clinicians and organizations is a significant barrier; however, through COVID-19, the industry faces a change, and acceptance of technology from care providers is increasing.