Healthcare innovation

Designing a digital lifeline – Interview with…


Designing a digital lifeline – Interview with…

Brilliantly specializing in the conceptualization, development and production of innovative medical devices and services – D-Heart is an Italian biomedical start-up founded in 2015 by Nicolò Briante and Niccolò Maurizi.

Today, even with wearable devices such as the Fitbit and Apple Watch – the main challenge in healthcare is obtaining concrete medical conclusions from the data collected. 

“With the mission of promoting the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and shaping the ultimate expression of personalized medicine – D-Heart is the first smartphone ECG device clinically reliable, simple to use, portable and affordable” says Briante.

Even with no medical background, it allows one to perform a hospital-level ECG in total autonomy and send the results to a 24/7 telecardiology service or trusted doctor.

Beautifully reflecting the D-Heart brand where simplicity meets reliability – every element from the physical device to the digital app and packaging is designed by Design Group Italia.

© D-Heart

Turning ideas into a reality with a 360-degree approach – Design Group Italia is an international multidisciplinary design studio headquartered in Milan. 

Mastering the intersection between physical and digital, they innovatively envision the future through data and research and fabricate tangible solutions to spark meaningful change.

With cardiovascular diseases representing the leading cause of death and being at heart of the health agenda globally – DesignWanted decided to interview Nicolò Briante (co-founder of D-Heart) and Edgardo Angelini (Partner of Design Group Italia). 

Scroll to step inside the future of medicine and know more about this game-changing, smartphone ECG device:

Could you please tell us more about the founders of D-Heart – Nicolò Briante e Niccolò Maurizi and how you met?

Nicolò Briante: I met Niccolò Maurizi at the university. At the time, we were two young students in the interdisciplinary environment of the Almo Collegio Borromeo of Pavia. 

Maurizi was a young doctor researcher in cardiology at the University of Florence. When he was sixteen, he was hit by a myocardial infarction and decided to become a doctor and transform his problem into an opportunity. 

Putting our will and dream together, we created D-Heart – the first smartphone ECG device that skillfully combines the usability required by the patient and reliability of the ECG wanted by the doctor.

How did the idea of ​​D-Heart and a portable electrocardiograph come about? 

Nicolò Briante: The idea of ​​D-Heart and a portable electrocardiograph stemmed from a magazine – Internazionale – to which we were both subscribed. 

This magazine condensed reflections of great value collected by journalists. However, amongst all the articles – two of them caught our attention.

The first one challenged the myth that cancer – the greatest concern of the 21st century – was the leading cause of death.

Although in reality, analyzing the data at a geographical and demographic level – its numbers are low compared to other types of fatal diseases.

Amongst all, cardiovascular diseases from a stroke to a heart attack are the most life threatening today.

Cardiovascular diseases affect both developed and less developed countries.

This led us to come up with a way of making the prevention and monitoring of cardiovascular diseases easier and outside of hospitals.

The second article revolved around mobile phones that today have a great processing capacity – much higher than the computers of the 2000’s – but haven’t been exploited to the fullest capacity yet. 

Out of the endless number of potential uses, the article went on to highlight how a mobile phone could be utilized to carry out diagnostic tests at home or in the pharmacy. 

This is how the opportunity and​​ the idea of D-Heart – a portable electrocardiograph – was born. 

D-Heart by Nicolò Briante & Design Group ItaliaD-Heart by Nicolò Briante & Design Group Italia© D-Heart

How was the first prototype of ​​D-Heart made?

Nicolò Briante: The first prototype of D-Heart was 3D-printed. However, this electrocardiogram could only make limited diagnosis. 

We then went on to explore further and found a company that had the necessary skills to perfect the model. 

How was the first funding collected to get this idea started?

Nicolò Briante: We started this inspiring journey with no money at the age of 23.

From this, we then went on to being funded by several companies and foundations with our best promotion being word of mouth.

With the Vodafone Foundation – we received their first funding of 30k which was utilized for the prototype and tests of the product on healthcare professionals and patients. 

This was followed by our second funding of 200k with which we added new features as there were micro-themes of product usability that had to be addressed with priority. 

After a lot of brainstorming of what changes needed to be made and how to implement them – the development took place in collaboration with Design Group Italia as well as an engineering and production team who took care of the product and its integration with a smartphone.

Why was Design Group Italia chosen to design this product?

Nicolò Briante: With no background in design whatsoever – we were looking for a studio to collaborate with, a company that had a prestigious history and was qualified for this type of a project. 

We came across Design Group Italia and after taking a look at their product portfolio we realized how it was exactly in line with what we wanted. 

Our purpose was to facilitate the provision of a service and not just make a new product – a mix of eclectic elements that only a reality like Design Group Italia could seamlessly develop.

What is the role of design and its importance in this project?

Nicolò Briante: Today, medical devices don’t put people at complete ease and we wanted D-Heart to be appreciated by everyone for which its design needed the utmost attention. 

A solution was needed so that a chronic patient would feel comfortable and only good design was the answer. 

With great attention to intricate detail, usability, practicality and aesthetics – D-Heart went on to harmoniously fuse clinical reliability with ease of use, standing out in the medical market. 

Such as – thanks to its image-processing and artificial intelligence it can effortlessly guide one to the correct electrode’s placement by showing one their own chest picture with virtual marks placed where one should stick the electrodes.

What were the difficulties faced during this project?

Nicolò Briante: D-Heart’s aim is to reduce costs compared to public health services today by providing monitoring and prevention at home.

However, the difficulties faced was the market regulation which is super expensive and limits innovation in Europe!

Taking a social stance across the globe – D-Heart is utilized in cardiovascular screening campaigns today by NGOs and private foundations, as well as benefit corporations in Senegal, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Bangladesh and more.

D-Heart by Nicolò Briante & Design Group ItaliaD-Heart by Nicolò Briante & Design Group Italia© D-HeartD-Heart by Nicolò Briante & Design Group ItaliaD-Heart by Nicolò Briante & Design Group Italia© D-Heart


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