St. John's-based medtech startup BreatheSuite has announced the Atlantic Canadian launch of its product for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, or COPD, patients, and sweetening the offering with one-on-one coaching.
CEO Brett Vokey, whose company makes hardware and software that helps people use inhalers more effectively, said in an interview the East Coast is the first stage of a planned, region-by-region commercialization process. His team is negotiating with insurance companies to ensure they cover BreatheSuite’s services, which it sells under a subscription model.
Founded in 2018 and having recently received Health Canada approval, the company sells a sensor that can be attached to asthma inhalers. The product includes an app that tells users whether they are maximizing the amount of medication the inhaler delivers into their lungs and how to improve their technique. It also allows users to track doses and reminds them if they forget one.
“We've got an app with patient education modules (from which) you can receive on-demand education whenever you need to,” said Vokey.
“For example, (BreathSuite offers) personalized air quality alerts. If the air quality in your region is poor, you’ll be alerted to that, specifically around asthma and COPD, and what to do to avoid it.”
Asthma inhalers can be complex to operate for inexperienced patients and have high rates of incorrect usage. Metered dose inhalers — which expel medication from a compressed gas canister and are the variety for which BreatheSuite is designed — are improperly administered by up to a remarkable 90 percent of patients, according to research from the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust in England.
Vokey declined to share how many users BreatheSuite has acquired so far, but said the company’s existing customers are located in the United States, particularly California, along with a smattering across Canada.
The addition of unlimited one-on-one advice from a respiratory health coach reflects BreatheSuite’s interest in addressing a larger problem of asthma patients often lacking detailed knowledge about how to manage their symptoms, he added.
“Part of the problem when people with asthma and COPD are having issues is they may not know what their triggers are,” said Vokey. “And they may not know what’s causing their symptoms to flare up.
“By having a coach at their disposal, they can have those conversations with those individuals to try to figure out what's preventing them from managing their disease effectively — and ultimately, what they can do to change that.”
BreatheSuite so far has 22 full-time employees, including three respiratory health coaches, with others waiting in the wings for when the company needs them.
Vokey’s team also closed a $1.2 million funding round last year, which he said means he is not immediately eyeing another capital raise, although he does foresee his team tapping venture capitals markets again eventually.