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Digital doctor's assistant

The software Idana can help with diagnoses and improve treatments

Freiburg, Sep 07, 2017

Digital doctor's assistant

Photo: Monet/Fotolia

Idana saves doctors a lot of effort, which directly translates to the patients' well-being: The software, which stems from a startup from the University of Freiburg and the University Hospital Freiburg, requests pertinent information about a patient's medical history, documents the data and presents it in very clear manner. As a result, there is more time to engage in conversation with the patients themselves. Based on prior knowledge, the actors are able to make a more exact diagnosis, which can lead to improved overall treatments.

With the help of tablets and smartphones, the software asks questions about a patient's medical history and living conditions and delivers the information to the doctor's screen before the conversation even begins.
Photo: Monet/Fotolia

"Idana is an easy-to-use software with a powerful medical application," explains Lucas Spohn, CEO of Tomes GmbH. The startup from the University of Freiburg and the University Hospital Freiburg developed Idana. In a few weeks the program will experience baptism by fire as the beta version will be complete by then. "We are going to send the program to everyone who has shown an interest in it," says Spohn. That includes medical specialists at the University Hospital as well as some area doctors. Their input is meant to give the program its final touches. The entire process has to go quickly: Tomes is planning on entering the market at the end of 2017 at the very latest.

Exact information and more details

Idana stands for intelligent digital anamnesis. Downloaded onto tablets or smartphones, the software asks about a patient's medical history and living conditions. What kinds of complaints do they have? Does the person live alone, in a partnership or with a family? How do the patients view their quality of life? Are they nonsmokers, smokers or former smokers? "Doctors are required to ask their patients these questions at the beginning too," says Spohn. Asking these questions takes time, documenting the answers even more. Idana saves time because the program does both at the same time. In addition, the software adapts the questions to the individual patients and delivers the data digitally, which is easily managed directly in the computer instead of transferring it from paper.

Along with that, the questions come directly from the doctors. The 28-year-old Spohn finished his medical degree along with Tomes co-founder Lilian Rettegi, who is the same age. The digital questions adhere to medical guidelines and explore details that could influence the actual treatment. "We have vastly improved the diagnoses' validity," emphasizes Spohn. At present, there are different lists of questions for multiple medical specialties such as for cardiologists – and the questions branch off depending on the respective answer: if someone complains of heart palpitations, he or she might land on another prong as a patient with severe heart pain.

The questions encompass detailed questions related to anamnesis. Doctors can then analyze, form and arrange the data with the help of programs.
Photo: Tomes GmbH

Privacy is guaranteed

The digital format also has a lot of advantages. It is easy to analyze, form and arrange the data with the help of programs. "The doctors receive the data presented in a very clear fashion on their computers," says Spohn. The doctor can quickly grasp the patient's situation even before their conversation has started. With the time they have saved, the doctors can address anything that is unclear or particular about the patient's situation. They can coordinate tests and lab exams more precisely. Idana opens the possibility for better diagnoses and treatments, says Spohn: "Both sides benefit from our software." Privacy is also guaranteed. The cloud takes care of that. "Users need only create an account and password," explains Spohn. He assures that "as long as a doctor doesn't reveal a patient's password, no one can access his data."

A product by doctors for doctors

Spohn's desire to found a company started during a weekend seminar for startups. At the same time, the future doctor became familiar with everyday hospital life during his practical year. "I saw a lot of room for improvement." The biggest problem of modern medicine, he felt, is the time pressure, the ten-minute cycle with which patients were hurried through the process. As a result, a lot of important details got lost in the process according to Spohn, details that would have helped optimize a patient's treatment – such as the patient's subjective condition or complex mental history. Spohn believed his digital solution could alleviate these issues. He wrote down his ideas and contacted the University of Freiburg's Entrepreneurial Office under whose guidance the first business plan emerged.

In 2015 Spohn presented his project during the business plan competition "Startinsland." Right after, Jérôme Meinke approached him. The computer scientist joined him as co-founder. Today the 26-year-old is both developer and technical director at Tomes. During their second attempt, they both received an EXIST founders scholarship. Because Spohn started to have to take on more and more entrepreneurial tasks, the partners sought reinforcement with additional medical expertise. They finally found their current medical director, Lilian Rettegi, through Facebook. "That was a significant value-add," says Spohn, "We now make a product by doctors for doctors." The trio-founder team is complemented by startup specialist Michael Lauk as a shareholder.

The spin-off was seamless

Ever since October 2016, Tomes is now a limited liability company (GmbH). "The spin-off went off without a hitch," claims Spohn. He reserves particular praise for the tremendous support he received from the Entrepreneurial Office. The Tomes team is now looking to the near and distance future – the first user tests, market entry and later expansion for Idana: The company wants to offer lists of questions for additional medical disciplines. The cloud already enables doctors to easily exchange data with one another – for second opinions, for instance. Pretty soon patients should be able to transfer simple information and readings to doctors, thereby saving a trip or two to the doctor's office: "It would be particularly practical for meeting the health care needs of people living in rural areas."

Jürgen Schickinger