Innovation in healthcare is now possible only at the intersection of medicine, technology and business, and in Romania these meet rarely and almost never collaborate. This is why the FreshBlood – HealthTech Community was created.
What can be done? On the innovation road you need partners
Healthcare today is witnessing a revolution, that started in the last decade and is accelerating day by day. Despite this, in Romania we had no major discoveries or innovations in the last decades, and not for lack of open and creative minds.
What is to be done? Money can be invested in research and collaborations can be encouraged, but probably the most effective is to put smart people together and provide them motivating challenges/problems to solve, which is actually the Start-up Philosophy. This is why, around one year ago, actual and future doctors from Cluj-Napoca, Transylvania, together with a man with technical, project management and start-up experience were asking themselves how useful would be a community that would put together the people interested in healthcare innovation (not only doctors, but also pharmacists, psychologists, nutritionists, etc.) together with people with technical background (IT people, but also engineers and designers) that would be willing to collaborate in order to build interesting and valuable projects that can positively impact the health of those around.
The signs were already here
The interest towards healthcare shown by the start-up world and by the investors had grown significantly, there were start-ups left from Romania having products with European and worldwide usage (MiraRehab – Founded in CLuj-Napoca and relocated to London and Skinvision – founded in Bucharest and relocated to Netherlands) and in Romania the number of software companies developing healthcare solutions for other markets was steadily increasing (RTribe – addiction support app, initiated in California and developed in Cluj-Napoca by Halcyon Mobile).
International collaborations became connections helping us promote and connect clinics/people interested by the FreshBlood approach to european projects which will be made available first to Romanian patients.
When CompuGroup Medical has in Iasi 100 employees developing medical informatics solutions for the whole world, one can ask himself how many competent people there are in Romania, that could solve so many of the challenges we have in the medical system.
Despite this, Romanian start-ups are still moving slow, access to ressources is limited and the connections are few among the people motivated to innovate in healthcare and the innovators in technologies.
People aiming for same purpose start to gather
This is how “FreshBlood “ is starting, as a project intended from the beginning to become national and international. – “Fresh” means the link with the fresh approach brought by any start-up and “blood” as the link with the health, blood being both an essencial medicine and a symbol of life.
The beginnings, as any beginnings were slow, but with motivation. We tried to bring close to us the restless spirits from the Cluj-Napoca student community and some of the young specialists interested by innovating ideas in healthcare.
People with ideas came towards us and the community grew from month to month, more in the virtual world than in the real world, but the visualisations from Facebook and the comments when we shared the concepts helped us realise wew were on the right road.
The vison for 2018 – an INNOVATHON soon
The main objective of FreshBlod-HealthTech Community is “to put Romania on the healthcare innovation map” through supporting the development of an ecosystem (support, collaboration, financing) that would offer innovative ideas room to grow.
To get there we will continue what we are doing and we will add resources to be able to answer the requests of all interested by our activity and values.
We are preparing an innovathon for 2018 and we are also commited to set up a preacceleration program that would allow the HealthTech Startups to grow until the MVP stage, with the ressources and financing available in Romania.
For all these we need first and foremost dynamic people, interested into changing the healthcare for good with technology, people that are always welcome close to us to involve them in our projects (whatever their expertise).
Thanks a lot Mircea Vădan, Mihai Saftencu, Vlad Mateiță, Maria Lup, who have shown their commitment to the HealthTech development in Romania. We can be found on freshblood.ro or on facebook
Most important, medical students and young doctors came and stayed. What was their common characteristic? They wanted more than it was offered to them and they are motivated to get involved in innovative projects.
Traveling around Romania we discovered people and companies that are involved in projects very much aligned with our aim:
- Lorena McNaughtan – director ICEEHealth- the only conference dedicated to digital health in Romania, who supported us and encouraged us to grow and extend at national level
- Daniel Rosner – Coordinator www.innovationlabs.ro, program organised around Bucharest Politechnic University, who invited us to provide feedback to start-ups with a healthcare dimension in the program (a significant number year on year)
- Dr. Ștefan Busnatu – cardiologist with a strong interest in technology application in medicine, coordinating telemedicine projects in cardiovascular rehabilitation
- Dr. Mihai Bran – psychiatrist involved in digital projects, founder of atlashelp
and many others with an interest to put together healthcare and technology , who are already contributing to the change we all want.
FreshBlood HealhTech Community started with meet-ups in Cluj-Napoca, once a month, bringing each time people that did things and people willing to do things, putting them together and encouraging collaboration beyong institutional rigidities.
After 6 months we arrived in Bucharest, where the interest to what we proposed is also growing, and we managed to bring close to us people willing to collaborate, understanding that in healthcare maybe more than in other fields collaboration is essential, since the challenges are multiple and very different one from another.
Growing to Bucharest brought towards us the interest of several start-ups (EntY, Medic.chat, MIIO Smile) that we were both happy to help with collaborators, go to market strategy and legal feedback.
In the following period, we are planning meet-ups in Timisoara, Iasi, Targu Mures, where local initiatives were started with the objective of growing the local HealthTech ecosystem.
In the same time with the national expansion we began connecting other organisations at European and worldwide level, which many times have been more open that the Romanian organisations (naturally suspicious), providing us access to their ressources and encouraging us to grow, with the onest wish to have a Romanian counterpart for their projects that focus on healthcare innovation.
We have a growing collaboration with EITHealth Innostars, the division dedicated to healthcare innovation of the European Institute for Innovation and technology, and some of the FreshBlood HealthTech Community members attended in 2017 international programs together with some of the most prestigious European universities and companies, in locations like Heidelberg, Barcelona, Koln, Delft, Coimbra
We have been confirmed the interest of EITHealth Innostars in Romania for 2018 and we see this as a big step forward for the Romanian HealthTech ecosystem.
Seeds planted in last winter and spring began to germinate
The growing interest was even more visible starting in August 2017 when several medical organisations (student and professional) from Cluj-Napoca, Targu Mures, Iasi, Bucharest, Timisoara came towards FreshBlood and invited us to participate at their conferences, given the interest of the young doctors generation in technology and innovation with the help of the start-up approach. We were also invited to attend hackathons as mentors (HackingHealth from SEE and PoliHack from Technical University Cluj-Napoca) and we saw and supported innovation in action with both committed and creative people tackling serious current healthcare problems. Future is already here!
To give just two of the relevant examples:
- Following the proposal of Dr. Cristian Paul Dan – President of YDO/OTM, we organised a full day dedicate to the HealthTech concepts, benefits and implementation opportunities at the Pluridisciplinary Congress of Young Doctors Association, in October 2017 in Cluj-Napoca, with speakers of various fields, from all over the country, and where we shown that innovation is achievable in Romania through practical examples.
- One of the highest satisfactions was brought by the invitation of the Medical University of Cluj Napoca, who invited us through Professor Ioana Neagoe and the Student Association Team (Radu Pîrlog și Alexandru Sîrbu) to support the university initiative of a program dedicated to foster entrepreneurship and innovation in healthcare. We had the opportunity to help the students build and refine ideas, ideas that will lead to funding two start-ups with support of UMF Cluj-Napoca and access to university resources and network.