Boost Thyroid is a female-led startup dealing with a widely undiscussed, but surprisingly common condition known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, or Hashimoto’s disease. It is commonly shortened to just Hashimoto’s.
The disease Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks and gradually destroys the thyroid gland. As a result, the thyroid gland loses its functionality, becoming underactive. This means it can’t produce the thyroid hormone thyroxin, which is the key to unlocking fuel storage within the body’s cells. As the body’s metabolic process slows down, an increasing feeling of tiredness sets in. The hair starts to thin and the nails become softer and brittle. This is often paired with weight gain, not being able to focus, and headaches. And this is only the beginning.
Having an autoimmune condition affects the entire body. However, it is most notable in the gut, where the majority of the immune response is formed. There are frequent digestive issues that occur in connection to eating certain foods and having Hashimoto’s disease. The condition predominately affects women, and is hugely under-represented when it comes to awareness.
Building a digital solution for the autoimmune thyroid disease Hashimoto’s
Dr Högqvist Tabor, CEO and co- founder of Boost Thyroid, wanted to build a solution for Hashimoto’s patients like herself who were experiencing a diverse range of symptoms and health problems. She saw that the traditional medical approach for treating Hashimoto’s is much less advanced than for treating diseases like diabetes. This is despite roughly the same number of people being diagnosed with both diseases. Dr Högqvist Tabor wanted to bring together her passion for digital technology, science and patient empowerment to build a product that people would find useful.
“ I am a Hashimoto’s patient. I have been living with it for years. It has been in my family for at least three generations and has profoundly affected all of our lives. If we can help people, and I know we can, to get better faster, with minimal or no symptoms, my goal and wish is fulfilled.” explained Dr Högqvist Tabor.
Dr Högqvist Tabor knows Hashimoto’s all too well. She is driven by enabling the empowerment of patients when it comes to having full control of their health. It takes a lot of energy and determination to maintain a healthy lifestyle in order to prevent the progression of Hashimoto’s, as well as the flare-ups that can occur. With an increasing number of symptoms that are of varying intensity, plus the factor of individual differences, patients need to do a great deal in order to successfully manage the condition, and keep their health in check.
At present, this management requires a knowledge and understanding of advanced biology, such as immunology, nutrition, genetics and endocrinology, and the complex connection between them. This is where Boost Thyroid comes in.
What are the plans for the app?
The app launched in May 2017 and is available for iOS devices. An Android app and new features are being developed. There have been several updates since the first release, the latest of which contains improved actionable information, that is, information which can be used to make suitable choices, as opposed to just interesting trivia.
In the latest version, users can log their weight, symptoms, lifestyle, medication, and supplements on a 5-point intensity scale, choosing from 10 symptoms, 2 lifestyle factors, 4 type of medication and 7 supplements. They can see how their symptoms trend over a week or a month.
The app is also the home of Hashiboto, a chatbot powered by Artificial Intelligence. Hashiboto contains scientific knowledge with a foundation in the thyroid, autoimmunity, and Hashimoto’s disease. Users of the app can set reminders to take medications, as well as receive monthly personal well-being reports that summarise their health, via email.
Motivated by complexity
For the team, complexity is an attractive component of the problem. Taking on tough and meaningful problems is what motivates them. As scientists and researchers, they know how clean the data needs to be in order to use it in research. Combining scientific rigour with user happiness is a challenge, but it is not impossible to achieve.
As a patient, Dr Högqvist Tabor would like to know when and how to increase her health awareness, so that she can be more proactive in the management of her thyroid condition. Her dream is to build a product that would help people who have already been diagnosed, to lead a healthier life by providing them with high quality and up-to-date information. It should also convert new research results into tracking options, analytics, and insights that are relevant to each individual user.
A tool for doctors
At the same time, Boost Thyroid are working on facilitating the doctor’s workflow. One of their wishes is for doctors to get live updates in the disease prediction charts, and for research to have a more global, diverse and inclusive reach. They believe that this type of global research could give an indication of how Hashimoto’s works at each and every stage, as well as how to recognise it faster, and how know when it starts progressing. This can be extended to helping doctors and patients successfully manage the condition through different treatment methods. And as for the researchers, academia should have access to tools that enable faster, better and cleaner data collection. This is one of the aims of Boost Thyroid.
Seal of Excellence
Boost Thyroid have received the European Commission’s Seal of Excellence for their concept, strategy, and current achievements, and have been supported by the EU H2020 initiative programme, PERMIDES.
“Our team strongly believes that digital technology will bring democracy to healthcare and empower patients to have a more balanced conversation with their doctor, helping early disease prevention.” Dr Högqvist Tabor explains.
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