Thursday, January 17, 2013

Meet GeckoCap, The Newest, Coolest Tool for Asthma Compliance

Last month, the folks at GeckoCap contacted me in response to my post about how to get your kid to actually take their maintenance meds.  I went to their site to see what the heck a GeckoCap was,  and was actually pretty blown away. This product is SUPER-COOL, and I'm pretty sure it will work.

Rather than explain it, I interviewed GeckoCap's Founder and CTO, Mark Maalouf. Here's what he told me:

1.     What is the Gecko Cap and who will it help?

GeckoCap is a small, glowing device that fits on top of inhalers. First, it helps children with asthma develop proper habits. Children often forget to take their maintenance inhalers as prescribed [REALLY?], and with time this often leads to more usage of the rescue inhaler, missed activities with friends, and perhaps even missed school days. The GeckoCap glows as a reminder when the inhaler should be used based on the prescription, and every time it is used the information is sent to an online account. Children have their own dashboard where they can keep track of how well they’re doing - see the next question for more on this!

GeckoCap helps parents too. I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s very difficult to keep track of if and when your child is taking their medication. It’s even more difficult when they’re bouncing around between school, visiting friends, on field trips, or between two homes. Parents have their own dashboards where they can track how well their child is doing. They also get reminders/notifications for things like a prescription running low as well as alerts when the rescue inhaler is used. These alerts prompt the parents for the reason behind the rescue inhaler usage (sports, weather …) so you can finally get real data to look for trends. Parents can also easily see the history and create reports. How often do you go to your child’s physician and can’t comfortably answer the question about their inhaler compliance?

2.     Explain the whole gamification thing to me.

We are working with child psychologists to figure out how to really change behavior for the better. For the younger children, this includes their very own dashboard with a cute avatar that changes moods based on how well they’re doing. Children also get rewarded with points and badges for things like taking their maintenance inhaler properly several days in a row. Parents get points too for things like entering the trigger for the rescue inhaler usage, and they can assign these points to their child. Parents can choose what the points mean in the house (perhaps the child can redeem them for an extra piece of dessert!), but we are also working on some partnerships to redeem points for real things like gifts.

3.     Do I need to get my kid an iPad for this to be successful?

No! Without getting too technical, the cap sends and receives data to a smartphone or tablet which has Bluetooth 4.0 (this includes the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, and newer iPad and Android devices). That device then sends the data to the internet.

What this means is that you need at least one device like that in the home for the GeckoCap to work, but it does not have to be with your child. If they are at school all day and use the cap, the data will automatically be sync’d when they get back home and are close enough to your iPad. The only benefit of having your child carry around their own smartphone or tablet is that the updates and notifications will occur more frequently, rather than when your child gets back home.

4.     Does it work with all MDIs?

That’s the plan! We are working with industrial designers right now to finalize the version that will be sold, and one of the most important design goals is for the GeckoCap to fit on all MDIs. We’re tinkering with a couple of ways to do this best.

5.     Where can I get one and how much will it cost?

Glad you asked, because we just launched a campaign to pre-sell GeckoCap. We’re aiming for it to be available in September, and for a limited time you can pre-purchase one for $39. That campaign site has a lot more information too, please check it out!

6.     One last question: Why did you decide to create this thing? What's the back story?

To make a long story short, the team and concept behind GeckoCap were formed at a healthcare-related competition at MIT in 2012. One of the founders has a young child with asthma and another is a physician, so GeckoCap grew naturally out of that partnership. Among several other features, the original concept tested peak flow, provided a GPS tracking system to alert users of high risk locations, and had a spacer. It ended up winning first prize at the competition, and since then the concept was refined and simplified from a jack-of-all-trades product to a simpler and more consumer-friendly one.

I'm very excited about the GeckoCap, and definitely plan to try it out. I'm so glad that someone's thinking creatively about the issues that affect our kids. These are technologies I use frequently in my marketing/PR career....I never thought I'd be using them to manage the kids' asthma! Based on the early buzz GeckoCap is getting and how well it was received at CES this year, I'm thinking this is going to be bigger than musical toothbrushes!