INDIA'S FIRST WEB PORTAL TO RAISE AWARENESS ABOUT SCOLIOSIS AND KYPHO-SCOLIOSIS
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Sunday, 24 September 2017
FITED: FIGHTING SCOLIOSIS WITH 3D TECHNOLOGY
“Just as a cast, braces and orthoses need to fit like a second skin”, says Akanksha Vyas, founder of Fited. Together with Erdem Ay, she’s running the tech start-up Fited, which – with photos and 3D printing – is revolutionizing a process that has basically been unchanged for the past hundred years. I talked to Akanksha about Fited’s e-health solution, designed to beat scoliosis.”
Akanksha, how would you describe Fited in one tweet?
“Fited makes 3D-prints braces and orthoses on the basis of normal and x-ray photographs.”
What exactly does Fited?
“Braces and orthoses protect and support the human body during recovery. As of now, Fited mostly makes braces for people suffering from the back-condition scoliosis. But later on, we want to expand the assortment by orthoses. Think, for instance, of knee braces, a band for a tennis elbow or an ankle-foot orthosis.”
How does Fited work?
“We take four pictures of the client in sports clothing and a few x-ray photographs. This is how we detect what the actual problem is, just as with the traditional approach. But those exact four photos are also sufficient for Fited to make a 3D design and print the actual brace or orthosis which fits well and offers support at the right spot.”
How is that done with a customized brace or orthosis?
“The operating physician or orthopedist takes x-ray photographs to make a diagnosis. Afterwards, they make a molding tool in the lab which is then handcrafted into the final product by a specialist. In principle, this is still the same process as around 100 years ago and highly time-intensive. This is what we want to change with Fited.”
What does the name ‘Fited’ mean?
“The name Fited comes from ‘fitted’. We can make customized and perfectly fitting braces and orthoses for everyone.”
What’s your vision?
“The market for braces and orthoses is highly segmented. Or put differently: The equipment and means are not everywhere available where they are needed. We want that people all over the world can benefit from Fited. This does not only improve living conditions but also helps to increase acceptance of these kinds of medical aids. You need very few resources and equipment to use Fited. That’s why it can easily be used in developing countries too.”
What made you start with Fited?
“Erdem’s mum suffers from scoliosis. She has had back pain for all her life but they diagnosed her with scoliosis only quite late. Only years later, she got a brace, but ran into the same issues as many others: The brace didn’t fit well, so she didn’t wear it. The consequences were pain as a daily companion and a lot of other complications too.”
What did you do about it?
“Erdem an I used to work for a company that manufactures 3D-printed personalized inner soles. That’s where we learnt that the process has been the same for a long time, while there is a lot of promising technical possibilities out there. We saw an opportunity in combining innovative technology with our own experience to improve the condition of Erdem’s mum and many other patients like her.”
What’s the target group for Fited?
“Everyone who needs a brace. We work together with hospitals and physicians, mostly orthopedics. Scoliosis often starts in the age of ten or eleven, and is more common among girls. If kids wore a brace until they are 16 or 17, a surgery at a later moment in life can be prevented. 2% of the world’s population suffers from scoliosis, but only 30% are actually diagnosed with it.”
In which countries are you active?
“For now, we are focusing on the US, Turkey and the Netherlands. We chose these three countries because we both lived in the States when we started with Fited. Erdem originally comes from Turkey and has a lot of connections there. And the Netherlands are known for their open innovation culture which is a perfect starting point to enter the European market.”
Who are your competitors?
“One large competitor are the traditional scoliosis labs, who are making plastic braces and orthoses in the traditional way. Next to that, there is a company in the US (Unyq) and another on the UK (Andiamo), but they are not using photos to make the braces. Fited is also the only one exploiting the whole process.”
What is your revenue model?
“The selling price is at around 2000 to 3000 US-dollars. Physicians are the ones deciding whether they advise this to their patients. Fortunately, our product is covered by insurance.”
What’s on the Fited agenda?
“Currently, we are running pilots in several hospitals in Istanbul and the Netherlands. In the Netherlands, for instance, we work together with Lodewijk van Rhijn, head of the orthopedics department at the Maastricht University Medical Center. After consultation, he is testing our braces with several of his patients. The pilot runs until beginning 2018 and then we hope to launch our product.”
What are you doing to raise awareness for scoliosis?
“We are involved in a Scoliosis Awareness Program. It’s a cooperation with The Bayer Foundation. We developed an application that can detect all possible symptoms of scoliosis. With this, we hope to draw attention to scoliosis, to reach people all over the world and create a community. The earlier we can diagnose scoliosis in screenings, the more and better we can treat and cure it.”
What is your greatest challenge?
“In the beginning, we mostly focused on our product and how it works. But when we started with our pilots in the US and the Netherlands, we noticed that for 70% of the affected, scoliosis is diagnosed way too late. This has become our most important challenge to focus on right now, we do this together with The Bayer Foundation.”
Why did you sign up Fited for the Accenture Innovation Awards?
“We would like getting in touch with people who can contribute or even join our mission in increasing awareness for and acceptance of scoliosis. And of course, we also just want to reach more people in general. After all, our ultimate goal for the long-term is that everyone in this world is screened for scoliosis and has access to appropriate treatment.”