A remote monitoring solution for home and outpatient pediatric care

Laura Diez

Startup Stories

Worldwide, 17-23% of children are chronically ill and require continuous medication. In disease areas such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy, arthritis, type 1 diabetes, asthma - not to mention rare diseases - there is little real-world clinical data from caring parents who need to give these medications to their children on a regular basis.  

5-HT X-Linker "Digital Health for Pharma" alumni Symba Health is addressing this very problem by collecting this critical data with parents and children. "Symba Health is empathetic, medical and closes the feedback loop from home care back to the treating physician," said Symba founder and CEO Dr. Cihat Cengiz. Symba complies with all DSGVO guidelines. Data is immediately anonymized and securely stored on servers in the EU.

In an interview with 5-HT, he talks about his participation in the "5-HT X-Linker," the idea behind Symba Health, and the value of the app for caring parents of chronically ill children.

Dr. Cihat Cengiz, founder and CEO of the health care startup Symba Health 

What problem led you to start Symba Health? 

"We realized that there is a community for every condition. But there's not a community for caregiving parents. That's actually the population that needs a platform like this the most, because they're dealing with a lot of issues - not only for themselves, but also for the children they're caring for. That's why we developed Symba Health, a platform that all caregiving parents and their children can use, regardless of the child's illness.

Symba Health started as a project of the heart. We developed the app with parents for parents," says Dr. Cihat Cengiz.

How does Symba Health work? 

"Symba can be thought of as a digital diary with very special functions, developed for chronically ill children and their parents. You can track therapy in the home environment, meaning home care, very easily with the app: with the app you can monitor different symptomatology, side effects, therapy modules and triggers and see which changes and therapy modules help the child and which triggers do not do the child any good. In addition, Symba Health has an Analytics feature where parents can see how symptoms change over time - based on triggers or medication/dosage changes.

In the future, there will also be a community feature through which you can match two or more children with the same condition or pathology, so they can talk about their concerns like in a forum - both purely medical and social. And most importantly, in a safe environment."

How does Symba help? 

Symba accompanies caregiving parents during therapy, standardizes observations in home care, and helps them share them with the pediatrician and pediatric clinic. This means Symba enables detailed and standardized feedback to pediatricians and leads to better clinical decision-making, home-based treatment and increases the quality of life of the sick child and their parents.

"In addition, with Symba, we increase children's touch points with their disease. Children learn as early as possible which problems are 'normal' and which ones to communicate. We've also gotten feedback from parents who tell us that their children are more comfortable describing well-being through the use of Symba. In the end, we're helping kids better manage chronic disease - not just in adulthood, but as a child, so you can be more active in managing therapy in adulthood." 

How frequent must data be entered in Symba? 

"This depends on the specialty. There are diseases that have a faster "kinetics" - which means that parents and children can use Symba on a daily basis. But there are also diseases where regularity is defined differently. There you may have to enter data only once a week. In addition, there will be phases in the therapy where a feedback loop has to happen weekly (e.g. when trying a new medication).

The application of the Symba Health app 

Symba Health is designed so that as a user, you can accomplish and enter a lot in a very short period of time. "For example, if you enter that the child is doing well, it takes less than 30 seconds - if the child is not doing so well, it's a maximum of 2 minutes," Dr. Cengiz said. "That's all we need. That's actually what we're trying to achieve as well. Parents don't just say when the child is doing badly, but also when the child is doing well. Because a phase when the child is doing well is just as important to document as a phase when the child is doing poorly.

In addition, caring parents are very limited with the care of the child, have a family, possibly another child and possibly also a job. We have to get the maximum out in the shortest time possible."

How do you convince a pharmaceutical company or a health insurance company to set up a project with you? 

"It is really very difficult in the first phase. Because pediatrics, of course, is always a subpopulation of the subpopulation," Dr. Cengiz said. "That's why caring parents and chronically ill children are not on the number one agenda of a pharmaceutical company, nor of health insurers... We think that's a shame, because you have to help caring parents."

Symba Health impresses on the one hand with the modularity of the platform and on the other hand with the fact that it is possible to cover the entire pediatrics with a single platform. "We are not changing clinical processes. We're also not changing the way pediatricians work. We're helping pediatricians get the feedback they need from home care and helping caregiving parents better manage their day-to-day lives. We have also developed the app in several languages to support parents with a migration background. Parents use the app in their own language. But the pediatrician always sees the data in German." 

What are your next steps and how can 5-HT support you? 

"Symba Health has recently gone live. We are trying to reach out to different players. Through the 5-HT X-Linker, we have already been able to make valuable contacts with pharmaceutical companies. One of the biggest challenges for the nearby future is access to health insurance companies that can use Symba to help caring parents and, in addition, access to children's hospitals. We don't touch hospital IT, we don't change internal processes. Children's hospitals and pediatricians can implement Symba and improve therapy quality within a week."

What do you take away from your participation at the 5-HT X-Linker "Digital Health for Pharma"

"The event was very well organized. Especially the atmosphere throughout the event was very pleasant and collaborative. Through the 5-HT X-Linker, we were able to make a lot of contacts and engage in conversations with corporates to introduce them to our platform.

Most valuable for us was the Corporate Speed Dating: 10 times 10 minutes face-to-face with top-class companies. The ten minutes seem almost too short at first, but in the end it fits perfectly to briefly exchange ideas and make contacts for further discussions.

In my opinion, this was the best way to get the maximum out with pharma companies in the shortest time. We are grateful to be on the radar of corporate speed daters through 5-HT and look forward to ensuing conversations and potential collaborations."

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