Broadcast date: 20th April 2019
Link to original interview: HS. Health-Tech Podcast Ep 19
James is joined by Rick Rowan, the patient-founder of NuroKor, a company that creates wearable devices and accessories that provide a host of benefits to the user via three core technologies; microcurrent stimulation, peripheral nerve stimulation and neuromuscular stimulation. Their first product is called the NuroKor MiTouch. It's a device that looks pretty similar to a smartphone, with small electrodes attached that are put onto the skin. It's a Class IIa medical device, FDA approved, CE marked and is selling into 5 different countries, with sufferers of many forms of chronic pain, including Olympic athletes, are shouting about positive results.
James and Rick talk about Rick’s background as a chronic back-pain sufferer, his motivations from seeing family members in pain to combatting the opioid epidemic and how initially selling B2C has helped the business across healthcare.
James Somauroo: Welcome to this week's episode of the HS podcast. My name is James and with me this week, I have Rick Rowan who is a health tech entrepreneur and founder of a company called NuroKor, which makes a wearable pain killing technology which uses microcurrent therapy.
James Somauroo: So, Rick was previously in real estate for over ten years, but he developed quite a debilitating chronic back pain, and like quite a lot of people in that position, ended up taking very high, and often too high, doses of prescription painkillers. But then he experienced electrotherapy, saw that it really worked for him and he's built a company now to help bring that technology, which is FDA approved to all sorts of people around the globe. So, Rick, before we go any further, welcome.How are you doing?
Rick Rowan: Thank you, James.I'm well, thank you. I'm very happy to be here.
James Somauroo: Excellent. So, Rick,I've given you somewhat of an introduction there, but for the benefit of our listeners, why don't you tell us your story?
Rick Rowan: Sure. Look, I had a wonderful career in real estate. I don't have any regrets. It gave me a lot of ground, particularly, for business, for personal relationships, and building of networks and making sure that you're surrounding yourself with the right people for any project, really.
"My back pain issue actually started - my recollection of it started - when I was approximately about 10 years old." - Rick Rowan
Rick Rowan: I had my first incidents and I remember being in somewhat debilitating pain, at least from my memory of that, and being taken to the GP and him physically examining me. And aside from that, that was the end of it. "Take some rest." That ended up plaguing me through my teen years, also with a knee problem. The knee problem being a split patella, ended up being operated on. And I'll say unsuccessfully because there was no physical improvement. In fact, it took me quite some time to recover and then I sort of had a weak leg right through up until my 30s.
Rick Rowan: The back pain issue continued. I might have needed to be operated on to fix that, but thankfully that was avoided, given the knee outcome and also to the statistics for successful back pain operations.
Rick Rowan: In any case, cutting to the later years in my 30s, my back pain really started to plague me, as in I'd have to think about things, simple things like washing the car or putting my shoes on. And then, later with children, whether I was picking them up. And it just really-was really having a negative impact on my quality of life. It's something that sort of sat there in the background.
Rick Rowan: When it was really bad, it would sort of send you into a depressive state of isolation, and yeah, just feeling like there was this weight you just couldn't take off. And it was always plaguing me in the back of the mind, whatever I was doing, I had to think about was it going to have an effect or was it going to tweak my back or cause me to have an incident.
Rick Rowan: Purely by accident, just at the end of my real estate career, I was looking for a new opportunity. I came across what most people call TENS machine or a generic stimulator. Looking into this and playing around with it, I'd never seen one before. I found that it gave me very good back pain relief. Then, thinking it might've just been me, I started to use my family and friends as test subjects and get them to try it. And the outcomes were positive.
Rick Rowan: I started to look into the opportunity itself more and saw that there was actually no science behind it. Being quite science-minded myself, this was very interesting. Also, from a commercial opportunity, it showed me that there was huge scope to both improve the science, improve the product and application as well as help people like myself who had suffered for 30-odd years with this debilitating issue and never having been offered anything like this before.
Rick Rowan: There was something like it in the physio, when I did have physio sessions, but I didn't know what it was. I didn't really understand at that age what the physios were doing to me, but it was always a temporary relief. Other options for the doctors were injections for muscle relaxants or anaesthesia, a range of things, cocktails, as you said, of painkillers, which really made me feel quite unwell.
Rick Rowan: The last straw was when I did see a GP. It wasn't actually that long ago. I want to say in the last decade. And I was suggested anti-inflammatories, further anti-inflammatories for my neck and my back at this time. And the suggestion thatI take 3000 milligrams of paracetamol, I asked how long I needed to take that for, and the simple answer was, "Well, as long as you need it," or ongoing. And I just refused to accept that. So, I went off them, but still had the pain and issues.
"The outcome of using bioelectrical therapy, for me, has been entirely life-changing and the driver behind what I've been doing for the last four to five years." - Rick Rowan
James Somauroo: It's fascinating, isn't it? For me, as an Anaesthetist, I've done bits and bobs of pain and done pain clinics and things, and back pain is just one of those things that it just changes people's lives.
Rick Rowan: It does.
James Somauroo: And it seems that, as you've experienced, as clinicians often, we can go down these different routes that we think are going to work. We can refer to physio, we can pass back to the GP, we can do different things within the pain clinic, be that acupuncture or what you're referring to, which is reverting to painkillers. And once you start, it's one of those things where you just need to often keep increasing your dose and increasing the dose.
James Somauroo: Someone quite close tome had a very similar experience, and without knowing, that person ended up on more than what was physically allowed for someone of that size. And they just slipped through the crack, I'd say, of the system because the system doesn't look after people on opioids very well, I don't think, in my experience.
James Somauroo: But it's interesting that you've kind of taken it upon yourself to then go, "Okay. Well, here's a problem. I found something that kind of works and let me kind of build a company that might bring this to more people." So, yeah. How did you go from where you stopped that story there to then having that idea? You realise that TENS works, which is a transcutaneous electrical therapy, for those that don't know. So, tiny electric current that runs through the body and gives pain relief.
James Somauroo: So, yeah. You've gone from realising that works to then building a company. So, yeah. Tell us all about that.
Rick Rowan: So, looking into the science, the way my brain works is everything is by logical deduction or logical application. So, I started to look at why was it working, was the core question. Then, looking through the studies, there was such a variance of efficacy or outcome from positive to negative. And then, looking further, starting to-just using purely peripheral nerve stimulation as an example.
Rick Rowan: Every study used a different protocol and understanding that each protocol elicits a different outcome and that outcome can be different from patient to patient, I started to understand why the review or study process was flawed. Because what worked for me one day, didn't work the next. So, I need a different formulation, a different frequency or protocol, and that's the reason why a lot of-even though these cheaper and non-scientific products, some of them work anyway because they just happen to be hitting the spot on the day or for that particular application.
Rick Rowan: So, I started to look at formulating or how to formulate frequencies themselves for peripheral nerve, and then started to look at the neuromuscular benefits, such as the production of artificial exercise or contraction of the muscle and the benefits that had on the body, the low frequency applications for endorphin release… The science was just going on and on and on and still does.
Rick Rowan: And then, how to formulate those into the most useful or broad spectrum applications for the consumers so that it worked for me more of the time and it worked for more people more of the time. And to then put that power into the hands of the many rather than the few. And thus was born the prospect of a commercial entity and my previous company that I co-founded.
Rick Rowan: There was limitations to that and I'd just started to discover the science of microcurrent, which is another treatment or technology or modality all together by the way that it acts within the body, but lots of overlap in the benefits. So, having parted ways with my previous company, NuroKor was formed. So, for all intents and purposes, we're a startup still but we've got product distributed in within five countries and we've got a lot product to market and we've got a pipeline of, I think, amazing products for the consumer, as well as medical, as well as the sport side of things, coming in the next 6 to 12 months.
"We're using a holistic approach, or multimodal approach, to how we impact both pain, and in some instances, the cause of pain, using particularly microcurrent and the additional circulation of injured areas." - Rick Rowan
James Somauroo: Cool. So on the story so far, then, so obviously post-real estate, you've had all this back pain, you've decided, "Okay, here's the sort of technology that works. These tiny electric currents are working for me," you started playing around with it to see like, "Oh, okay. So, I realise on some days I need this amount, on other days I need a different amount," you've realised there's this other technology coming through called microcurrent technology. And then, you've realised, "Okay, we can wrap a company around this and we can distribute this to the many, not the few," as you've said.
James Somauroo: Who, then, built the product? So, who did you find that could build this for you? How did you go on that journey? And tell us a bit more about what the product actually looks like and feels like to somebody.
Rick Rowan: So, looking at pre-existing products within the marketplace, there was, for the most part, most of the handheld devices were still - I'll say - non-scientific. It doesn't apply to all. And then, you had the larger machines that were used either in practice orby practitioners who had an expertly trained and medically trained driver. So, someone that's actually able to use the machine for the application needed. So, what we've tried to do is take all of that science and put the formulations into a handheld device.
Rick Rowan: Now, the majority of electronics in the world are made in China. And at the moment, ours is no different. We manufacture in China.
Rick Rowan: We wanted a product that was convenient and easy to use. One of the issues with a lot of other devices on the market is they're quite complex to actually take out of the box and just use.
Rick Rowan: So, we focused putting recommended usages, such as pain, pain-plus, being pain and inflammation type applications. Training for those that are using it for muscle training. And that could be recovery post-surgery or even pre-surgery. And then, the recovery areas. So, the gentle recovery cycle of warm down, of muscle activation post-surgery or post-trauma. And then, the microcurrent application, which is a formulation of four frequencies that are commonly used for reduction inflammation, pain relief, and nervous system inflammation.
Rick Rowan: And we put those into simple apps, into a handheld device that is as simple as we can make to use, portable. You can carry it anywhere. It's at the sort of mid-range level of medical devices, handheld, in this category. But we believe that it provides something in the marketplace, and particularly by way of treatment that no other product on the market does as well as, obviously, the science that we've got behind it.
James Somauroo: And for the people that have used it, I mean, obviously, you've probably got a lot of data of how good it is.
"Who is using this? Who's this device for? Do you have a specific type of patient or a specific type of population? Or is this the sort of thing that's for everybody with any sort of chronic pain?" - James Somauroo
Rick Rowan: That's a really good question. The product itself was developed with the consumer and user in mind. The pain sufferer, the gym goer, the novice athlete to the young to the elderly. My kids use the device. My eldest daughter, in particular, who's 10.She's been using bioelectrical therapy for last three years for growing pains.That's all she's ever known for pain relief. We've been fortunate, she's been fortunate, should I say, to have grown up in a family that we don't use pharmaceuticals for pain relief or haven't used them, should I say.
Rick Rowan: So, it’s a device for the many. That's probably one of our biggest challenges is by way of marketing communication. because it can be used by literally anybody. And . what's happening, even though this is a consumer-based device, is we're getting professional athlete and team athlete inquiries as well as we've made absolutely huge inroads to medical specifically for very high level, I'm talking about, pain teams in hospitals. And the product was never designed for that, but we've been simply, incredibly surprised by how well both the products are being received, but more so how effective it's been.
Rick Rowan: Anecdotally, we're in the outcome range of positive for 80%-plus, which for us, is just overwhelmingly surprising, to be honest. We've obviously done quite a good job and we're very happy about that. But yeah. So, the simple answer is it is for everybody, but was never intended to be. I mean, we have got specific product lines for professional athletes, but even so, we've had professional athletes already coming onboard wanting to be ambassadors of the product because they've had incredible results themselves.
James Somauroo: Yeah. I want to talk about this approach, actually, this sort of consumer approach that you've taken. It's a technology that makes sense, right? As an anaesthetist, I can tell you that, yeah, electrical therapy's going to make sense. We do have TENS machines and all these different things. And so, you're using this microcurrent version of it to reduce the amount of electricity that you're using and also it's more targeted, you can change it every day depending on the type of pain and things.
James Somauroo: And actually, I think we spoke about this before, but I recently went to an event that Abbott were doing. So, huge medical device company. They've just released a product, a DRG stimulator, so dorsal root ganglion stimulator, using almost exactly the same thing as what you told me, small, tiny amounts of currents, which they can apply-that's an invasive one, though. So, that's inside the body that they apply that current to, but the patients that they had speaking there, saying exactly the same things as you're saying. The effectiveness is just enormous.
Rick Rowan: Yes.
James Somauroo: So, whilst Abbott have gone obviously down the medical device route and going very sort of hospital patient specific, what you've managed to do is obviously use a similar technology and actually direct it to the consumer. So, was all of that a deliberate play to kind avoid the necessity to go down that medical route? Because it actually seems like you've almost got that credibility too because you've gone the consumer route, you've somewhat proven that this definitely works and is helping people. And obviously, pain teams in hospitals and things are now turning around to you and going, "Oh, let's have a go. Let's have a go with that. It's transcutaneous. It's outside the skin. So, we might as well give it a go." It's an interesting approach.
Rick Rowan: It is. And absolutely. NuroKor itself is for the consumer. Our vision or objective is to help people with bioelectronic medicine as the tool to help people globally, both with reduction in pain as well as improvement of physical health. The non-invasive side of things is what we are, that's what we do. In regards to the pain team, ordinarily what would happen is a medical device company would take this technology through the normal medical or physician channels and then it's basically prescribed out, if you like, to patients and so on as a treatment modality.
Rick Rowan: The pain clinic team, in particular, were driven by consumers who had used the product, had amazing results, and then asking their doctors or the pain team why you didn't give me this, why you didn't know about this. And they suggest that they callus. That's been the driver for a number of meetings that we've had with pain teams or hospitals. One, in particular, in Oslo.
James Somauroo: Oh, interesting. I see it quite a lot, actually, bottom up demand -
Rick Rowan: Yeah.
James Somauroo: Putting pressure on the buyers to actually do something. Yeah, we see it with lots and lots and lots of different health type products. And it's something that you guys will definitely be, I suppose increasingly, reliant on to get sales down to that kind of B2B level.
Rick Rowan: It certainly doesn't do any harm.
James Somauroo: And the other thing I wanted to touch on just because it's quite cool is the amount of athletes that you've got using this stuff and advocating for it and ambassadorship for it. I've had a quick look around on the internet and I found snowboarders, I found people in athletics, and across into the medical sphere. Even people with MS -
Rick Rowan: Yes.
James Somauroo: That are suffering from pain and things like that. It seems that, whilst arguably somewhat anecdotally, but a growing sort of evidence base is clearly there for how much this is actually working.
Rick Rowan: Yes. I mean, we are - to steal a term - we are the body electric. So, everything that happens within the body is an electrical process. Whether that's through microcurrent at a cellular level, whether that's through peripheral nerve stimulation at nerve sensory level, whether that's neuromuscular activation... there's so many areas of good or impact that can be had. MS is an interesting one because you've got the pain issue, you’ve also got things like drop foot and the nerve synapse and a range of things.
"And we've seen positive impact for stroke sufferers, diabetics, diabetic neuropathy. You're talking about the ability to improve circulation through, not just microcurrent application, but as well as the neuromuscular application for the stimulation of the lower limb to help with non-healing ulcers and sores." - Rick Rowan
Rick Rowan: The list just goes on and on for the application of bioelectronic medicine. Really, it's almost a case of not only the sky's the limit, but where can you imagine that we might have impact. And for the most part, we've been able to successfully make inroads for those areas.
James Somauroo: So, let's talk about this from a business perspective, then. When you had the idea to create this product device, did you go out and raise money to do so? Were you self-funded? How did you go about building it from a business perspective?
Rick Rowan: So, initially, to get things underway, we were self-funded. We then took on early stage seed investment, actually, from the CEO of a global plant protein company because their customers, who were looking for a more natural, healthy improvement in health, not dissimilar to ours, but we had shared vision in our want to do good from a health perspective. Also, his business was derived from his want to help his daughter who was actually an MS sufferer. So, it just seemed like a really good alignment.
Rick Rowan: I mean, we are preparing for capital raise right now. We're at a point where we've got so many projects or opportunities to activate that we're at the stage now where we need to raise funds to further that program, to accelerate it to allow us to do in the next two years what might take four or five organically or even longer.
Rick Rowan: So, aside from that early stage investment, no. We were right at that point now. We are only 11 months old and what we've achieved thus far is, we use the word incredible a lot. It's part of our strap line. But we want to do more incredible. We want to do more amazing and the opportunities are coming thick and fast and we want to make sure that we're making the best use of those opportunities, if you like.
James Somauroo: Yeah, and it seems a good time to raise, right? You're selling into five different countries, you're obviously seeing that uptick in your sales, and so as a time to raise, it's obviously a good one.
James Somauroo: The other thing I was just going to mention is it's interesting who you raised from as well. I see ita lot in this sector that so many people are driven by these motivations that sit deep within them and it's such a common thing in health that, as you say, it's a see over company that has a shared vision, so it's motivated from that point, but also from that personal story of his daughter -
Rick Rowan: Yes.
James Somauroo: Suffering with a condition that can be helped by this. And we often see that with angel investors as well. It's advice that we give to people is try and find people that have those shared motivations, that you'll both run through the brick wall together to get this company built -
Rick Rowan: That's a good analogy.
James Somauroo: Exactly. And it's easier to run through a brick wall when there's two of you trying to break it down, I suppose, or a few of you. Yeah. So, I guess, on that note then, how has being a patient founder helped you in building NuroKor?
Rick Rowan: Well, it’s helped me from the driver of the vision. My own personal story, and let's call it suffering, for that matter, was a huge motivator. My life has simply changed, both from my early discovery of the technology itself, which I'm grateful for. But of course, then, my own ability to focus this science for the outcome.
"My life has changed for the better. My quality of life has changed." - Rick Rowan
Rick Rowan: My period in life or at my age, you're really looking for a why and the want to help as many others as possible is part of that why. There are also further personal reasons. My brother has a rod in his hip, is also arthritic prone, and the device has given him relief that he was able to get in no other way. He's also been on a cocktail of painkillers and anti-inflammatories for years and years and years.It's helped him.
Rick Rowan: On a rather personal note, my mother is suffering from a type of cancer pain and already on a cocktail of pills. And my ability to help her with her pain has also been a personal driver as well. But I suppose, internally, it's hard to explain your 'why'. But when something drives you as strong as it does, all of the distractions, all of the challenges, although sometimes seem insurmountable, sort of they fall by the wayside as you keep focusing on why you're doing it and what the outcome is that you want from it.
James Somauroo: And just playing devil's advocate here, obviously, there's loads and loads and loads of people that this does work for. Are there instances that this doesn't work?
Rick Rowan: Look, absolutely there is. But I'll say this. Most certainly, bioelectronic medicine is not the panacea for everything, nor is our product, the current product, the panacea for all types of pain. There's many, many underlying medical issues and variances that would affect that. But what we are interested in is those that we can help. One of the things we do commercially and we've been lucky thus far in the three months the product has been to market we haven't had one yet, is that we're that confident in what the product does that we have a no qualms 30-day money back guarantee. So, it's simply if somebody purchases the product and it doesn't work for them, we'll take it back. We'll repay the money.
Rick Rowan: Thus far, we've had zero return, surprisingly. And when I say surprisingly because, as I say, we are still being surprised ourselves by how good this initial product is.
Rick Rowan: But adding to that, occasionally, if somebody's not getting the results that they are looking for, they'll lend it to a family friend or member who's got an issue. And statistically, given our current anecdotal data, it's going to work for them and it has. So, it's not to say that it has worked for everybody, but for everybody who's commercially purchased the product, it's worked in one way or another.
James Somauroo: And is it regulated for any sort of safety or medical device standards or anything along those lines?
Rick Rowan: Yeah, absolutely. As a medical device, all of our products must comply with medical CE, but in particular, also FDA. For TENS machines, neuromuscular stimulation machines, microcurrent therapy devices, all fall within what's called a class 2A category for device safety.
James Somauroo: So, in light of that, what's next for NuroKor?
Rick Rowan: We've got a number of projects-product projects, areas of interest within NuroKor that we are going to be directing our focus on. Some of those areas are our women's health. So, things like period pain, endometriosis, other sort of women-specific healthcare issues that we believe bioelectrical medicine may have a huge impact on.
Rick Rowan: Neuromuscular monitoring, something close to your heart, which is used when blocking agents are used for sedation during anaesthesia. What they do is they measure the neuromuscular function of the patient or monitor it through nerve stimulation. That’s already in use at the moment, but we feel there's some huge improvements that can be made, both from ease of use, and thus, adoption particularly for that market. But it's already extensively used throughout Europe and UK. We haven't done the data research in other areas of the globe, but just those two markets is absolutely incredible.
James Somauroo: That's the train off our, right?
Rick Rowan: Yeah, absolutely.
James Somauroo: Yeah. So, for the listeners, that's what anaesthetists will use to see if, like, a neuromuscular blocker is wearing off during surgery. So, yeah, interesting. Interesting place to try and innovate.
Rick Rowan: Shall I call on you for some help with that?
James Somauroo: Yeah, let me know. Let me know. Keep me updated.
Rick Rowan: We also, releasing later this year, specifically an athlete product. So, although our current consumer product is being used and loved by Olympic level athletes or up toOlympic level athletes, should I say, we have got a high end, app-driven, specific athlete product or range of products coming out that will be focusing on power strength recovery with a professional athlete in mind, but of course, if something benefits professional athletes, it goes without saying that it's going to benefit the average user or the hobbyist or the weekender for sure.
James Somauroo: So, I just want to move us on, then, and talk a bit more broadly about the problem that you're solving, kind of more on a population level. As I said, at the very start, that story that I've got around knowing somebody that fell between the cracks and ended upon lots of opioids and things. It's more than one person that I know, to be perfectly honest.
Rick Rowan: Yes.
James Somauroo: This -
Rick Rowan: You are honest and as an anaesthetist.
James Somauroo: Well, indeed. Yeah, I suppose patients, I've definitely seen them. Yeah, as friends, I've even seen a couple. But this opioid epidemic that is talked about, how do you define that, first of all, from where you're stood?
Rick Rowan: It's definitely a global epidemic. I mean, there's so many factors. Without pointing fingers, there's a lot of education issues. For the most part, there's plenty of areas that you could point fingers, but let's just look at it and look at the solution rather than the actual problem.
"One of the issues is that doctors, in general, as prescribers, you can tell them to prescribe less, but they don't have the tools on hand to offer the patient alternatives." - Rick Rowan
Rick Rowan: As we said earlier, they could send them as a referral to a physio or some of other therapy. But as for actual pain relief for that patient, leaving that office for something they can do now or in the next day or next week, there's not a lot of options.
James Somauroo: And we want to solve the problem -
Rick Rowan: Correct.
James Somauroo: When someone's there in pain, right?
Rick Rowan: Yeah, exactly.
James Somauroo: We want to solve that problem, and I agree. It's an easy solution, it's often the easiest solution to just say, "We'll just increase the dose," or something on those lines. So, I'm with you on that.
Rick Rowan: Yeah. I mean, there was a recent, in January, last year, BMJ, British Medical Journal analysis of opioid prescribing for chronic musculoskeletal pain in the UK.
"The study was across 25 general practices and two community services in the UK London and Midlands. They had 703 chronic pain participants and the data was over 12 months. What they found was that 59% of patients were prescribed opioids. Among those prescribed, the number of prescriptions varied from patient to patient, but there was 3319 prescriptions out of 703 participants, which is quite large." - Rick Rowan
James Somauroo: Yeah.
Rick Rowan: That's the level of use for-that's for chronic pain users. These are people that are in absolute chronic pain. I mean, the cost per patient varied from 3 pounds to nearly 5000 pounds average annual prescription costs, depending on what they were prescribed. And approximately 40% of them received prescriptions of strong opioids per year.
Rick Rowan: How do you create a solution to that without sort of making awareness or being on the front foot, being out there and making not just the public, but making the medical fraternity aware of other options, effective options is probably the better word, for patient care. Because they just don't know.
Rick Rowan: When I had a recent hernia operation, the nursing staff were almost insistent that I take opioids as painkillers. To be honest with you, I hid the device under the covers and was using microcurrent as a pain reliever and that's all I used. I didn't actually need the opioids. Although, they were insistent that I did need them.
Rick Rowan: Recently, one of our commercial partners, our videographer partners, also she had a hernia op.She had never seen our device. We sent it to her preoperatively. She'd never seen it before, never touched it, never used it. And she just took it with her and she messaged me the day of the operations and said, "Look, they've given me opioids, but how do I try this when I get home?" So, she did try it. She messaged me and she said, "This is unbelievable. This is the most pain relief I've had with lower dosage of opioids," and there's a whole science behind that. "Am I imagining it or is it true?" Because people are often in disbelief.
Rick Rowan: And I said,"Look, no." Obviously, it could be a placebo effect, but from our own evidence, it's true. In any case, long story short, she couldn't actually handle the side effects of the opioids. So, she ended up just using the device, as did I, for her pain relief and postoperative management.
Rick Rowan: So, there's these options there, but the surgeon or the carers, the hospital would never have thought to offer this solution to a patient postoperatively. And this is an area that we really need to work on this. I've seen firsthand people able to come off-obviously, it needs to be under medical supervision, but come off opioids long term. As well as supplement their dosages, which as you pointed out earlier, is often ever-increasing by using a technology that's effective for pain relief.
James Somauroo: Yeah. And the issue you're talking about there is one of adoption, right? And we know - I say we.I've seen this for a lot of my career, that the issue is not building technology. The technology's already here. It's getting it adopted, right?
Rick Rowan: Yes.
James Somauroo: And so, for you, I can see both sides of the fence here, obviously, because I'm in tech and I deal with lots of startups trying to get their stuff adopted. But similarly, I can understand where clinicians sit on that and they'll want a huge amount of evidence for something to even be considered. They'll want to know everything about the device, they want to know everything about the side effects and this and that and the other. And they'll want randomised control trials and all these different things, even though it might be safe.
Rick Rowan: Mm-hmm(affirmative).
James Somauroo: Because putting myself in that situation, that's what I'd want.
Rick Rowan: Yes.
James Somauroo: But at the same time, I also do want the opportunity to try that because it's an easy, drug free solution with minimal, if any, side effects. It is something that is interesting from that point of view. So, I can see, I guess, the dichotomy there between how clinicians might think about adopting something new like this. But from my perspective, even from the clinician perspective, what I'm thinking here is that there's a huge issue to be solved in allowing people to come off those opioids that you've just described. And whether that's in the acute setting postoperatively or whether that's actually in the outpatient setting with people in chronic pain or from a pain clinic point of view, getting people off opioids is just a huge, huge, huge issue. And anything thatI could have done to help that process would've - from primary care physicians as well.
Rick Rowan: Yeah.
James Somauroo: It's the same thing. Easing people off these opioids is one of the hardest things to do and it's such a labour-intensive process that needs a clinician to be fully engaged with the patient in order to do it. And there's very few services that, I feel, offer that in the UK and I'm not entirely sure about globally. But seeing everything that's coming out in the US at the moment, that is certainly not the case. People like this do exist.
James Somauroo: So, for me, the challenge for you is getting this adopted within the healthcare system, but it seems like you're well on your way. You've already got people turning around from pain teams and saying, "Let's give this a go." You're a class 2medical device.
Rick Rowan: Yes.
James Somauroo: You're ticking so many boxes. It seems like it will only be-it's inevitable almost that this will come in as an option, but what is that path for you? What does the next few months look like in order to facilitate that and get that in further?
Rick Rowan: So at the moment, we're doing quite a few white papers around bioelectronics and their effective use in a number of clinical settings or clinical applications. As well as that we are making inroads, particularly through the pain clinics. As an example, one of the European hospitals, the head of that pain team, for want of an emotive description, fell in love with our device. And so, he's the driver now behind getting that device into that hospital, particularly through the pain team.
Rick Rowan: Adding to that, he lent the product to the head doctor of the hospital, who ended up purchasing his own unit he liked it so much.
"So, I think this education, this awareness, there's quite a bit of stigma around TENS machines, as an example, because that misused term is used to describe literally anything that provides stimulation through the skin." - Rick Rowan
Rick Rowan: And that stimulation can be wide and varied. That could be anything. That could be for neuromuscular, that could be for pain, that could be to reduce inflammation. Those frequencies that are used in those devices, you don't know what's in them. As much as you would say that a pill is a solution for something, what you first want to know is what's in that pill. So, prescribing something TENS is merely a delivery method.
Rick Rowan: But there's a misunderstanding around the technology. So, one other area for us is about the education of that. We've got some good PhDs that are already part of the team and we've got some more joining the team to help us talk in a language that people like yourself or at a medical level can clearly understand
James Somauroo: Sorry. I was just going to say. It's fascinating because I know what some of these listeners are going to be thinking, listening to this podcast, that if-it's one thing that I'm battling with in my own mind as well, which is that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Rick Rowan: Yes.
James Somauroo: As clinicians, we're soused to suffering. We're so used to suffering with our patients going through those things. We're used to difficult, roundabout solutions to things, where we're used to slow computers to print off discharges. We're used to tech not working. That's what we're used to in so much of our lives as clinicians.
James Somauroo: And so, when something comes along and they say, "I'll tell you what. These opioids that have been doing all these horrible things, but giving a decent amount of pain relief, I'll tell you what. We can replace it with this thing that's going to give you no side effects and actually better pain relief than the opioids was," it sounds too good to be true.
James Somauroo: But I completely agree with what you're saying, is that the work that needs to be done now is actually that education bit. Because if, indeed, this is the case, that's the most important bit. So, as you say, the PhDs working with the biomedical engineers in your team and all those different things to come up with these white papers is going to be hugely important. Because the bit that I would highlight there as well, and when I asked you about what your approach was to get this adopted, the bit that I would say is a huge amount of learning there for all other health tech entrepreneurs listening is get people on the inside to champion on it and sell it themselves.
Rick Rowan: Correct. Absolutely.
James Somauroo: Because an outsider to that hospital, depending on where you are in the world, if you don't wear a white coat or a pair of scrubs or roll your sleeves up to go on the wards and be bear below the elbow, there are all these little idiosyncrasies about how to sell things to healthcare systems, and if you don't fit that model, you're not going to be listened to. And so, getting champions on the inside, be those clinicians, be those managers, be those innovation systems that work with those hospitals or different things, it's getting those people on the inside to truly buy in to what you do so that you can then, on the back of their good words and good will, make sales and distribute and make the impact that you're looking for with your company. I think that's a huge, huge learning point.
Rick Rowan: Absolutely, it is. If you're interested, we'll be running CPD courses later on in the year. So, for professional points and those courses will be focused around the introduction and application of bioelectronic medicine.
James Somauroo: On a serious note, keep me updated with that. I genuinely would be interested.
Rick Rowan: Yeah, that's good.
James Somauroo: Cool. So, look, Rick, I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation. It's been fascinating for me. I thinkI've learnt certainly a lot more about the microcurrent stuff than I knew before. And it's interesting to just see how this fits in with that global opioid epidemic and is this something that will proliferate within the healthcare system and actually go toward solving that problem. I think it is a huge problem the issue solves. As I say, I've experienced it, both from friends and patients and things. So, yeah. I'm a full supporter in what you're trying todo.
Rick Rowan: Thank you.
James Somauroo: I think developing that evidence base is going to be key and I think the more people that you can win over and convince with that evidence base, the better.
Rick Rowan: Yeah.
James Somauroo: And yeah, let's hope it gets to the masses and works.
Rick Rowan: Wonderful. Appreciate it.
James Somauroo: So, Rick, the way we end these podcasts is that we hand back over to you to kind of summarize a little bit about yourself, a little bit about NuroKor and the device, and to close us out, to give us any asks that you've got of our audience.
Rick Rowan: I'm Rick Rowan, the CEO and Founder of NuroKor Biomedical. If anyone's interested in knowing more about the company, investing or looking for a solution for themselves or a loved one or family and friends for both pain relief or physical condition, you can pop over to NuroKor , nurokor.com and find our contact details there and some additional information. I'd love to hear from you.
James Somauroo: Cool. Thanks, Rick.
Rick Rowan: You're welcome, James. Thank you.
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