In the COVID-19 pandemic, preventing the development of chronic conditions through early intervention has become more challenging in many ways.
One app which aims to assist with this through a designated fitness regime is EXi.
Created by former Team GB physio Carron Manning and her husband Lewis – a former physio at Arsenal Football Club – the EXi app has been selected for the 2020/21 DigitalHealth.London Accelerator programme.
Carron and Lewis have over 40 years of physio experience between them, with Carron previously working in a number of different sports within Team GB.
Leiws has over seven years of experience in professional football, notably with Arsenal and Leyton Orient.
They are now using this knowledge to produce Exi, an app that tracks a patient’s fitness and health status and delivers them a bespoke exercise plan, designed to gradually improve their health and wellbeing.
The software can provide digital health data which can be used to help keep its users active – and play an active role in preventing up to 23 conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Carron, CEO of EXi, told Health Tech World why she and her husband left the world of professional sport to pursue something more mainstream.
“The reason we started to look into a platform like Exi was purely from a clinical need,” Carron said. “We had noticed people coming through from their GP who hadn’t had any mention of improving their physical activity levels.
“Doctors [tend to] give out drugs for everything and that’s what they should do, that’s what they are trained in. But the actual evidence and medical advice says we should be looking at managing a patients lifestyle and changing their physical activity levels.
“Very often, exercise out performs drugs when they are put side to side in clinical trials for certain conditions.”
EXi was recently selected for the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator programme, which aims to help healthcare innovators like Carron and Lewis get their technology into the NHS London.
Funded by the European Regional Development Fund, the prestigious project is in its fifth consecutive year now and has helped over 100 companies so far, creating over 500 jobs in the process.
“We are absolutely delighted to be a part of this,” Carron told Health Tech World. “It really helps companies like us become embedded in the NHS, so we can’t wait to get started.
“Particularly this year, where digital health has pushed forward so much meaning the competition for the programme was so high, so we feel very grateful to be a part of it.”
Through the programme, EXi will be assigned their own NHS navigator, who will give them guidance as well as access to workshops, events and connections from the health tech industry.
As well as working with elite athletes, both Carron and Lewis have worked in the NHS previously. Carron says this will help EXi in terms of working with patients and making life easier for professionals.
“I can look at it from both sides, so I know what clinicians need to see and what data they need. Now I have worked on the tech side for about three years, so I can think about it from both angles.
“I do also know the challenges that clinicians have. The lack of time, the lack of resources, the number of patients waiting or when your manager asks you to use a new IT system, which is always a nightmare.
“Technology like EXi has to make life easier for clinicians, this is the only way we are ever going to get adoption. There is no excuse now for developers not to be thinking about this. If we can automate things and make things seamless, that will help with success.”
Although Exi is mainly designed to prevent chronic disease or help those who have already been diagnosed with a similar condition, Carron says they have noticed a much wider demographic using it and not just for their physical health.
“The app is really aimed at people who are 40 plus, because that’s when your risk of chronic disease increases. But actually we have found that people are using it younger.
“Throughout lockdown we’ve noticed people who are registering as depressed, stressed or anxious are far higher than we could have ever imagined and we have made changes in the app to accommodate this.
“Up to 60% of people with diabetes also have depression for example. So we have to stop thinking of the two in isolation, it’s very normal to have multi mobility.”
To help with this increased demand for mental health conditions, EXi now has features specifically tailored for this, such as mindfulness sessions and motivational content to be used while exercising.
As well as being used in the NHS, the app has worldwide appeal too.
“I really do believe this is the future of medicine,” Carron said. “The highest level plan for me is just to change medicine. We know how important exercise is, but it’s currently overlooked as a ‘nice to have’.
As for the future of EXi, Carron wants to see exercise prescriptions becoming as widely available as other medical services, with the app being the starting point for prevention and early intervention.
“The evidence is so strong for exercise as an intervention. We have all these chronic diseases that are getting worse, like diabetes and heart disease, and we can make a huge difference.
“Ultimately our hope is that exercise prescriptions will be available on the table at the same time as the prescription for drugs, which should be at the point of care.”
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