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Jim Joyce recognized that the future of healthcare is in the home. In fact, he was so bullish on this growing trend he launched a business devoted to meeting patients wherever they reside.
The co-founder of HealthBeacon, which develops smart tools for managing medication at home, spoke with Longitudes about the future of home healthcare, the perks of taking a business international and why sustainability is so crucial for the broader medical community.
Check out the conversation below:
Longitudes: How did you get your start in the healthcare field?
Joyce: My first experience in healthcare came when I moved to Ireland from Boston more than 14 years ago to set up an Irish division for a global pharmaceutical company.
After some time in the field, I identified a market for improving care for patients with long-term chronic conditions and launched my first company, Point of Care, which went on to become one of the largest patient services companies in Ireland.
Following its acquisition by another healthcare provider, I saw the opportunity to leverage technology in the home to support patients on injectable medications, a $50-billion market. Four years ago, I launched HealthBeacon with the mission to build smart tools to manage medications.
Longitudes: Was it always your goal to become a transatlantic company?
Joyce: It was always our ambition to take HealthBeacon global. The market for connected devices is not only new for us, it is, indeed, completely novel.
Although competitive in services, the technology element of the market is just beginning, and HealthBeacon is one of the leading developers of technology solutions globally in this space. Right now, there is no connectivity through a patient’s home waste disposal bin — other than HealthBeacon.
Longitudes: How did you come up with the idea for the Smart Sharps bin?
Joyce: I credit spending years helping patients with chronic medical conditions with the idea for creating a Smart Sharps bin and the Injection Care Management System (ICMS). I was originally trying to figure out a way to manage waste disposal and costs, which organically led to an idea that can fundamentally change the pharmaceutical industry.
For the last 15 years, I have been effectively working to solve the same problem: how to manage patients with chronic conditions from the comfort of their own home.
We know from experience that patients struggle to comply with their medications, with some quitting chronic therapy within the first 12 months. One of the most common delivery methods for chronic medications is self-injection. In brainstorming how to support both patients and pharma clients, we realized that every patient needs a Smart Sharps bin in the home.
So, what if we made these bins smart and allowed people to check whether they had taken their medications or not? This would give us powerful insights to target patient intervention and create a whole new market.
Longitudes: How did you transition from ideation to actually creating your desired product?
Joyce: I met my co-founder, Kieran Daly, a few years earlier and asked him to take a look at the technology aspects of what I wanted to do.
We knew that any IoT device we built would need to fit into the patient’s life in a discrete, seamless kind of way. Then we needed the same tool to be able to get data back to the clinician in a way that made it easy for the experts to understand the information.
After going a few rounds as mad scientists, we found a practical, patient-focused solution that helps users take their medications on schedule. We could see the data impact immediately as we increased a patient’s probability they would remain on treatment — and by remaining on treatment, we could drive better outcomes.
Longitudes: Can you tell us more about HB Green Labs and why sustainability is important for the wider healthcare industry?
Joyce: As the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries embrace the green movement, HealthBeacon is driving end-to-end sustainability. With the launch of HB Green Labs, we are committed to pushing our efforts even further.
To highlight the actual enormity of this market, there are 16 billion injections incinerated or disposed of in a landfill every year. This is equivalent to a chain 40 times around the Earth or twice to the Moon and back.
To reduce greenhouse gases and water consumption, we developed HB Green Labs, which will allow the reuse of our Smart Sharps bins.
We track, clean, validate and then redeploy our bins to patients. The immediate impact is a reduction in plastic production, energy and water consumed, which allows reuse of plastic products up to 100 times.
Longitudes: How has HealthBeacon responded to the pandemic? Has COVID-19 impacted your daily operations, and how did you pivot your business to better serve your customers?
Joyce: The HealthBeacon Injection Care Management System has become more critical to patients during the pandemic. The ability to remotely manage patients is vital to ensuring they stay on track with their medications during the pandemic.
Our main priority has always been to provide continued support and care for patients. The majority of our team successfully worked from home. Some functions such as the technical team needed to work from the office, but safeguards helped us keep our business running.
Longitudes: Can you give us one piece of advice for entrepreneurs considering going international?
Joyce: Understanding the reimbursement and regulatory aspects of each market can be a challenge. I would strongly advise doing your research and evaluating each market in detail prior to launching a product or service in a new location.
Longitudes: How has UPS enabled your business growth?
Joyce: HealthBeacon operates globally and required a leading expert in logistics to deliver the HealthBeacon Smart Sharps bins to patients — UPS is that expert for us.
As patient care and satisfaction is paramount to HealthBeacon, we want to partner with a reliable and trusted logistics provider so we don't worry about whether a patient receives their orders or not.
All photos courtesy of HealthBeacon.
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