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Norwegian remote monitoring company plans for UK expansion

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Dignio, a Norwegian remote monitoring company, is aiming to scale up in the UK following the completion of a series A funding round earlier this year. 

Dignio launched in 2010 and had its first deployment in 2012 in the Norwegian healthcare system, a publicly funded body similar to the NHS.

The company has grown organically since then to become a market leader in Norway and in 2017, expanded its reach to the UK market.

Now, having secured series A funding earlier this year, the company is aiming to scale up in the UK and have its solutions rolled out across the NHS and in local authority healthcare services.

According to Dignio’s UK managing director, Ewa Truchanowicz, the company struggled to gain traction at first, but in late 2019, Dignio secured its first UK client, Mastercall.

Mastercall is a Stockport-based out of hours care provider to the NHS. Dignio is used in residential care homes and at patients’ own home settings. Funded by the Stockport City Council, the project has helped reduce avoidable hospital admissions from care homes in Stockport by 44 percent, equating to a £6 million saving.

“The main impact that we’ve seen is a reduction in hospital admissions,” Truchanowicz said. “It’s really bad for people to go into hospital; they lose muscles, they pick up infections and they deteriorate rapidly, so it’s best to keep them out if you can.

“The other problem is that a lot of the time an ambulance will be called out when it’s not really [necessary]. But, people are worried, they don’t quite know what to do, they panic and they call an ambulance.”

With Dignio, Mastercall has also been able to reduce ambulance call outs as well as face-to-face visits.

Truchanowicz continued: “With the solution, the person is monitored and it picks up when they start getting worse. [Sometimes] this is very acute and it’s very dramatic, but [other times] it builds up over time.

“Getting that remote assistance from Mastercall enables [healthcare professionals] to deal with the person locally. So, instead of calling an ambulance or calling a GP, they can come and assess them and they can carry out the assessment remotely using our solution.”

The organisation now has nine virtual wards focused on conditions that include dementia, diabetes, COPD, heart failure, COVID-19 and, more recently, long Covid.

Prior to the pandemic, there was a suspicion of digital solutions and a lack of appetite for Dignio’s software, Truchanowisz said. But since March 2020, the company has seen a surge in interest.

“When COVID-19 hit, there was a sudden chasm opening between the capabilities of the system to look after people remotely, and what was out there in the market,” Truchanowicz said. “That has really changed mindsets within the NHS, so I think going forward it will be an easier conversation.

“We service 25,000 citizens in Oslo on the Covid app. There was a big uptake [in Norway] because of the necessity, but also in the UK.

Dignio is a remote monitoring system that is designed to support care regardless of the patient’s location. The company was inspired by the personal experiences of its founder, Lars Christian Dahl, whose family members suffered with long-term health conditions. They set out to develop a platform that democratised healthcare and empowered patients to allow them to self-manage their condition.

“[We think] there must be a better way to see what’s going on with people in between clinic visits, in between the assessments,” Truchanowicz said. “There must be a better way to give them tools to support their knowledge of the illness, to learn about themselves and to be free, not to be controlled by [their] condition, but to be able to understand what’s going on and to plan their life accordingly.”

Dignio is a registered software as a medical device (SaMD) and consists of three components. Dignio Prevent is the central app which allows healthcare professionals to provide care to large numbers of patients who self-monitor their own health conditions. Prevent is accompanied by two companion apps; MyDignio, a patient-facing app that transfers individual’s health data to Dignio Prevent, and DignioCare for care professionals who are caring for patients out in the community.

“You get a dual feed, one for the individual and one from the professional at the same time,” Truchanowicz continued. “We’ve [found] that creates really exciting opportunities for, for example, early detection of dementia, when the views of the world differ dramatically – professionals are reporting one set of observations, and the patient is saying, ‘no I feel perfectly fine’.”

The company also offers fifteen Bluetooth enabled, integrated devices for measuring vital signs and providing clinicians with real-time data.

Dignio has been selected on the Yorkshire & Humber Academic Health Science Network’s inaugural ‘green’ accelerator programme to support the NHS with its net-zero agenda.

“Because of the way procurement has been practised, because of the way it’s been set up and the way the supply chain operates, it is actually creating quite a bit of pollution itself,” Truchanowicz explained. “The recognition is to have healthy citizens, you can’t have them in dirty environments, so it is looking at tools and solutions that enable a better urban environment and better healthcare delivery, without contributing to the problem.

“The ambition of the green accelerator is to work with suppliers to calculate the amount of pollution they are introducing at the moment, and to what extent they are contributing to the reduction in the carbon footprint.

“[We will look across the supply chain for each supplier to see what we can do to reduce the impact and to encourage procurement practices [to] focus on reducing that carbon footprint and being better coordinated in terms of how we deliver the industry of health and social care.”

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