EIT Health supported Latvian start-up makes history in the Baltics

EIT Health supported Vigo Health has made history by becoming the first digital therapeutic company in the Baltics to receive an official reimbursement code from the Latvian health authority. Vigo Health’s founder, Kristaps Krafte started his professional journey at the EIT Health IHC Master’s programme and says he will not stop until the start-up becomes the worldwide leader in stroke rehabilitation.

We have worked very hard for more than 1,5 years to become the first digital therapeutic company in the Baltics to receive an official reimbursement code from the Latvian national health authority. It is a big milestone in Vigo Health’s life, a true cause for celebration, however, what makes us the happiest is that as a result, our solution will be even more accessible for stroke survivors” – says Kristaps Krafte, CEO and founder of Vigo Health, which offers a digital solution with which patients can effectively recover in the comfort of their home.

As he explains, most companies aspire to getting a reimbursement code, however, it is a complicated process – with many conditions to meet – especially for a tech start-up: ‘digital therapeutics’ does not even have a specific definition in the Baltics. That is why it took almost two years for Krafte and his team to get here. Vigo Health is a real pioneer, although the process is yet to be finalised. Krafte is hopeful that in 2022 they will be reimbursed by the state for their service which means that their product, Vigo, which has been developed in collaboration with the Latvian National Rehabilitation Center Vaivari, could be cheaper and more accessible.

Looking at this achievement it is hard to believe that Vigo Health was founded just a few years ago. As Krafte says, the idea of developing a solution to stroke survivors might have never occurred to him if he had not participated at the EIT Health IHC Master’s programme at Copenhagen Business School, where he and his peers acquired economic, business, and organisational skills in the field of healthcare innovation. At the two-year, full-time programme they came to understand what healthcare organisations are looking for and how to validate an innovation.

During his research Krafte had the chance to meet stroke survivors at hospitals in Denmark and Latvia. He learnt that around 15 million people suffer a stroke every year – one person every two seconds. Although the number of affected people is increasing, post-stroke care is insufficient in most places, thus only 10 per cent of stroke survivors recover fully. The biggest challenge is that after patients leave hospital – where they usually recover significantly –, their progression stops. Stroke survivors would need rehabilitation over months or years, but the problem in the case of most healthcare systems is that there not enough trained healthcare professionals to do that labour.

Krafte wanted to address that challenge when the idea of Vigo popped into his mind: he wanted to make stroke rehabilitation accessible to all. Patients get a personalised – including physio and speech sessions – therapy plan, which they can execute when and where they prefer. Emotional support is just as important as physical help, so the creators of Vigo included a chatbot and mind training exercises in the software.

No wonder that the creative rehabilitation program was lauded at the 2019 EIT Health InnoStars Awards and Vigo Health was among the 15 finalists. The winners were chosen from 116 early-stage innovators, coming from Central, Eastern and Southern regions, where the overall pace of innovations is moderate.

We, at EIT Health, find it very important to provide great opportunities for young talents. It is very rewarding to see when a member of the EIT community rises high and works hard towards our common goal of making quality healthcare accessible to more and more patients. Vigo Health can serve as an example for all young entrepreneurs working in the field of healthcare” – says Tamás Békási, RIS Business Creation Manager at EIT Health InnoStars, of Vigo Health, which won second prize in the EIT CHANGE Award 2019.

Step by step we are moving towards our ultimate goal of becoming the worldwide leader in stroke rehabilitation by making rehabilitation more accessible and cheaper so people can live better” – shared Krafte Vigo Health’s plans for the future. „And the other goal is to begin scaling to other countries. We will enter the first export market in 2022” – he adds.