FibriCheck: Tackling an unmet need together with Roche
A joint Roche & FibriCheck team explored how digital solutions such as the FibriCheck app can add value in the AF patient journey, e.g. screening for undiagnosed atrial fibrillation patients.
An unmet need
The most prevalent type of cardiac arrhythmia, atrial fibrillation (AF), is characterized by irregular heartbeat and is frequently completely asymptomatic, however, complications including blood clots, heart failure, and even death can arise as a result of it. The greatest concern for AF patients is a five-fold increased risk of a stroke brought on by blood clot formation in the heart and clogged blood arteries in the brain., Many of these strokes can be avoided by timely detection of AF.
Atrial fibrillation is thought to affect 33 million people globally, and both the incidence and prevalence are rapidly increasing. Prevalence is also increasing due to the aging population as they are more at risk for AF. The European Union is expected to have 14–17 million AF sufferers by 2030, with 120,000–215,000 new cases annually.
The early exploration
In 2017, the CPS organization pioneered the concept of indication programs for heart failure and atrial fibrillation (AF). Guided by the most pressing unmet needs, an indication program develops and commercializes a comprehensive diagnostic solution package covering the continuum of care (e.g. from early detection to therapy guidance and monitoring).
When executing the AF program it became evident that in the AF space digital devices based on ECG or PPG technology to measure heart rhythm were becoming an important part of patient care and needed to be considered.
In that context, Jochen Hurlebaus, Head of Digital Health Innovation, introduced the company FibriCheck, which provides a medically certified smartphone application that can be used to detect or monitor an irregular heart rhythm, such as atrial fibrillation, to Bjoern Schwanhaeusser, currently LCT Project Leader Core Reagents and former Roche Pilot Owner for FibriCheck. Bjoern was leading the atrial fibrillation program beforehand and together with FibriCheck joined the Batch 0 of the Startup Creasphere innovation program. That was the beginning of a collaboration that would continue to today.
The pilot- project
The joint Roche & FibriCheck team explored how digital solutions such as the FibriCheck app can add value in the AF patient journey, e.g. screening for undiagnosed AF patients.Two different scenarios for collaboration arose:
In the first project, the team conducted usability testing by offering the FibriCheck app free of charge during the Roche well-being week. Employees confirmed the application was easy-to-use and appreciated the awareness raised by the FibriCheck app about Atrial Fibrillation (AF), a condition marked by an irregular heart rhythm, which is often associated with stroke.
The second project was about exploring a prototype disease management solution, bringing together screening for and diagnosis of Atrial Fibrillation followed by risk stratification and potential therapy guidance. FibriCheck can detect AF in large populations, after which it can be confirmed and diagnosed with an ECG having higher efficiency and more probability of detecting AF timely. Once diagnosed, AF patients should be carefully stratified in terms of their stroke and bleeding risk before initiating treatment. One of the recent instruments available is the so-called ABC score using age, biomarker data as well as clinical history to assess diagnosed AF patients. The idea was to leverage the digital capabilities of the Extra Horizon platform, a medical backend-as-a-service that accelerates the launch of medical apps for other eHealth companies, and a former sister company from FibriCheck, to offer an integrated solution supporting the physicians all along the patient journey.
“It is a reality that digital healthcare companies such as FibriCheck change the way patients are clinically managed. The earlier we confront ourselves with this reality and explore synergies without bias the better we are ready for driving the digital transformation. I am glad that Startup Creasphere provides a pragmatic framework to evaluate the potential of digital solutions (2017)”.
Bjoern Schwanhaeusser, PhD
LCT Project Leader Core Reagents and Former Roche Pilot Owner for FibriCheck
The journey still goes on
Following the three-month program, the journey between Roche and FibriCheck continued, at which point Bjoern handed over the collaboration to Vishnu Srinivasan, currently Business Product Manager, Clinical Care Solutions, at Roche Information Solutions.
Vishnu led a pilot project in Denmark in collaboration with Nordic Health Lab, where the goal was to assess the feasibility of including new digital solutions for AF detection in primary care. This included assessing the care pathway fit, patient & HCP satisfaction and technical stability of the FibriCheck app. Patients were provided the app by GPs over a period of time. It was observed that, patients found the app intuitive to use and there was a high percent average compliance to the monitoring program. They also reported feeling safe in using the tool.
“The Startup Creasphere program offers a helpful environment for Roche and startups to explore areas for potential collaboration. With FibriCheck, we accelerated the set up of real-world customer projects, which in turn informed future focus areas for Roche in cardiology”
Business Product Manager – Clinical Care Solutions at Roche Information Solutions
Last but not least leveraging the Roche global network, FibriCheck signed an agreement with Hong Kong’s leading digital health platform DrGo, and the Hong Kong Society of Rehabilitation (HKSR) for a large-scale targeted AF detection campaign among Hong Kong’s population whose aim was to identify potential patients of atrial fibrillation with great accuracy and reliability, enabling them to receive early treatment and mitigate risks.
“We have benefited enormously from the cooperation with Roche and its network, and were able to open up new business areas and grow internationally.”
Bieke Van Gorp
COO at FibriCheck
The world is changing and startups like FibriCheck are adapting continuously to refine their business processes in order to gain and sustain a competitive advantage. The possibilities for health-focused technology on smartphones and wearables are growing significantly.
FibriCheck considers that it’s capabilities could still be expanded. That kis why one of its future focuses will be to push forward and to unlock the unlimited potential of its solution, but also to expand it with the help of 3rd-parties integration to reach as many customers as possible and make an impact on how heart health is managed today.
Roche and FibriCheck are continuing to check for future possibilities where FibriCheck could add value in the heart failure disease pathways, which is a fundamental focus topic for Roche.
Before Batch 0, FibriCheck got the winning prize of the FXH 2017 Startup Award organized by Roche and the Future X Healthcare event, the predecessor of what is now known as the Bits & Pretzels Health Tech event. The next Bits & Pretzels Health Tech edition will be celebrated on June 20 – 21, 2023.
 Go AS, et al. JAMA 2001; 285:2370.
 Friberg J, et al. Am J Cardiol 2004; 94:889.
 Chugh SS, et al. Circulation 2014; 129, 837–847.
What is FibriCheck? Retrieved March 8, 2023, from https://www.FibriCheck.com/what-is-FibriCheck/
 Definition of Extra-Horizon. Retrieved March 8, 2023, from https://www.extrahorizon.com/insights/blog-posts/qompium-announces-the-spin-off-of-its-extra-horizon-business
 Qompium announces the spin-off of its Extra Horizon business. Retrieved March 8, 2023, from https://www.extrahorizon.com/insights/blog-posts/qompium-announces-the-spin-off-of-its-extra-horizon-business
 FibriCheck news: FibriCheck further expands into Asia-Pacific region through partnership with Roche Diagnostics and DrGo. Retrieved March 8, 2023, from https://www.FibriCheck.com/FibriCheck-further-expands-into-asia-pacific-region-through-partnership-with-roche-diagnostics-and-drgo/