|Huinno CEO Gil Yeong-joon explains the benefits of his company’s new device during an interview with Korea Biomedical Review at its headquarters in Cheongdam-dong, southern Seoul, on Monday.|
Huinno is a company that develops watch- and patch-type electrocardiogram device that can provide early detection of atrial fibrillation, a type of arrhythmia.
The company became the first among information and communication technology (ICT) companies to receive a green light under the government's regulatory sandbox-- a mechanism for developing regulations that keep up with the fast pace of innovation – for a wearable electrocardiogram (ECG) in March last year.
The approval was a significant step forward for the company. Huinno developed the wearable ECG monitoring system in 2015, before Apple launched its product in the U.S., but could not market the device in Korea as it was tied down by regulations.
"In Korea, there is a market for the early diagnosis of arrhythmia, such as the halter electrocardiogram. Because of the inconvenience of the test, however, it is almost impossible for many arrhythmia patients to diagnose their symptoms early," Huinno founder, Gil Yeong-joon, said. "To resolve such problems, we started creating a product that can help make a simple and accurate diagnosis called MEMO watch."
The device allows users to easily measure ECG by wearing a watch-type medical device on their wrist or chest and stores the data on an application in real-time, which can be viewed by doctors.
"While conventional Holter monitors used for ECG required the patient to visit the hospital four or five times to confirm the results, the company's device eliminates such troubles," Gil said. "Also, even though the patient wears their Holter monitor for a long time, it is difficult to pick up abnormal reactions as arrhythmia might not happen during that time."
Such inconvenience makes it difficult to diagnose arrhythmia and also makes hospitals spend a lot of time and workforce analyzing the vast amounts of data.
"The reality is that the conventional method makes both patients and hospitals spend money inefficiently," CEO Gil said. "What we offer is artificial intelligence (AI) -based arrhythmia data analysis algorithms that can ease the burden on patients and healthcare professionals.
Anyone can easily check the arrhythmia through the company's device, Gil added.
Asked how Huinno's device compares to other ECG devices such as Apple Watch, Gil said that while Apple Watch collects data from healthy people, Huinno's device targets only patients.
"For people with certain illnesses, using the company's device rather than the Apple Watch is a good way to prevent their disease from deteriorating," he said. "For example, the cumulative data changes from atrial fibrillation patients can be precisely measured and analyzed, and the appropriate treatment and prescription can be made."
Huinno expects that if its product becomes commercially available, more patients can visit hospitals to receive monitoring for possible symptoms.
"We expect that our technology will increase the early diagnosis rate of arrhythmia, reducing stroke and mortality rate and saving the government about 1.89 trillion won ($1.5 billion) annually," Gil said.
To prove the efficacy of its product scientifically, the company is working with the Korea University Hospital to leverage ECG data for business opportunities by analyzing the data of about 2,000 patients for two years in 2019.
"With frequent monitoring of ECG data by the smartwatch, it can direct patients with light symptoms to primary and secondary care providers, while those with severe symptoms can be advised to visit larger hospitals," Gil said. "This will ultimately improve the convenience of the patient and allow opportunities to occupy an early foothold in the ECG big data service business."
Although the company has achieved remarkable achievements, Gil stressed that there were many difficulties in developing and licensing process.
"The certification process and insurance code registration were most difficult as there was no Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) market in Korea yet," Gil said. "This was the most burdensome and difficult part, as the insurance number for this purpose, and the evidence of reduced medical expenditure had to be proven at every point."
Despite such difficulties, the Huinno CEO said that he still plans to release the product in Korea first before launching it globally.
"A lot of startup companies aim to reimport their products after achieving success in other countries," Gil said. "When we talked with other countries, however, they questioned our business plans as they did not want to use something that was not confirmed in Korea."
Huinno is set to establish itself as the number one company for wearable ECG devices at home before moving abroad, he added.
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