Funded Science Q&A – Nick MacKinnon on eTreatMD’s mobile health app

Funded Science Q&A – Nick MacKinnon on eTreatMD’s mobile health app
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Nick MacKinnon is a founder and CEO of eTreatMD, a Vancouver-based mobile health startup. The company is currently running a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to support FDA and Health Canada approval of its first product: the eTreatMD myHand app.

myHand is a mobile health app that lets arthritis patients automatically track the condition and stage of their hand arthritis by taking photos with their smartphone camera, and helps them to manage their condition. You can find eTreatMD’s campaign page HERE.


Q: Why did you decide to use crowdfunding to help get the myHand app approved?

There are two reasons:

The first is that we need to have feedback from potential users on the features of the app, such as what users expect to see and what they think about what we are proposing. We wanted to communicate directly to people who could see value in the app, either as something for themselves or somebody else. There are a lot of health apps out there that help people with wellness, but what we’re doing can have real medical value. We need to distinguish ourselves, to let people know that this app is very powerful on the one hand, and very easy to use, on the other.

It is important to for us to understand our user’s needs, and it’s also part of the requirements for securing medical device clearance that we seek “stakeholder input.” You need to have this clearance to be able to say it’s a medical device, and we want people to know that, to let them know we want to give them something that is truly helpful and meaningful. © Used with permission from eTreatMDBy giving them a stake in helping to secure clearance, we’re hoping to also give them a stake in their own treatment.

We have some of what we need in this regard, but we need a lot more, particularly for the second phase of our clearance process as a Class 2 diagnostic device and following our expected clearance as a Class 1 measuring device.

When people select any of the perks for the IndieGoGo campaign, even just the $5 one, they validate themselves as potential users, making their input meaningful.

The second reason is to create awareness about us, about this particular app for people struggling with arthritis, and about the future apps we plan to develop for other chronic diseases we’re targeting.

 Q: What types of patients will the myHand app benefit the most?

 This app is for anybody struggling with hand arthritis, but it will be welcomed especially by anyone who knows how difficult it is to get any kind of extensive care and treatment from our current healthcare system. We’re not saying that the healthcare system is at fault here. It’s understandable that with 80 million people struggling with arthritis in Canada and the US alone, the system can’t afford to treat them adequately. The campaign is a way of reaching out to patients, caregivers, clinicians, researchers and doctors, as well as to potential investors…So what we’re offering will help not only those people who need some way of tracking treatment and gauging its success, but also the system itself. Caregivers can therefore benefit from this app as well. It’s reporting function allows for dialogue between patients and caregivers or doctors, which helps make the system more efficient too.

Q: How will crowdfunding backers’ feedback be integrated into the FDA and Health Canada approval processes for the myHand app?

Feedback from backers will help ensure that as part of “stakeholder input” we are covering all essential bases for making the app a complete effective process for assessing treatment, empowering patients, and improving lives. It’s also about making sure the data and the information in the reports, which includes the analysis that our technology performs, is communicated to them in a way that is helpful and meaningful.

Q: How does the crowdfunding campaign fit into your current strategy, both for this product and for others?

The campaign is a way of reaching out to patients, caregivers, clinicians, researchers and doctors, as well as to potential investors – to let them know what our plans are and what the stakes are for taking mobile health apps to the next level. We also want people to know that this is only the first of a suite of apps we are going to offer them.

Q: What did you and the eTreatMD team do to get ready for the myHand campaign launch?

We researched other initiatives, and we made an effort to understand the differences between the two dominant channels: Kickstarter and Indiegogo. We found IndieGoGo a better fit based on the type of supporter it attracts: people who are passionate about the cause as well as the product.© Used with permission from eTreatMD

The tricky thing is that our perceived target demographic for the app — the 50+ aged individual with hand arthritis — isn’t necessarily going to see the campaign. This creates quite a challenge with the messaging, which is why we are reaching out more generally to people with friends or family struggling with the condition, people broadly in healthcare, and those who just appreciate and support the cause of managing chronic pain.

Of course, we are very much in startup mode, so we all contribute in a number of collaborative ways, it’s very much a matter of trying to understand the needs of the user and how this also fits in with the larger community of care.

Social media has played a big part in this effort. We are listening and learning from the rich, engaged communities that are already present online, and we are looking for opportunities to contribute both online and offline at meet ups and other events. In a sense, we are still “getting ready” — and we know it’s important to keep that approach as we move towards launching the app itself.

Q: Finally, what’s the story behind the “give arthritis the finger” tag line?

Give arthritis the finger came from an informal discussion with the team around our brand messaging. It actually emerged as a natural reaction from me and how I feel about my hand arthritis.  We knew that we needed a strong message – one that could even be perceived as contentious – in order to get noticed in the sea of campaigns, so when I literally gave the finger (one bent askew from arthritis), it struck home immediately with the team and we all laughed.

Medical topics are also usually addressed in a very dry and factual way. We wanted to bring a cheeky approach to the whole campaign and let our audience know that we understand how they really feel about dealing with this frustrating condition. We really want to help them give arthritis the finger by giving them a way to do that.


You can read more about eTreatMD’s first mobile health app and donate to support it HERE.

Image credit: © Used with permission from eTreatMD

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