There are plenty of conversations around how AI can progress healthcare. And indeed, it has numerous applications in the form of diagnostics and accelerated drug discovery. However, wouldn’t it be even better if artificial intelligence could help prevent us from getting sick in the first place?

Anyone who has ever tried to get past (or even to) a GP in the Netherlands or any other European country feeling the healthcare capacity crunch knows that it can be a process leaving you almost as drained as being unwell itself. Often, getting access to proper care can become a matter of being able to advocate for yourself, at times across language barriers. 

HealthCaters is a female-founded startup based in Berlin that wants to change the status quo of healthcare gatekeeping. Its founders say they are not simply looking to make money and grow the company. Rather, they want to change the future of preventative medicine — in a way that is accessible and affordable for all. And when speaking to its two co-founders, Yale-educated Dr Lily Kruse and ex-VC and former head of business development at medical travel platform Medigo Tanya Eliseeva, I feel that I believe them. 

“I was a heart surgeon in the US. And for me, the most important thing was to help people and to make sure that they are healthy. And I realised quickly that medicine is not so much about that. It’s more about treating people who are already sick,” Dr Kruse says. 

The <3 of EU tech

The latest rumblings from the EU tech scene, a story from our wise ol’ founder Boris, and some questionable AI art. It’s free, every week, in your inbox. Sign up now!

“But if you think about it, there’s so many people that are getting sick, but are not sick yet. It was quite emotional to have somebody on the operating table, knowing that this could have been prevented.”

Preventative health beyond statistics

According to the WHO, by 2030, the proportion of total global deaths due to chronic diseases (or noncommunicable diseases, NCDs) is expected to reach 70% — up from 61% in 2005. Apart from the tremendous individual suffering they inflict, lifestyle-influenced diseases, such as heart disease, chronic respiratory disease, and diabetes, are also a huge burden on health services worldwide. 

Considering that in 2011, Harvard Business School predicted that NCDs would cost society more than $30 trillion over the coming two decades, it is baffling that national healthcare plans hardly, if ever, take preventive measures into account. 

Hoping to function as an extension of the existing healthcare system, HealthCaters has developed what they call DIY health screenings, using a portable testing station and an accompanying app. Taking around 30 minutes, the system guides the user through a series of steps to measure things such as blood pressure, cholesterol, lung function, heart rate, kidney and liver health, metabolic health, etc. 

HealthCaters portable testing station