The Sidebar looks back at 2020, a watershed year when the pandemic made healthcare turn digital, and Sidekick Health cemented its position as a sector leader.
In January 2020, no-one could have foreseen the tragedy and chaos that has been caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
As the month began, the first reports were already surfacing of a mysterious new illness emerging in Wuhan, China.
By the end of January, millions of people were in quarantine in China as authorities fought to control the spread of the disease, which soon made its way around the globe with deadly consequences.
The impact on billions of lives across the world was immense. Modern technology proved vital in controlling the spread by allowing remote working for healthcare workers, who have been able to use the latest tech to help their patients.
Sidekick was able to play its part to help the effort against COVID-19 in Iceland, where it is based. The company provided its digital therapeutics (DTx) platform to people who had been diagnosed with the virus, allowing remote triaging and managing people who are self-isolating with the disease.
Using Sidekick’s technology, patients are able to report their symptoms using its digital care platform several times per day. Healthcare professionals can then support patients remotely, with the next steps proposed as necessary. Patients also receive targeted information through prompts, videos and messages from clinical teams.
With the help of the Reykjavik-based gaming group CCP, Sidekick created an algorithm that classifies patients by severity and alerts healthcare workers if their condition deteriorates. The overall goal of the scheme is to save hours of phone calls evaluating symptoms, relieving pressure on healthcare workers during the pandemic.
Partnering with Pfizer
As the year progressed, Sidekick marked a significant milestone in its development by partnering with Pfizer on a gamified digital medication management platform launched in Europe at the end of June.
The tool helps people with chronic illnesses maintain healthy lifestyles, improve their disease management and quality of life while providing guidance and resources to facilitate more comfortable and faster communication between them and their healthcare professional.
A phased launch started with people in Finland suffering from the two main inflammatory bowel disease conditions, ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease.
The platform, which can also be used by people with rheumatoid arthritis, uses gamification to motivate its users to manage nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress, and medication adherence. It provides educational information on their condition and is linked to a community of healthcare professionals and other people with the same disease, to allow them to share relevant health expertise and experiences.
Users are invited to complete missions that benefit their health, which give out altruistic rewards once completed, such as donating water to children in need.
Kickstarting ambitions in Europe
Sidekick followed this by winning inclusion in the Swiss innovation platform, Kickstart. Founded more than five years ago as a spin-off of Impact Hub Zurich, Kickstart has become one of the most extensive European zero-equity innovation programs. It has already begun around 120 pilots and commercial projects in various sectors.
It runs a scale-up program for high-growth startups with the idea of building bridges and bringing together organizations such as startups, corporates, cities, foundations, and universities.
In 2020 alone, 51 new startups from 11 countries began working with the Switzerland-based innovation hub, and Sidekick was one of several that have joined its HealthTech group.
In August, Sidekick was revealed as the winner of the eHealth Award 2020 at the largest eHealth event in the Nordic region, arranged as a digital affair due to the pandemic.
Future expansion planned
Another significant development for Sidekick as the year progressed was its successful $20 million Series A funding round, which was oversubscribed and led by Wellington Partners and Asabys Partners through its SAHII fund, with existing investors Novator and Frumtak Ventures.
The funding will be used to grow operations in Europe and the US, and also saw Wellington managing partner Dr. Regina Hodits and Josep Sanfeliu, partner and co-founder of Asabys, join Sidekick’s board.
Looking forward to 2021, Sidekick aims to continue with its progress, and plans are afoot to increase the size of its team considerably following the investment.
“I firmly believe our team DNA has been central to our success this year.” Tryggvi Thorgeirsson, Sidekicks CEO and co-founder, says, reflecting on the past year. “I’m convinced that as a team, we will continue to build on last year’s success, and together with our partners, move healthcare forward and empower people to take control of their health.”
2020 will live long in everyone’s memory. Still, like everyone else, Sidekick looks towards 2021 with optimism, and its ambition to improve people’ health and well–being during these challenging times remains as strong as ever.