The UK has suffered considerably from Covid-19, with tremendous pressure placed on our healthcare system. Amid the burden and a long road to recovery, there are some reasons to be optimistic – young, dynamic companies and their inspirational entrepreneurs are developing solutions with the potential to transform medicine.
I have been particularly impressed in recent months by a number of early-stage projects and companies, and visionary leaders, that are creating new technologies, devices and solutions to help the UK’s healthcare system evolve and adapt to future challenges.
These innovators can help us to better respond to health conditions and diseases, make treatments more efficient and effective, and ultimately improve patient wellbeing and save lives.
Here are my top five start-up innovations set to transform healthcare:
Healthcare providers have dealt with a long-standing reliance on legacy systems such as paper and Microsoft Excel, which are inconsistent, hard to access, disorganised and difficult to extract any meaningful data from. Moreover, fragmentation of service provision in healthcare is one of the biggest burdens to the NHS as it leads to duplication, incorrect treatment, omission of action, lost referrals and inefficient triage, which has the potential to cause severe harm or even death, as well as contribute to a growing backlog of patients and rising costs.
Open Medical was set up to address this issue. It works with the NHS to cut waiting times, reduce inefficiencies, optimise scheduling and digitise processes. It has built a digital platform for clinicians to help co-ordinate care, improve service and simplify communication.
The company’s newest clinical solution, SurgiCare, connects surgical, pre-operative assessment, and anaesthetic teams, and is designed to tackle the backlog in waiting lists, optimise theatres, reduce patient footfall and move to a paper-light approach.
Over 24,000 UK patients undergo in-clinic dialysis – a complex, life-preserving treatment – for conditions such as diabetes and hypertension several times a week. Prior to Covid-19, these patients were able to dialyse away from their home clinic to visit family, friends or take a holiday. Given the commitments involved in their treatment, the ability to travel played an important role in increasing their quality of life.
During the pandemic, travel options for dialysis patients were severely limited. Clinics were not accepting temporary patients, forcing them to return to their home clinic every other day. There has been a considerable lag for patients to return to travel as it was before Covid-19 and this will remain the case unless clinics can find a way to process temporary treatments easily and safely.
Medicalisys has created DialysisAway to make the sending and receiving of temporary dialysis patients more viable in the new post-Covid-19 reality. Its centralised system allows dialysis patients to travel with ease by seamlessly organising their treatment across different dialysis centres.
An urgent challenge in the healthcare sector is the increasing demands on global health systems caused by a growing, ageing population and a constrained supply of doctors. The World Health Organisation has called for six million additional nurses by 2030, from the existing 20 million today, to achieve global health targets, and for their roles to be expanded to take on more clinical diagnostic responsibilities.
There are many clinical decision support systems available for healthcare professionals. Most are targeted at doctors and assume a high level of clinical knowledge with medical inferences required by the user. There are currently no clinical decision support systems aimed specifically at the advanced practitioner (AP) workforce (nurses, paramedics, physicians associates) in triage.
DemDx is deploying an AI tool to help APs deliver safe and responsive care in the community and urgent care centres to reduce emergency hospital admissions and treat more patients safely in their homes. Its tool covers 14 specialities and 50,000 possible care pathways.
Explain my Procedure
The Covid-19 pandemic created new barriers to medical communication at the time it was needed most. Face-to-face explanation of medical treatments was limited and largely replaced by remote consultation using phone and video. Patient understanding of illness and treatment was incomplete before Covid-19 and is set to worsen further with this ongoing change in the delivery of healthcare.
Explain my Procedure is a multi-language online platform for digital animations that supports medical communication and has been shown to improve understanding of the benefits, risks and alternatives before heart procedures. The technology is now being developed across specialties to serve healthcare workers, patients and their families.
Explain my Procedure animations will facilitate understanding of treatment options and the surgical procedures in the areas of cancer, orthopaedics and surgery to complement the cardiovascular service that is already available. The animations will be available in languages that can be selected by the user on an online web-platform to bridge the communication gap between hospital staff, patients and their families.
By 2025 there will be over 1 billion women in the world going through menopause, representing 12% of the entire world population. Most women experience symptoms and for some these can be severe, including hot flushes, insomnia and anxiety.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) developed specifically for menopausal symptoms can help women to manage hot flushes and night sweats and has been found to be effective in clinical trials. The North American Menopause Society recommends CBT as an effective non-hormonal treatment option for hot flushes and night sweats. The UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends CBT for women going through the menopause who are experiencing low mood or anxiety.
Lumino is using digital technology to enable more women to get convenient, high quality CBT support. Its digital therapeutic programme will give women access to cognitive and behavioural techniques whenever and wherever works for them. The company’s ultimate aim is to disrupt the way healthcare is currently delivered, and in doing so help millions of people have better mental health.
The Sustainable Innovation Fund, set up by Innovate UK in 2020, is a £250m public investment programme that provides financial backing and support for innovation projects to help build a greener, fairer, and more resilient future for the UK.