MELODY, a Unique Robotic Tele-Ultrasound Solution in the World to Fight Medical Desertification
Apr 23, 2021
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times? Nicolas LEFEBVRE: We live in a small town situated 200 km south of Paris. Under the current pandemic circumstances, we feel less stressed than people living in the big cities as the virus circulates less in our region (no metro, lower population density…). However, everyone is getting impatient, looking for a return to a normal social life. We really miss the big family gatherings. Tell us about you, your career, how you joined AdEchoTech. Nicolas LEFEBVRE: AdEchoTech is a family business. My father, Dr. Eric LEFBVRE, founded the company in 2008 while maintaining his medical activity to remain as close as possible to patients and physicians’ needs, who are basically our end-users. I am an engineer, and I joined the company in 2012 as managing director. Eric holds the position of president, and he is our expert medical referent in terms of research & development but also marketing & business approaches. How does AdEchoTech innovate? Nicolas LEFEBVRE: The centralization of the medical expertise, combined with the isolation of the populations for economic reasons or because of large territorial areas (e.g., Canada, Australia, and Scandinavia), led to the emergence of the telemedicine market. A few years ago, in the field of telediagnosis, the market developed in radiology (scanner, MRI). However, ultrasound procedures were and are still performed 5 times more compared to scanner and MRI. After 10 years of research in space medicine, supported by the ESA (European Space Agency) and the CNES (France National Space Center), AdEchoTech developed a unique remote ultrasound solution, MELODY. MELODY delivers diagnostic ultrasound imaging to remote communities that need ultrasonography using the internet. The robotic arm is the extension of the ultrasound practitioner’s hand for real-time diagnosis. Numerous MELODY systems have been sold in France, Canada, and Norway. The system improves access to diagnostic ultrasound imaging expertise, saves time and transportation costs. MELODY is used in radiology (abdomen), cardiology, urology, obstetrics, etc. Our solution is industrialized, clinically validated, and obtained the necessary certifications to be marketed in Europe (medical CE Marking), in the USA (FDA), and in Canada (Health Canada), and it is certified ISO 13485. How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping? Nicolas LEFEBVRE: Because of the pandemic, we have not been able to travel over the last 12 months. This has resulted in slowing down the export business. Fortunately, the domestic French market has particularly been dynamic in recent months. The MELODY solution makes sense in the face of the challenge for combating the COVID-19 virus. It establishes additional barriers to the spread of the virus and therefore protects isolated patients and experts from possible contamination. We look forward to the resumption of our business abroad because there is a real need in countries that struggle with medical desertification, such as Canada, Scandinavia, and Russia. Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned? Nicolas LEFEBVRE: Despite the pandemic, we were able to keep our team and employees. Our investors were supportive from the beginning of the crisis, which allowed us to continue developing our business. Moreover, in France, a lot of aids have been set up by the government to help small companies withstand the shock (favorable loans, unemployment support…)
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis? Nicolas LEFEBVRE: As telemedicine specialists, we were already very focused on digital tools. The crisis has accelerated the implementation of telework and the use of video conferencing for meetings. Also, we have initiated remote demonstrations for the customers from our showroom in France. Under the current circumstances, web-conferences are useful but will never replace face-to-face meetings when conducting negotiations. Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game? Nicolas LEFEBVRE: At present, we don’t have competition in the marketplace. A few projects have emerged but are still at the research stage. To stay ahead of the curve, when a competing tool arrives on the market, we continue to patent and develop new projects to meet the future challenges. Your final thoughts? Nicolas LEFEBVRE: Many innovations have emerged in recent years to improve the care of the populations, but it is not enough. In 2020, over 300 000 women worldwide died from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth due to a lack of support and care. In France, every year, nearly 70 000 deaths are attributed to heart failure because of the late detection of the disease. These are a few of the many examples on which the MELODY solution can act. We will continue our efforts and continue to innovate. Technology must serve the great challenges of this world. Your website?