MyDiagnostick is a measuring instrument that creates an ECG (electrocardiogram) quickly, easily and accurately. The smooth metal tube is 25 cm. long and has a circumference of a roll of peppermint. There are “handles” on both ends of the tube with sensors that measure your heartrate for one minute when you hold the stick with both hands. MyDiagnostick can store up to 140 ECG readings.
Vincent tells us that MyDiagnostick was developed at the request of and together with cardiologists. “They regularly see patients in their practice who have suffered a stroke or paralysis caused by atrial fibrillation. An irregular heartrate prevents blood from being pumped properly. This results in small blood clots which can then cause a stroke or lead to paralysis. If you diagnose atrial fibrillation at an early stage, you can prevent a lot of problems by administering anti-coagulants or other medication, or performing surgery. Nearly all patients experience heart palpitations, perspiration and dizziness for a while. It starts out only happening occasionally basis, but after a while, these incidents occur with increasing frequency and severity. Often, if they then decide to see their GP or go to the emergency room, nothing will show up during tests by this point, so they are not given any treatment.”
This is when MyDiagnostick can be introduced. The GP or cardiologist gives patients with the previously mentioned symptoms the MyDiagnostick to use at home for a certain period of time. They are instructed to generate an ECG three times per day at fixed times, and of course right when the heart palpitations occur. Using the MyDiagnostick is very easy; the patient just holds the ends with both hands, and waits one minute until the lights go on. By regularly creating ECGs and doing so precisely when the symptoms occur, a pattern becomes visible over a longer period of time. Measurement is the key, is the motto here. If it turns out that the patient is suffering from atrial fibrillation, the doctor can start appropriate treatment on time in most cases, preventing a great many problems.
Hundreds of GPs in the province of Groningen conducted preventive trials with 3,000 patients who came to their practice for flu shots. 1.3% of these patients (42 people!) appeared to have an irregular heartrate. At one practice where the GP treats primarily older patients, this was even 4%.
70 German pharmacists are participating in a study in which they offer their patients 65 and older a measurement using MyDiagnostick. The results will be announced soon, but it looks like this study will reveal similar statistics.
Initially, MyDiagnostick was developed for patients who were already displaying symptoms. However, the number of patients with atrial fibrillation is rapidly rising, and not only among the most important target group up to now, people aged 65 and older. The noticeable increase among younger people is worrisome. Calls for preventive screening in a manner similar to the medical population studies are being heard from various camps. Even the EU in Brussels is discussing the necessity of introducing opportunistic screening in Europe. The media has caught wind of this, and MyDiagnostick was recently featured on the Dutch news program Nieuwsuur, and during a report on the German television network ZDF where atrial fibrillation was referred to as the newest Volkskrankheit (widespread disease).
“I grew up on this campus, professionally speaking!”
ABS Medical Systems BV, the parent company of MyDiagnostick BV, has been located at the Brightlands Maastricht Health Campus since 2009. In other words, ABS was already there when the first ideas for the Brightlands Campus were still on the drawing table. Vincent Larik had worked at Medtronic for 37 years before deciding to become an entrepreneur. “I grew up here, in this environment, professionally speaking. Our network with medical practitioners and scientists here is large and strong.”
It appears that the decision to dedicate a full focus to MyDiagnostick has come at exactly the right time. After many years, the product is now optimized and completely reliable. ABS produces it in-house, itself, and according to very strictly regulated CE guidelines. Arrangements have been made for the European, American and Chinese patents, and there is a broad and varied interest in partnerships. The time has now come to determine the sales strategy. Vincent: “A great deal of time, energy and money have been invested in MyDiagnostick. This money has to be earned back, and preferably an amount exceeding this investment. We are looking at an optimal earnings model - I am, after all, an entrepreneur - but we are also realistic: cashing in quickly is not what we are about.We are also looking at the future. There are so many plans, so many ideas...”