We talked to Seppo Salorinne of KAMU about a solution to support people with Asthma in their self-care, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Seppo Salorinne: We’ve been lucky, as all of our team and family members have avoided getting infected by the virus. This is likely due to the fact that we had earlier on moved to remote work and have utilized rather strict practice in limiting physical, social interactions. Needless to say, we are extremely happy to hear the news on upcoming vaccinations!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded KAMU.
Seppo Salorinne: I have a long experience in product management and marketing in both consumer and enterprise products for companies like SEVEN Networks and F-Secure. On the other hand, my father made his career in medicine and healthcare: he was a clinical physiology professor at the University of Helsinki and has been involved in medical technology development (e.g., spirometry) for decades.
Together we started thinking about why there seems to be a wide variety of medical apps for people with chronic illnesses like diabetes, but none for asthma. Considering that one in ten people suffer from asthma, it seemed peculiar that no one hadn’t developed a solution to support them in their self-care. After all, as there’s no cure for asthma, adherence to medication, and regular monitoring of the lungs are the way to keep the symptoms under control.
Based on Finland’s experience in the National Asthma Programme that ran between 1994 and 2004, we knew that it is possible to get asthma in control and cut the costs of asthma for society at the same time. The number of recognized cases had doubled, but at the same time, the costs almost halved – and the number of patients with severe or uncontrolled patients went from one in five (1994) to as low as one in forty (2016). We decided to do the same thing, only this time globally and with high-quality digital tools, and that’s how KAMU was born.
How does KAMU innovate?
Seppo Salorinne: Our cross-functional team has extensive experience in medicine, science, and software development for the masses. We also share the understanding that current offerings in our niche do not fully utilize what is possible today, let alone consider what is likely to be possible in the future. For brainstorming, we regularly let ideas fly without worrying too much about the regulatory limitations or budget constraints to identify and foresee where we can take the industry.
Engaging the end customer – the patient – is a key part of our R&D. We commonly utilize ideas that have grass-root origins in our user community. All feedback, whether positive or negative, is extremely valuable and cherished in our team. In the end, the only thing that really matters is the value we are able to provide for the end-user.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Seppo Salorinne: As a team, we adapted to the situation quickly, as working remotely wasn’t new to us anyway. Business-wise, we have tried to make the most of the fact that the leap toward digital healthcare is already on its way, and the current pandemic only emphasizes the urgency of adopting the new way of care. Organizations like the European Respiratory Society have also recommended clinics to utilize digital and remote care where possible because taking lung measurements should be avoided so that the virus doesn’t spread between patients and professionals.
This, of course, creates new opportunities for KAMU, as we happen to have a solution to this very problem: a reliable way for taking a spirometry test at home and consulting the patient without them coming to the clinic. As the use of video consultations has surged during the pandemic, the KAMU platform provides the logical next step for healthcare professionals. Having the means to get quality controlled home measurements and data collection as a part of the telehealthcare path is essential in good treatment practice of multiple chronic conditions, not just asthma.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Seppo Salorinne: Even though the pandemic has created an opportunity for us, some of our customer projects also got put on hold because of it. We decided to expedite R&D to make sure our offering is ready for the time when things get back to normal again. Instead of saving on R&D costs, we realigned our plans to match the new reality and what we see ahead.
As a result, we now have a platform that allows the home monitoring of multiple chronic conditions besides respiratory conditions, such as cardiovascular diseases. It includes a cloud service for smaller service providers and standards-based HL7 FHIR integration options for those who use EHR systems from, e.g., Epic or Cerner.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Seppo Salorinne: For me, the best treatment for that is spending time with my 6-year-old child. The curiousness, ingenuity, and thirst for information in children of that age is something that we all as adults should thrive for.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Seppo Salorinne: While there are other companies making hardware like spirometers and smart inhalers for asthmatics and even some offering services a bit similar to ours, we consider most of them as potential partners rather than straight competitors.
Our biggest challenge, however, is to change the current way of lung monitoring. Lung patients usually take measurements with a mechanical peak flow meter and keep records manually with pen and paper. It is inconvenient for the patient and doctor alike and actually produces a rather subjective and unreliable view on how the patient is doing, and yet it still remains as the “golden standard” of care when it comes to chronic respiratory conditions. Our service makes the whole process much more simple and provides quantified data that gives a more reliable and objective view of the patient’s lung condition. We help people measure and understand the things they can not feel.
Your final thoughts?
Seppo Salorinne: Wishing everyone a nice Christmas and wonderful, covid-19 free 2021!