Proximity health and prevention are the future: D-Heart is tuned in

The Start-Up, a partner in the BNP Paribas Cardif health ecosystem, has achieved an exceptional level of development of its portable electrocardiograph, now as reliable as the hospital one. “We will help people prevent instead of cure” says one of the founders and CEO, Nicolò Briante

Published on 05 Oct 2019

A device that is in one hand, weighs less than a smartphone, you hang it around your neck like a necklace and position its electrodes following the guide (in an app), which shows you, thanks to camera and artificial intelligence, how to correctly position the electrodes. After the quick setup you are immediately ready to perform an electrocardiogram, with a quality equal to that of a hospital, reported in about 15 minutes by a real cardiologist, available 24/7. For those who suffer from heart problems, have undergone an intervention for which special care is taken, or simply already have established cardiovascular risk factors (e.g. smoking or hypertension), is an ally to monitor the health of their heart and live more peacefully, reducing the frequency with which you go to health facilities and becoming a real lifesaver for some people. 

It seems almost like science fiction, instead it is D-Heart, the medical device created by the Italian startup of the same name, founded by Nicolò Briante and Niccolò Maurizi, which in 2016 won Open-F@b Call4Ideas by BNP Paribas Cardif and since then has continued to collaborate with the Company, recently becoming one of the partners of its health ecosystem. 

D-Heart, cutting-edge medical device 

Recently we have achieved a great goal, from about a month you can do with the same eight-lead device, even a 12-channel electrocardiogram (ECG), basically the same ECG that you can do in hospital with the same completeness and clinical reliability. – tells us Nicolò Briante who is currently also the CEO of the company. – “The smartphone application, connected to the device, allows you to register as a patient and in this case you can perform the 8-channel electrocardiogram; or as a healthcare professional, and in this case you can proceed with the 12-channel ECG. We are very happy with this evolution because we have obtained with a single product two different cases of use: to be the ideal solution both for the normal patient, who has no particular medical skills, and for the healthcare staff, a general practitioner, a nurse or a pharmacist”. 

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An extremely advanced device, therefore, much more evolved than other similar solutions on the market. It is the crowning achievement of our goal, to make a simple device, which can be mistaken for a wearable, but which instead goes to position itself as a medical device with the highest degree of clinical reliability. The point is not to do the EKG, but what kind it is. Our device can detect any heart problem, both rhythmic and ischemic. It has the ability to be a solution that can go to the patient’s home, like the pressure machine, for example, offering the same reliability as a hospital instrument used by a cardiologist’. 

Of course, all D-Heart technology is validated, certified with CE marking as a class IIA medical device with self-care use (thanks to the simplicity of use), is completely made in Italy and is supported by two patents: one on the digital camera, with which the artificial intelligence algorithm guides the patient to the correct positioning of the electrodes, and one on the mechanics of the device. 

Partnership with BNP Paribas Cardif and Healthy Corners 

The focus on prevention unites this young and innovative company and the big company, a focus that led them to collaborate on Healthy Corners (powered by Aubay), kiosks equipped with different types of health devices to provide self-service health services, among which there is also D-Heart. They were presented in Milan during Digital Week and positioned in many points of the city; the experience was then presented again during Milano Taking Care. 

Our leading idea is ‘the greatest clinical reliability, with the greatest simplicity’ and we want to not only say it but also prove it. – continues Briante – The occasion was presented with BNP Paribas Cardif, which embraced our idea of creating healthy corners, i.e. points where it would be possible for an individual without the help of a doctor on site, and in any environment, including banks, offices, shopping malls, to carry out a more or less complete check-up in total autonomy. At Healthy Corners, among other things, we made D-Heart available so that people could experience our solution. 

These technologies do not distance the doctor from the patient as many believe, but rather bring him closer to the patient, giving him the possibility to follow many more people on the territory, in a more capillary way. We must also think that people living in isolated, poorly equipped territories who do not have a hospital at hand, where it can make a difference to offer a first garrison of this kind’. 

The aim of the Healthy Corners was also to make people more aware of how to take better care of their health, Nicolò Briante points out, and the initiative was appreciated by people, because between the two events in which they were installed, Milano Digital Week and Milano Taking Care, over 250 people rightly ‘took advantage’ of it. 

Among other things, on the occasion of Milan Taking Care for each ECG performed, another one was given to people in Africa, who live in rural areas miles away from the first hospital, thanks also to the NGOs with which D-Heart has been collaborating for some time. 

Proximity healthcare 

We want to promote this new concept of outreach health, in our view, together with prevention, is the future of health care. The current very centralised model is destined to collapse, the data tell us, the public health debt is growing out of all proportion. – explains Briante – Instead, we need to make sure that many things like prevention and monitoring can also be done outside of central hospital healthcare facilities, in contexts closer to the patient, such as a pharmacy, a dispensary in Africa, a GP’s surgery, a Healthy Corner inside a company or in a shopping centre‘. 

This vision should be adopted by the Public Administration just due to costs, but it is not yet understood, as well as a specific type of technological innovation, i.e. digital health. Digital transformation is still a long way from the Public Administration and in particular from Healthcare, except in isolated cases. The dream is for Public Healthcare to realize that these medical devices are reliable and can really impact health care companies’ budgets effectively,’ says Briante. 

The relationship with public health for young startups such as D-Heart, and in general for innovative companies, can be very complicated, so it is more realistic to think that the proximity health care can find its implementation model through the private sector (many very valid realities in Italy are working in the sector). 

Pharmacies, general practitioners, polyclinics and analysis centres small but widely distributed throughout the territory can all be the pivots of this new ecosystem. These represent the main distribution channel for D-Heart today. But to get directly to individual customers, the main road goes through insurance companies. 

Prevention means involving the human being 

Our aim is to integrate D-Heart into health, supplementary or life policies, and we are also working with BNP Paribas Cardif on this. – The CEO continues – There are already virtuous cases of this kind in the world that demonstrate how health policies that encourage people to keep proper lifestyles, through small daily actions (go to the gym, walk, eat healthily, sleep regularly), and offer ‘premiums’ based on the results achieved, such as the discount the following year on the policy, are a winning model. Empowering the person to take care of himself is the only efficient way to reduce any health care costs and to do serious prevention. The only way to do prevention is to do it on a daily basis, not sporadically, as if it were a car coupon; if you give people a daily task, simple, feasible, but smart, the benefits are immense in the long term”. 

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