With over 25 years of IT experience working at power houses including Control Data Corporation and Oracle, Fred Eberlein comes to patient tools from the technology side of things. His flagship product is a patented, secure web-based approach to pain tracking and management. Fred splits his time between his clients in the United States and his development office in Hungary, and I interviewed him over a crystal clear phone line while he was working in Budapest…
Kevin Kruse, Kru Research: So when did you start ReliefInsite and what was your mission at the time?
Fred Eberlein, ReliefInsite: We started developing ReliefInsite in January 2005. But my interest in pain management started in 2000. I learned back then that all the issues had been worked out in terms of protocols and logic for assessing pain, but as so often has happened in healthcare, none of this was put it into a digital form. As one who has spent his career in IT, this really amazed me.
Kru: You focus exclusively on pain management and pain tracking?
Eberlein: That has been our niche, our strong point. If you look at our website you’ll see that it’s free for patients, and healthcare providers. But as our focus is on developing customized branded patient diaries/trackers for industry clients - this is where our revenue comes from - we have spent little resource driving traffic to our site. That will change later this year when we introduce the ReliefInsite Community.
Over the longer term, with the website, we are giving it away to ultimately create that community and then be able to create research components of that, reports and other things from the system and that we will sell.
Kru: Unlike many other health 2.0 companies you seem to have a very practical view of business with an immediate eye towards revenues
Eberlein: Well, we are very nimble and I watch all the pennies. My goal is to create a balance between the web community, the research reports, and then customized development; it should work nicely.
Kru: Can you give an example of a client who is using your platform?
Eberlein: We developed the Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptom Tracker site (https://www.rasymptomtracker.com/) for UCB which is currently unbranded. UCB just got approval from the FDA for their RA drug, Cimzia, which is also prescribed for Crohn’s disease. Now that the drug is actually approved we will go through a redesign to match the brand of the drug.
Kru: Any lessons learned that you can share from you experience with your pain tracking site?
Eberlein: You commonly hear PHR [personal health record] utilization being at 3% and our stickiness is an order of magnitude better than that, I am happy to say. But frankly I am not satisfied with it. I think one of the big challenges we face now with all this technology is making it part of the patient’s lifestyle and the providers’ process.
I have the benefit of seeing firsthand over the last few years how utilization works. I’ve seen what patients do, what physicians do, and I think you cannot make it simple enough, you can’t make it easy enough, you can’t make it fun enough.
Kru: What comes next for ReliefInsite?
Eberlein: Technology adoption is a big challenge and things like the iPhone and mobile technologies in general are helping to break down some of those barriers. Mobile is definitely the future.
I think what we really have to be thinking about is bringing gaming into the equation, and how to integrate health tools into our lifestyle as much as we can. Of course that includes integration to biometric devices and other types of things, because the whole idea of monitoring should be pretty much non-obtrusive and invisible to the patient but, of course, with their consent.