Much of the world’s healthcare concerns and funding have been diverted to battle the Covid-19 pandemic over the last year, understandably. However, with hospitals and existing healthcare resources overwhelmed with Covid-19 cases, people experiencing chronic health problems started putting off appointments and checkups for fear of contracting the coronavirus.

During the first lockdown in the U.K, daily admission for heart attacks or heart failure dropped by more than 50%, and only increased again when daily Covid-19 cases fell. This pattern was seen across the globe, raising major concerns for healthcare infrastructure and needs post-pandemic.

And while the rise in tech adoption due to the pandemic bodes well for telemedicine, medtech and other healthcare innovations, oftentimes these solutions are only able to address a single ailment at a time.

One solution to address them all

Taiwanese medtech startup Singular Wings Medical is hoping to change the game by reducing healthcare burdens and costs on hospitals for multiple chronic conditions using a single device. It aims to do this by combining its in-house hardware, Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered algorithms and an ecosystem of connected devices.

General Manager David Lee believes better connectivity infrastructure will lead to faster broadband speeds, wider bandwidth, and more devices connected to the Internet.

“Pair this with AI prevalence, and we will soon see the change from IT to OT or operational technology. Today, we are used to technology processing information, but soon technology will also help carry out operations.

“Previously we would need to go to a hospital to take multiple tests like MRI and ECG or measurements and then wait a day or two to get the results due to hospital processes and slower connectivity. Now, with connected devices, high-speed networks and AI, we can see results instantly, with readings taken from the comfort of your home,” he said.

Singular Wings’ single medical device can take key readings and measurements, transmit them in real-time to its in-house AI-powered algorithm, and when necessary, alert assigned persons (family members, doctors, and emergency personnel). Its system allows doctors to view multiple patients around the world, tagged by location using Google Maps.

“Our innovation model is built on 5S – Semiconductor, Software, System, Solutions, Services. For Semiconductor, we have our own hardware and devices. The gap between Semiconductor and Solutions will be filled by our algorithm and Big Data i.e. System and Software.

“We have different solutions to different problems, using a single device. Our Services component is localised to local healthcare services, paramedics, doctors, and other professionals. Typically, one solution addresses one problem, and is powered by one type of hardware,” Lee added.

Changing the way we approach chronic diseases

Thus far, the startup is working in two trials (independent review boards or IRBs) across five Taiwanese hospitals to test its device in addressing three key chronic ailments: Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA), Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), and hemodialysis risk management.

SCA is a silent killer as there is barely any indication when, who, or where SCA will happen. Anyone can be a candidate — even athletes and youth — as it is asymptomatic prior to occurring. It even happens to athletes and young people.

Yearly, US$1 trillion is spent on addressing heart diseases, so this is no longer a health issue – it is an economic problem worldwide. The economic costs of these conditions are huge: only in the US, annually, Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) costs US$6 billion while stroke incidents cost US$34 billion.

Singular Wings’ device — which patients wear over their chest skin — live streams ECG readings and features true respiration detection, which can improve diagnosis and outcomes.

Another problem it addresses is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and Singular Wings is currently working on an IRB for this at Taipei Medical University.

“OSA is prevalent in intense, high-paced environments – cities like HK, Tokyo and Taipei. Around 30% of people suffer from sleep disorders, of which 90% are undiagnosed or untreated.

“If we extrapolate this 30% figure to the U.S. market alone, it would mean sleep disorders affect up to 70 million people. The majority of sleep tests can be done at home, so the total addressable market is US$11.2 billion yearly,” Lee said.

If untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can lead to hypoxia as well as chronic diseases like high blood pressure, cardio and kidney problems.

For this sleep disorder, the pain point lies in the diagnosis, where typically patients have to go to the hospital to undergo overnight sleep tests polysomnography that is often expensive, complex, and uncomfortable.

How the solution works

Singular Wings innovated the traditional polysomnography test into a single sticker attached to the same basic device used for our cardio solution, enabling OSA diagnosis at home. This has resulted in improvements in cost, convenience, and time spent.

The same device also aids in hemodialysis risk management, where Singular Wings has an ongoing IRB in partnership with a local medical center.

“During hemodialysis when the kidney is flushed, patients run the risk of both low and high blood pressure, muscle cramps, anemia and high potassium levels. Some of these can be fatal. Through this medical trial, we are testing our risk management system to raise early alarms before problems escalate,” Lee remarked.

Singular Wings has received the ISO13485 certification specific to medical devices and is currently working towards U.S. FDA, TFDA (Taiwan FDA) and European CE approval, with hopes of receiving these by the first quarter of 2022.

Moreover, the startup has received international recognition for its device, nabbing two iF Design Awards and six innovation patents – four in Taiwan and two in the U.S.

Singular Wings is eyeing entry into ASEAN markets such as Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, with Lee noting that CE certification is accepted in some ASEAN countries.

The future of Singular Wings

The startup is eyeing business development partners in the telecoms and insurance spaces due to their large user bases, steady income stream, and need for value-added services to be provided to their users as differentiators.

Thus far, it has fundraised US$3.5 million across seed, angel, and pre-A rounds. Singular Wings will remain in pre-A until it receives FDA approval.

“Taiwan has excellent engineers and doctors, but they don’t talk to each other. Our team has both, building a device from ICT engineers but adding value by integrating it with medical knowledge from doctors. Our real success is in getting these two groups to talk to each other to build something for the betterment of all,” Lee said.

To learn more about Singular Wings, check out their official website here.

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