Startup Spotlight: Abu Dhabi-Based MDBX Health Offers A One-Stop-Shop For Effective Chronic Disease Management The two main components of MDBX Health are the MDBX Smart Pharmacy and the MDBX Digital Platform.
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This article is part of an ongoing series covering startups that have been a part of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Innovation Fund (MBRIF) accelerator program.
If you or someone you know is suffering from a chronic illness, then you'd know that it requires a disciplined approach towards healthcare- right from medications to hospital appointments. After all, a May 2023 report by the World Health Organization shows that noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) -another term for chronic diseases- are "claiming around three-quarters of all lives lost each year." But this doesn't have to be the status quo- and that's where Abu Dhabi-headquartered healthtech startup MDBX Health's offering comes into play, with its one-stop-shop digital platform for efficient chronic disease management.
"We are determined to crush the chronic disease epidemic and its profound impact on the lives of the 2.5 million sufferers in the UAE and their families," says Sarah Miller, co-founder and CEO of MDBX Health. "Our research shows that 77% of all deaths in the UAE are caused by chronic disease, despite most chronic diseases being manageable or preventable through medication and simple lifestyle adjustments. We also found that it costs the country 5% of its gross domestic product (GDP), while also making life painful, short, and complicated for way too many people- one person in every family of four, on average."
To explain why the statistics are so grave, Miller explains by means of an example. "The typical chronic disease sufferer will see a physician for around nine minutes every three months," she shares. "Often in this time, they'll receive a diagnosis, a set of instructions, and a carry bag full of drugs. Add another couple of doctors, diagnoses, another few meds, more instructions, and any person will be overwhelmed, let alone a senior citizen, or someone already struggling with illness. These patients will be left alone, for the next three months, without health system support to implement what can be an exceptionally complicated self-care plan. Almost all of them fail, hence the 77% mortality rate."
It was thus to address such inefficiencies that Miller founded MDBX Health in 2022 along with her brother, Dan Kennedy, who is also the startup's Chief Technology Officer. "Health systems everywhere are designed to treat sick people, instead of keeping them healthy, but at MDBX Health, we want to flip the script; we want to manage health," Miller says. "Where 90% of healthcare is delivered to the patient at home, we want to make sure that's where they get 90% of the support and resources, instead of the converse status quo. MDBX Health provides chronic disease support to patients by digitally simplifying complex care, medications, and care plans. And we do this by building digital tools and 'bridges' between the strongest terrestrial components of the health system that already exist."
The two main components of MDBX Health, therefore, are the MDBX Smart Pharmacy and the MDBX Digital Platform. Through its smart pharmacy, it works with patients' doctors to organize, consolidate, and package their medications, while also offering monthly delivery. The digital app, on the other hand, helps patients track their medicinal intake, offers reminders, manages appointments and follow-ups, and also informs physicians about how their patients are faring in between checkups. "Our flow from physician appointment to medication daily schedule and delivery currently takes 180 minutes," Miller adds. "Prevention and management are key. We significantly help patients to manage symptoms and disease progression, and live longer, happier lives, as well significantly reducing the systemic cost of care."
Joining MDBX Health to realize this goal are three UAE-based entities acting as partners: Reyada Management of Medical Facilities, a healthcare project management consultancy, Multiverse Technologies, a metaverse platform that offers telehealth-related solutions, and Medicina Online Pharmacies, a group of pharmacies that has a specific focus on managing chronic and specialty conditions. "It is because of the unwavering faith, innovative services, and exceptional support provided by our partners that we have been able to progress from a very disruptive idea, to providing an end-to-end digital service, UAE-wide," Miller says. "We use the MDBX system as well as the tailored and integrated processes built by Reyada, Multiverse Technologies, and Medicina Pharmacies to help chronic patients access their usual doctors, social workers, therapists (no matter how many they have, and which facility they are at) through innovative video and metaverse-based telehealth, as well as the most comprehensive inventory of pharmaceuticals. We have an additional feature in the pipeline wherein all meds are organized and packaged into time/date stamped sachets (no more Monday-Friday pillboxes!), as well as many other artificial intelligence and machine learning features."
Source: MDBX Health
Here, as Miller continues to list her startup's strides in creating a more proactive healthcare ecosystem, what becomes clear is her propensity towards collaborative efforts. "We've also worked with the Abu Dhabi Public Health Center and the Abu Dhabi Department of Health to pilot the People of Determination Telemedicine Strategy, a telehealth program that was launched along with Zayed Higher Organization to help various categories of people of determination in Abu Dhabi," Miller reveals. "This also involved improving pharmaceutical access and medication management at the Zayed Higher Organization. Furthermore, our partner Reyada has also been instrumental in onboarding the first patients onto the MDBX platform. Together, we continue to develop our private and government pipelines and partnerships to serve the UAE's most vulnerable, and we are delighted to have been recognised by Ma'an -the Authority of Social Contribution in Abu Dhabi- for our impact."
It is perhaps important to mention here that the journey in laying the foundation for MDBX Health was one that spanned over a decade- and it is the lessons and experiences gained during this period that Miller hopes to carry into the future. "Over the past 12 years, I've spent thousands of hours with the UAE's most vulnerable populations, trying to design a solution that would be economically viable, that would fit into the UAE health ecosystem, that would keep patients alive, healthy, and their families informed," the co-founder says. "I built relationships with these people, amazing individuals, each overwhelmed with how hard it is to manage long-term illness. We played carrom, drank coffee… and I watched many of them pass away. After years of feeling helpless, we are absolutely delighted to be empowered to be able to deliver a pioneering solution that will give the power back to the patient, and provide them with the tools to effectively manage their health and their lives!"
Bootstrapped so far, the startup is now aiming to keep scaling its services with its participation in the MBRIF Innovation Accelerator Program as well. "As the MBRIF is a government-backed initiative, we are closer to the heart of the country, and as a hub to the best public and private organizations, we get access to incredible insight, advice, and resources," Miller says. "The MBRIF offers a unique program that truly builds up the power and vision of the founders, without taking control or equity. The only agenda is to equip their startups with the network, tools, and resources to succeed - and they do this fantastically well."