Lifeina Box is the world's smallest refrigerator, and is changing the way individuals transport temperature sensitive medication like insulin, growth hormone, and more . Clever Tech Digest sat down with Uwe Diegel, creator of Lifeina, to discuss the medical industry's shift towards connected health management and how it will impact patient care around the globe.
Uwe Diegel is a specialist in various forms of medical diagnostics such as blood pressure, temperature, asthma and diabetes. Uwe currently lives in Paris, France, where he runs HealthWorks Global. He has been at the forefront of international changes in healthcare technology for the last 30 years.
According to Uwe, "the creation of a new model of health and healthcare is the greatest single business opportunity of our lifetimes, and we expect it to be accompanied by profound and lasting cultural change." Read on to learn more about the future of connected healthcare.
For our readers just learning about Lifeina, please describe your team's background, what LifeinaBox and LifeinanApp is, and its original inspiration.
The greatest inventions are often born out of simple necessity. It all started in the South of France when my brother, Prof Olaf Diegel went on a holiday and a hotel froze his insulin by accident. Olaf immediately went to a local pharmacy and bought some new insulin, so the crisis was averted momentarily.
A couple of days later, while discussing over a glass of wine in Paris, we decided there should be a solution to help people travel with their insulin. So we started thinking of the idea of making a really really small fridge. On paper it worked, so we decided to make a prototype with bits of cardboard, plastic and whatever we could scrounge around my flat in Paris. We actually stole the battery from my video cam to make the prototype. It worked.
We talked about it to our friends, families, and colleagues and were amazed at the universally positive reaction we got. Most people said, “Where can I buy it?” When you have a chronic disease, you are defined by your lifestyle. A chronic disease cannot be cured, only managed, for the rest of the afflicted person’s life. If you have a disease like multiple sclerosis, diabetes or arthritis, anything that can make your life more “normal” becomes essential.
To develop LifeinaBox, we’ve put together some of the brightest minds, engineers, designers, medical experts, but also patients. I think that the main reason why everybody loves LifeinaBox is that it was developed BY patients FOR patients.
Today, LifeinaBox is the world’s smallest refrigerator, designed for the safe storage of fragile medications such as insulin or growth hormones. There are about 250 million people worldwide that are “prisoners” of their medication, because their medication must be maintained at a temperature between 2 and 8°C at all times. To these people, LifeinaBox gives the freedom to travel anywhere, anytime, with the peace of mind of knowing that their life-saving medication is kept at exactly the right temperature.
Connected to a Smartphone application, available in iOS and Android, LifeinaBox is an essential tool for the better management of medication schedules, as well as the management of chronic diseases such as diabetes. The Lifeina app not only follows the temperature of the medications in real time, but also sends to the user reminders for his medication schedule so that he can better manage his condition.
LifeinaBox connects to a mobile application. How much longer do you imagine tablets and smartphones will remain our main access point to interface with paired devices like Lifeina or Fitbit?
Everything that can be connected will be connected. That is now a certainty. Whether it is a car, a toothbrush, a blood pressure monitor, a stove or a fridge, it will be connected. It is a natural evolution of technology. This is going to generate huge amounts of data. But today Big Data is still in its infancy. Most of what we do with Big Data today is just bean counting. We take the data, filter it a bit and then regurgitate it in a palatable format. The big challenge is going to be to move from this “bean-counting” to data analytics and eventually to artificial intelligence.
The one thing that characterizes tablets and smartphones is their ubiquity. Everyone has one, everyone uses one, and so it is natural to use this platform to display information. Because of their ease of use they still remain (and will still remain for a while) the best way to communicate with the user.
What are the main limitations and obstacles you face developing mobile medical equipment?
It is complicated and difficult to truly innovate in healthcare. The fact is that today, because of new financing tools such as crowdfunding, any moron with a good idea can just stick it on Kickstarter or Indiegogo and make a product. So every second day a new magic product is announced that promises incredible things but rarely delivers. This has caused a “gadgetization” of the medical market.
Generally, most doctors or medical professionals do not think about connected “health”, but of connected “gadgets”. So it makes it harder and harder for true medical innovation to pierce through. So it is more and more important to differentiate between wellness devices, healthcare devices and sickness devices.
There is also a certain amount of confusion in what is the definition of mobile medical equipment. I keep on hearing the same platitudes that “the frontier between wellness and health is slowly fading away” and that well-being devices are as important as medical devices, but it is simply not true.
A medical device needs to be clinically validated to be called a medical device. And most people who buy an activity tracker are people who don’t need them. They are already athletes, runners and sporty people who are looking for an affirmation of performance rather than a tool to change their lifestyle.
What is the difference between capital, wearable, and forgettable technologies in the medical industry? Please share some examples, and which category LifeinaBox falls into.
I have been working in the development of medical devices for over 20 years, working for some of the world’s largest diagnostics companies. I have seen many changes in the medical industry and these changes are now accelerating at an untold pace. Before the 1980ies, when smaller medical devices started entering into the individual market (thermometers, blood pressure monitors, glucometers, etc) most medical devices were “capital equipment” that doctors and hospitals bought. They cost a fortune (hence the word capital) and were an investment in the hospital’s future.
Then we started shifting at the turn of the century towards a “wearable” market, where anyone and everyone could buy a medical device and use it at home. Today the word “wearable” is mostly applied to activity trackers. We are now moving towards what I call “forgettable” technology, where our smartphones automatically monitor us. The next generation of medical devices will be integrated in tattoos, in the medication itself or in devices so small and unobtrusive that we will no longer notice them.
LifeinaBox is today firmly positioning itself in the wearable market because of the intrinsic and unyielding properties of the medication it keeps cool. We are already working on new generations of products that will bridge that gap between wearable and forgettable devices.
What guiding principles focus your team on developing human centered connected health systems, instead of just another gadget?
LifeinaBox is truly the best expression of technology at the service of healthcare. I am a great believer in Human Centered Design (HCD), and LifeinaBox was designed according to this principle.
A product designed with HCD should hide the technique and details of how it works and be completely intuitive to use. Human Centered Design assumes that all the participants in the design process bring a personal bias into the process and that the actual end-users are the only participants who can provide objective input as, after all is said and done, they are the ones that will use the product.
Usable products are desirable products and this obviously makes good business sense.
The LifeInA Mission
LifeInA challenges benchmarks in the thermo-sensitive medication sector. We manufacture and market innovative solutions for the storage and distribution of thermo-sensitive medications.