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Belgian health tech startup raises £1.9m

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Healthcare technology startup, Awell Health, has raised £1.9m in funding to bring its  collaboration and productivity tools to the healthcare industry.

Early stage VC investor LocalGlobe led the round, with involvement from Moonfire.

The Brussels-based company says it will be recruiting software engineers to further develop the product and aims to expand geographically, with a current focus on the European market and plans to expand to the US in 2021.

Awell Health is an approved NHSX supplier and currently has its pathways live in just under twenty hospitals.

This includes a COVID-19 pathway used by several Belgian hospitals, which has so far been used by over 50,000 people.

While many think data is the answer to solving the current healthcare crisis, Awell Health believes the focus needs to be on reorganising largely paper-based processes.

Thomas Vande Casteele (pictured), co-founder and CEO, at Awell Health says: “Technology has enabled teams in almost all industries to digitise and reinvent their workflow, but healthcare is still largely stuck in its old ways, using outdated traditional paper-based processes.

“As consumers, we are led to believe the industry has rapidly transformed – with news of innovations in robotic surgeries, new treatments, apps and wearables – but the way care delivery is organised has changed very little.”

Traditionally, healthcare organisations have used tools such as text-based PDFs to create and implement guidelines, clinical protocols and care pathways. This has been known to make the path from evidence to practice very slow.

Awell Health says COVID-19 has exacerbated this problem and has demonstrated a need for easier and faster implementation of patient guidelines and care pathways.

Vande Casteele says: “Making existing care processes evolve to reflect the latest clinical insights continues to be an archaic, slow and cumbersome process.

“New evidence is generated at a rapid pace yet takes ages to be included in the standard of care. In the Netherlands, for example, certain guidelines have a maximum validity of five years before they should be reassessed, in practice, we see many guidelines older than five years’ old.

“The reality is, they should be updated much more frequently as clinical research is published which has been rising exponentially over recent years. Existing solutions are not built to support these complex needs.”

Awell Health’s platform enables healthcare organisations to create, implement and update care pathways.

As opposed to text-based PDF documents, clinicians can create visual guidelines and care pathways, share interactive scenarios for validation and training and build on colleagues’ work through a ‘pathway library’.

Healthcare professionals can also integrate pathways with electronic patient records and electronic medical records.

The company says that by bringing these elements together, care teams can apply learnings into practice faster and improve workflow efficiency and patient outcomes.

Vande Casteele says: “Use of our platform already lowers the cost of care delivery and improves the outcomes for the patients of the care teams working with us.

“We want to do this at the largest scale possible. By democratising the building of guidelines and pathways, and facilitating implementation, we make this technology available to any care team.

The platform is divided into three parts, with the first two being free to use.

The first area of the platform is a drag and drop digital pathway builder. Once the pathway has been created, the software allows clinical teams to stimulate what would happen in reality for a typical patient in the pathway.

The third part is designed for implementing digital care pathways with electronic medical records, so individual patients can be tracked through the pathway.

Thomas says: “What makes our platform unique is that anyone can build and publish pathways and guidelines.

Currently, you need to read through text to understand how these scenarios play out but with Awell you have interactive scenarios, which can be published to train, educate and use at the point of care in one click. And all of this can be done free of charge.”

Dr Ingel Demedts is a pulmonary physician at AZ Delta and thoracic oncologist at Ghent University and has first-hand experience using the platform.

Demedts says: “Much more than just collecting outcomes, our digital transmural pathway from Awell has changed our entire care process for lung cancer patients.

“We have been able to integrate each patient’s point of view (both physical as well as psychosocial) on a systematic basis and increase the communication between patients, their GPs and the multidisciplinary hospital team.

“It has allowed the implementation of value-based health care in daily clinical practice, bringing our standard of care to a higher level from the very beginning of diagnosis and treatment until the end of life.”

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