Editor’s update:

As you read this, E-Health’s bet, “Riva Digital,” is exhibiting in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress; where it will unveil its new life-changing app – and very likely disrupt the global medical device industry. Check back soon for Part 2 of this challenge story and the bet’s impact for Switzerland’s health and future prosperity.

Part 1: The stakes

Riva Digital’s challenge bet is playing for the highest stakes of any roundtable wager I’ve encountered since starting this storytelling assignment. Unlike other bets competing in the challenge, Riva Digital’s bet is personal. The stakes it’s playing for are your life.

Stop a moment. Think of four people. They can be anyone, a family member, neighbour, a friend or stranger who caught your eye this morning and flashed back a smile. Picture their faces as you remember them. Slowly count each: 1-2-3-4, on one hand.

Four remain. One is gone.

Now, open your thumb and add yourself making five: one person for each finger. Looking at your open hand, close one finger. Four remain. One is gone. That missing digit represents what’s at stake in Riva’s bet. Which finger did you close? Was it your friend? Was it you?

Statistical precision

Here’s where Riva Digital’s bet gets personal. One of the five individuals you just counted will die because they suffer from hypertension. Also known as high blood pressure (HBP), hypertension is a silent killer. As Dr. Thomas Guggi, orthopaedic consultant with Schulthess Clinic points out, “The main problem with HBP is that it doesn’t hurt, it isn’t painful, you don’t realize it until in many cases, it’s too late.”

And then it kills with statistical precision. The shocking facts are 20% of the entire population of Switzerland experiences high blood pressure. The consequences make HBP the #1 cause of death in Switzerland.

Health experts agree, the best ways to protect yourself are being aware of HBP’s risks and making life-style changes that matter. These facts have been known for decades, but have proven ineffective moving people to change their behaviour, as HBP’s deadly #1 status attests.

The bet

The roundtable E-Health bets that by September 2017, it can create a digital ecosystem that enables people to increase their health competency through participation. Furthermore, the Roundtable bets that by April 2018, more than 100,000 people will be involved in the digital ecosystem and one year later these people will have demonstrably lowered their blood pressure.

The recipe

The alchemy of Riva’s bet suggests a formula for roundtables and enterprises struggling with too little time and too many ideas to come up with innovative digital solutions for massive impact.

Like all challenge roundtables, E-Health had only 12 months to originate a bet and deliver it. Unlike other roundtables, it attracted 20+ willing partners with commercial and private health interests. Too many cooks in the kitchen is a recipe for mediocrity at best, and dogfood at worst. Were it not for an early decision by Table Captain, Claudia Pletscher, Head Development & Innovation at Swiss Post, Riva Digital might have undergone a similar fate.

The ingredients

To discover how an over-subscribed roundtable devised this amazing bet, I spoke with Tobias Pforr, founder and managing partner of RedRock. Tobias sits on the challenge steering committee and has been deeply involved since the bet originated.

Tobias remembered his invitation, “Claudia reached out to me and said, ‘Hey look, we have this E-Health roundtable. We have five different pitches on the table. We’re not really sure how to narrow it down. Could you coach us?”

He explained, “My strategy was to make it personal – because there were so many different organizations in the room, to leave out the organizations, the corporates, and focus on people – make it clear health is about each individual … in the end, innovation in the realm of health should also lead to more prosperity, meaning healthier people and less effort to stay healthy.”

The human-centric approach payed off as he guided them to focus attention around a symbolic hero. A hero the partners already knew: their company’s customers, employees and patients, i.e. Riva’s hero could be you or me!

However, unless the group could identify one health problem their respective heroes had in common, an issue with enough magnitude to make major impact, all the resources these health industry leaders brought to the table were moot.

Tipping point

To find that holy grail among a universe of health topics, Tobias prompted partners to describe their hero’s pain points and see where one hero’s pain overlapped another’s. They cited pains like cumbersome file sharing, difficulties obtaining second opinions and specific diseases like diabetes. Then a doctor raised the topic of hypertension.

He and others in the room pointed out, “diabetes is actually quite well understood and controlled, but hypertension is a big problem, because nearly every fifth person has high blood pressure and about CHF 600 million are spent annually just on blood pressure-lowering medication.” Tobias reflected, “the topic of HBP was not completely new, but it was a big enough challenge that people agreed, ‘Yeah, if we do something and if we can provide a solution, we would have an impact!”

Can Riva Win?

That depends. Until now, providence, persistence and luck have distinguished this “poster child of challenge bets.” Riva’s track record of recent wins however make it an odds-on favourite.

Since the summer of 2017, E-Health has:

  • created a digital ecosystem seeded by 22 partners.
  • established minimum data set (age + sex + weight + blood pressure) and scalable storage for +100 million people’s health data.
  • secured funding (Gesundheitsförderung Schweiz).
  • founded legal entity, “Verein Riva Digital,” employing professional management.
  • developed revolutionary new phone app to measure and record user’s blood pressure.

Last week, I asked Dr. Guggi about Riva’s chances of winning? His answer invited no 2nd opinion, “The next target is 100’000 by April 1st. I am 100% percent convinced we’ll achieve that goal.”

Check back for Riva Digital Part 2.

Be the first to get inside news how Riva Digital’s new blood pressure app functions and moves us to change our behaviour for longer, healthier and happier lives.