Patients are now able to have access to data that was only previously available to companies conducting clinical trials. In fact, that is precisely Thong’s background.
The idea for the Migraine Tracker grew out of Thong’s previous work with pharmaceutical companies in clinical trials. She says patients who kept personal diaries as part of the trials were frustrated that they could not have access to their own data. “It would unblind the study,” Thong explains. Ubiqu is now working in partnership with pharmaceutical companies and research institutions who are interested in the anonymized patient data Ubiqi is collecting. Thong says that the patient user benefits in ease of tracking and working more effectively with their doctor. But she says there is an even greater benefit in the aggregated data to the physician tracking patients collectively, and to partners tracking patterns and efficacy of treatments.
Because Migraine Tracker is a diary, patients are revealing their thought processes in choosing which prescription they will use depending on the intensity of their pain. Thong says, “There may be four different medications that a patient is using, and they have prescriptions for three different ones (plus an over-the-counter). In migraine, as in any episodic condition, the patient is making that decision as to what to take. This kind of data hasn’t been available in the past. Even through Electronic Medical Records, you only get information really reported from the physician’s perspective.”
Ubiqi is very sensitive to the needs of the patient user and is constantly iterating. The Migraine Tracker was an early entrant for mobile health apps launching in November 2010. She says she and her co-founders started with migraines because patients are very motivated for tracking chronic pain. “The reason we started with migraines is that there is a high need for patients to self-report. Neurologists typically ask for patients to provide a paper diary before coming to a visit. So, if we wanted to change patient behavior with these tools, it was an easy way to get started,” explains Thong.
Thong says entrepreneurship was a natural move because she already had experience with and was attracted to the startup world. “For me, it was about wanting to take my career into my own hands, period. I wanted to take that kind of risk and see if I could go at it on my own, and build up a team around an idea I really believed in,” she says.
“There’s Never Been a Better Time to Be a Woman Entrepreneur”
It is interesting that in all my interviews for my “Women in mHealth” series, I purposefully asked each woman entrepreneur about her challenges. Thong, like the others, quickly moved to address the opportunities first before talking about challenges, “First of all, there has probably never been a better time to be a woman entrepreneur,” says Thong emphatically. Studies show that women entrepreneurs are more optimistic than men, and that optimism is a necessary trait for all entrepreneurs.
“Being a woman, gives us a certain perspective on healthcare that is unique and different to that of men. It’s the woman in the household that typically is making sure that everyone is healthy. And many of us are going to become mothers or are mothers, and that’s really important. There still aren’t enough women entrepreneurs at the convergence of medicine and technology, and that represents an opportunity for women, mobile and ehealth entrepreneurs to represent that voice.”
On Investors and Education
Thong explains that the challenges are most investors and VC firms are men, “For me, it’s not so much intimating as the chances of being able to make a personal connection with those investors.” Investors typically connect and invest with a “younger version of themselves.” The other challenge she says is that most developers and engineers are men, “I am hoping that the high schools and universities are working to change that. But what that means is that if you are a female entrepreneur, you need to hire and manage men.” She says you need to be able to attract and convince mostly male technical co-founders that you can lead the team, raise money, and understand the technology enough to make a good partner.
Advice to Young Girls in Science and Technology
“Don’t be afraid. Don’t be intimidated that you might be the only girl in your class. If you want to study engineering, and that’s something that you are really interested in, go for it! Do it!” says Thong, “The one piece of advice I need to give to young aspiring female entrepreneurs is to find a mentor. There are enough inspirational females in technology, science and entrepreneurship. We’re all willing to be matched up with a high school student.”
Sounds like good news, and an invitation for an aspiring entrepreneur! The mHealth market is expected to grow to $4.6 billion dollars by 2014.