Digital Health Champions: Play Your Way To Recovery
Patient’s adherence is crucial to the success of health measures, be it medication or physiotherapy. However, many people have a hard time following their prescribed treatment. The founders of MIRA Rehab Ltd. recognized this problem and decided to proactively develop a solution to tackle this issue. We talked with Cosmin Mihaiu, Co-founder of MIRA Rehab.
About MIRA Rehab
Thank you for sharing some insights about MIRA. In a nutshell: what do you do and what problem does this address?
It’s a pleasure.
At MIRA Rehab, we have developed a software platform, MIRA, to turn physiotherapy exercises into video-games, making therapy easier to follow.
Can you give us a little insight into what triggered you to develop this physiotherapy platform? What is the story behind this idea?
We’ve noticed a lot of patients have a difficult time following their prescribed therapy treatment, so we asked ourselves if patients wouldn’t be interested in playing their way to recovery. We came up with the Medical Interactive Recovery Assistant – or shorter, MIRA. MIRA displays the exercises to patients as video-games and asks them to complete the recommended movements to progress through each game level. As a result, patients are playing, while actually recovering. The idea came about as a student project among the founders: Alina Calin, Andrei Cantea, Andrei Dascalu and myself. With a MIRA prototype, we had the pleasure in representing our home country, Romania, at the world finals of the Imagine Cup by Microsoft competition in 2011. We didn’t win, but we got far into the competition, and after it ended, we decided to continue our student project. A year later, we formed MIRA Rehab Limited in London.
There often is the preconception that elderly people don’t like to rely on digital solutions. What are your experiences in this?
I think it’s a great misconception as we’ve seen a lot of older people taking advantage of technology. The oldest person to have used our system is 102 years old and we were very happy to hear he improved his condition due to our solution. Of course, there have been some older people that didn’t want to take on MIRA, but in most cases they enjoy playing video-games as much as anyone. Moreover, these games help improve their physical and mental condition, so they like playing them for the benefits as well.
What was the biggest challenge or obstacle you encountered so far?
This is a great question. The biggest challenge I think we’ve encountered so far is building a digital solution for the healthcare industry. There’s a huge potential for technology, not necessarily MIRA, to help improve systems, but it seems to be an environment that moves slowly. On the other hand, this is to be expected, as products in this industry require testing and validating before patient use and to ensure cash is not spent unwisely.
This year, you won the AXA PPP Health Tech & Age Award. Congratulations on that! How did you find it?
Thank you! We are still very proud for winning the AXA PPP Health Tech & Age Award for the work we have done in helping older people regain their mobility. It was a great pleasure to see MIRA exhibited at the London Design Museum for over a week and there were a few people reaching out to us to ask more about our system.
Can you outline what the MIRA Foundation is all about?
The MIRA Foundation is a Charity/NGO in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. It’s called “Un Zambet cu MIRA” (English: “A Smile with MIRA”) which offers physiotherapy treatment to children in need of rehabilitation. There are over 90 children visiting the centre each month who receive traditional treatment, as well as MIRA.
What are your plans for the future?
We are working to put MIRA in as many institutions as possible so that as many people as possible can enjoy MIRA’s features. We built MIRA as a tool for therapists and we are constantly implementing feedback from our clients. But we’re also working on new features to expand the product’s capabilities so that it can address as many conditions as possible.
On Digital Health In General
What do you see as short-term and longer-term opportunities for digital health to impact the way we live?
I believe there’s a massive potential for digital health to positively impact our lives. Technology, not only digital, can improve patient pathways and experiences, streamline processes and potentially even significantly reduce costs. In some cases you can already see it work great, like Babylon Health. Or, the use of main stream or simple technology like Peek Vision can have a great impact in countries where healthcare services are under developed. I’m convinced that our children and grandchildren will have access to so many healthcare services through everyday devices like our smartphones.
What’s the most pressing issue in healthcare that you’d like to see solved? And how could the problem be solved?
Unfortunately, there are many ways in which healthcare can be improved. But all industries require improving because we need to find better and more cost-efficient ways of living.
But for healthcare, in my view, the most pressing issue is people taking better care of themselves. I think we need to understand better how we should treat ourselves to prevent diseases or conditions that could even be avoidable, or even to better comply with the clinician’s recommendations.
How will digital health have impacted our lives in 5, 10 and 25 years?
I believe in at most 5 years’ time we will have seen clear benefits for using digital health products, while in 10 years it will be mainstream. In 25 years, however, I don’t think we can predict, because technology is moving so fast we don’t know what will be at our disposal to take advantage of. One thing I’m certain of is that diagnosis, treatment and even prevention will certainly be much simpler, just like they are now compared to 25 years ago.
Finish this sentence: Digital Health is ….
… the use of mainstream technology (hardware and software) to improve patients’ experiences and help people take better care of their health.
Job Opportunities In Digital Health And Necessary Skill Sets
How do you judge the overall career opportunities in digital health?
I would honestly judge the overall career opportunities in digital health just like in any other industry or sub-industry. It’s growing as there’s a clear need for digital health solutions, which will grow to be a massive market.
What backgrounds do the MIRA team members have and what skill sets do you think are especially relevant to successfully move into digital health?
The MIRA founders all have a tech background, as we all met while studying Software Engineering and Computer Science at University. Currently, most of the team members have tech and product development backgrounds as we’re focusing on building the product. But we also have Business Developers to engage with clinical and academic partners.
I think the most relevant skill or attitude to have for moving to anything, not only digital health, is perseverance. No matter what challenge someone faces, there will always be walls that need climbing over and the most important aspect is to not give up. In digital health, as it’s relatively new and fast growing, I think it’s also important to be able to outline in a simple way the service and its benefits. The patient needs to easily understand the offer, as well as the clinician who would potentially suggest it.
What advice would you give graduates who want to join this industry?
My suggestion is to go for it! The best time to decide something like this is after graduation. We built MIRA as software students and we turned it into a business the moment we all graduated. At that time, we weren’t sure if we should do it, but most people suggested we should go for it as we were young and we could handle anything thrown at us. I remember a close friend argued that once I’ll be older, it would be even more difficult to do something like this as I will have more responsibilities (family, possibly mortgage(s), etc.). His point was that if it was a mistake, I would still have plenty of time to readjust my career. So anytime someone asks me something like this, especially after graduation, I give the same advice.
Which three qualities should your ideal candidate have?
This is a good question and it certainly depends on the role. But for my ideal candidate for a Business Developer role, the first thing I’d look at is experience – how much does the person know about the industry, about technology and digital health. As we are a small business, we need to ensure we build the team with people that don’t need much training and can help us grow fast.
Secondly, I’d look at personality: if the person would fit within the company, if we could easily get along and so on. We’re still a small team, so the candidate needs to fit in the group.
Last, but certainly not least, it would be important for the candidate to have self-management skills as in small companies there’s always a long to-do list which needs taking care of and the candidate must be willing to pick-up on tasks and not wait to be directed.
Cosmin, thank you so much for this interview!
About The Interviewee
Cosmin Mihaiu is the CEO & Co-founder of MIRA Rehab Ltd, a London based SME working to make physiotherapy fun and convenient through video-games.
MIRA is being used in over 60 institutions worldwide, helping over 500 patients each month, with the patients’ age varying between 3 to 102 years old.
Mira Rehab Ltd.
7 Stratford Place
UK / London
Her responsibilities include growing and nurturing our digital health platforms and, occasionally, taking care of bus tickets for the team. In her free time, she can be found on horseback out in the woods.