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A novel online service to support self-care and responsible self-medication

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MEDimprove (A novel online service to support self-care and responsible self-medication)

Reporting period: 2016-11-01 to 2017-04-30

Minor health problems are a major health problem globally, affecting millions of people around the world, every day. Self-medication is a common practice worldwide and the use of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines is the first resource to treat minor health problems (like fever, headaches, etc.). In parallel, access to the internet and other information technologies is increasing worldwide. People search for online health information, mostly about symptoms and treatments, including medicines. In addition, purchase of medicines through online platforms is steadily increasing. These facts contribute to easier and faster access to information and also to OTC medicines directly leading to an increase in self-care.
OTC medications don’t need a doctor’s prescription. This convenience to the consumer enables the direct purchase of medication, and is the prime driving force accelerating the growth of the OTC drug markets across the world. Moreover, certain factors have been instrumental in the growth of the market of OTC pharmaceuticals in the last 10 to 15 years. These factors are the increasing awareness about 1) medications required for minor health issues that do not need a visit to the doctor, 2) the savings enabled by the use of OTC drugs in the healthcare industry, affordability, innovation of drugs, 3) high acceptance and adoption in the emerging markets and the switch by major pharmaceutical companies from Rx to OTC with an objective to invest less and earn more.
Responsible self-care and self-medication can lead, beyond any doubt, to considerable savings for health systems (estimated in 11.5 thousand million euros, in Europe). We are addressing an emerging market opportunity. OTC medicines are increasingly consumed, presenting a steady market growth (data from 2014 shows the German market growing at 9%). 87% of US population has internet access and, from these, 72% search for health information. Extrapolating to Europe, we have a total of 318 M potential users. Purchase of medicines in online platforms is also increasing (currently representing 15% of total online sales, Europe).
Furthermore, responsible self-medication can lead to considerable savings for health systems (avoidance of use of health resources; use of non-reimbursed medicines; estimated, 11.5 thousand million euros of saving, Europe/year). However, like all pharmaceutical drugs, OTC medicines present contraindications, adverse effects and potential interactions with chronic diseases and/or medications. Adequate, effective and safe use of OTC medicines is, consequently, of clear importance for individuals, health systems and societies.
MEDimprove is an innovative service to support both healthcare professionals and patients on the process of managing minor health problems. Using a proprietary algorithm and according to patient’s profile, MEDimprove provides personalized self-care and self-medication recommendations. MEDimprove will provide patients an easy and trustworthy access to online health/medicines information and to personalized advice to treat minor health problems. MEDimprove also offers the possibility to safely buy medicines and other health products, online and with professional counselling.
Our market assessment concerning potential users (people suffering from minor health problems), self-medication (and e-commerce of health products, including OTC medicines) and a wide range of potential clients clearly shows that there’s a need for innovative solutions that will improve health decision-making in this context, on one hand, and directly connect pharmaceutical companies, OTC medicines stores, health insurance companies, and many other stakeholders of the healthcare system, with the increasing segment of patients that want (and need) to make their own decisions in self-care and self-medication, on the other.
Furthermore, both the markets of users and OTC online sales are rapidly growing all over the world, as people progressively more use the internet to search for health information and shopping, consume OTC medicines and other healthcare products and use mobile technology in their daily tasks and decisions.
Not surprisingly, we have now confirmed willingness to pay from several different health stakeholders including not only companies involved in patient counselling and/or selling OTC medicines but also big multinational pharma companies, the health insurance sector and the increasing number of companies working in telemedicine. Based on conversations with these potential future clients of MEDimprove, we were able to define a robust business model, including a price strategy, and determined the necessary features to incorporate in MEDimprove, for its uptake and success.
We also looked into end-user’s feedback when analysing the future architecture of the platform and received feedback from a panel of medical doctors, academics and pharmacists concerning the usefulness of contents, usability and functioning of MEDimprove.
We also conducted an intellectual property analysis and determined that we have freedom to operate internationally. The market analysis carried out during this Phase 1 has demonstrated the viability of the technology to reach the market and it has been confirmed by letters of interest signed by possible customers and collaborators for the pilot trials to be performed during Phase 2 of project execution. We will now look into acquiring the necessary funds to develop MEDimprove. With that in mind we are currently putting together a proposal for the SME Instrument Phase 2 call under the topic of ICT for Health.
Finally, we devised a commercialization plan, based on the characteristics of the industry and established three countries for the initial deployment of the platform. With all that in mind, we determined the investment needed to develop and commercialize MEDimprove. We were also able to project future revenues and we can conclude that MEDimprove is a sound investment.
MEDimprove is the future of serFarma and a vital part of the strategic plan of the company.
We looked into the technical requirements for the integration of the MEDimprove back-office with our partners (online shops, etc.), namely data fluxes, technical details, billing methods, etc. We also started testing the platform with real end-users, and are currently using the feedback to define improvements for the UX and define new functionalities that can be implemented during Phase 2.
We looked into our previously established list of preferred markets to establish a market penetration plan and define a market penetration pipeline by selecting three EU Phase 2 pilots. After a careful analysis of the European market concerning indicators related to market size, regulations, OTC medicines consumption and online sales of health products, the market penetration pipeline was defined
MEDimprove will revolutionize the market by aggregating professional counselling services with e-commerce of health products and medicines, gathering the multiple operators (pharmacies, pharmaceutical industry and other companies in the health area) in a unique system that fulfils users’ needs in the context of minor health problems. Moreover, the service provided by MEDimprove contributes significantly to patient empowerment, promotion of health literacy and informed health decisions, on one hand, and for pressure reduction in health care systems, on the other, which are all significant trends in the current social and political context in the healthcare sector.