Color & Control:

Wearing Their Hearts on Their Sleeves

Every seven seconds, someone dies of a heart-related illness. But, if Frank Nguyen and his business partner André Bertram have their way, an affordable, accessible watch that functions as a portable ECG monitor will be on the market early next year.

Frank Nguyen’s mother, Lan, came to Canada as a refugee from Vietnam. She lives with hearing and vision loss and has limited knowledge of English. One afternoon, Frank came home from work and was shocked to find his mother at the bottom of the stairs with a broken leg. She was rushed to the hospital, where the ER physicians determined that rather than simply slipping, Lan’s fall was actually the result of a cardiac event.

There was, however, no heart-monitoring data to confirm what had really happened, and Nguyen discovered that his mother’s situation was not unique. There are 17 million North Americans living with and dying from heart-related illnesses, and no easy way to monitor their hearts on the go.

From that point on, Nguyen and Bertram began a journey that would result in them co-founding a company called HelpWear in order to develop inexpensive and easy-to-use products to improve home health care for people around the world. The pair’s first product is HeartWatch, a 24/7, non-invasive ECG monitor that is worn on a person’s bicep. The device leverages novel capacitive ECG sensor technology to detect anything from a minor heart occurrence, such as atrial fibrillation or a heart palpitation, to a more severe event. If a minor event is detected then the device can notify the wearer’s regular clinician so their treatment plan is altered. And if the wearer experiences a critical event then the watch will contact emergency medical services, and transfer the wearer’s previous medical history, a summary of the event occurrence and GPS location so they can be treated faster and more effectively. The device can be put on by anyone, without the help of a nurse or physician, and set up takes less than 15 minutes.

HelpWear is striving to achieve better at-home health care by developing inexpensive products for patients all around the world. The company’s focus is clinical-need-driven innovation, designing software to meet both personal needs and those of the health care system.

HeartWatch is currently undergoing clinical trials to validate its performance and the quality of the data it retrieves on people with cardiac conditions. Nguyen and Bertram’s hope: To ramp up operations for both regulatory approval and manufacturing to bring HeartWatch to market.

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