The past few years have really seen organisations for “social good” – such as social enterprises, mutuals, public sector subsidiaries and health and social care start-ups – rise and begin to conquer the UK social services and health scene. There is so much innovative work being done by this new wave of service-providers to bring fresh ways of working to the third and public sector, which the team here at ROI (ή) has been feeling particularly inspired by lately, especially given how valuable the work these organisations do is. With every technological advancement, groundbreaking new app or more modern approach being taken, the lives of everyday people are being improved, drastically in some cases. That’s something we need to be talking about more!
One specific corner of the sector – the UK’s ‘health-tech’ arena, which currently employs more than 121,000 people across 3,500 companies and is worth around £3billion – is really moving ahead in leaps and bounds, innovation-wise. In recent years, the sector has enjoyed growth of around 5% due to the thriving community of digital startups (source: startups.co.uk, July 2019). This is exciting – innovation by these health and social care businesses not only has the potential to improve the way our NHS delivers services. It could also revolutionise healthcare delivery globally. Furthermore, it provides a promising example of how the public and private sector can work, in harmony, towards a common goal, for ‘social good’.
Here are a few of the health-tech innovators that have caught our attention recently…
1. Cera Care & the ‘Uber’ of social care
London-based homecare company Cera Care identified a huge problem in the social care industry and then used technology to help solve it.
According to The Health Foundation, there are over 80,000 social care job vacancies at any one time in England. At a simple administrative level, that means there are a whole lot of patients and their families that desperately need to be connected with carers and healthcare professionals, locally. This can be facilitated by a technological infrastructure that allows patients and their carers to connect to care workers in a much more integrated and effective way than currently on offer.
Cera, created by former doctor Ben Maruthappu and Marek Sacha in 2016, sought to provide that infrastructure in a very 21st-century manner. The company developed what is now often referred to as ‘the Uber of social care’ – an app that quickly and easily connects carers with patients. Cera has partnered with various NHS trusts and
clinical commissioning groups so that doctors can directly refer patients to care through the Cera app, allowing care to be organised within 24-hours, as opposed to the usual weeks or even longer as is often the case when using a traditional care agency. The app’s sophisticated algorithms also enable users to search for criteria as detailed as, for instance, ‘dementia expertise’ with an ‘interest in gardening’, ‘French language skills’, ‘car and driving license’, and so forth.
Not only does the app improve the lives of those needing care, but has an overall positive impact on NHS as a whole. Beds are more quickly freed up for others in need and administrative work is cut down, allowing our doctors and nurses to focus on what they do best – treating patients.
Since launching the app in 2017, Cera has continued to use technology to provide social care solutions and improve the delivery of services across the country. Its Connected Care app, launched late last year, for example, gives patients, care workers and their families a single platform from which they can coordinate basic activities such as booking taxis and ordering food. It takes a much wider, lifestyle-based approach to care and is no doubt already beginning to give our more vulnerable members of society the independence and dignity they deserve while easing the burden on their carers and family.
What do we love most about Cera’s approach to social care? It’s an easy to use, commonsense and results-based solution. Cera is not afraid to utilise models that others in the private sector have already proved to be effective and has carefully considered the real needs of everybody involved in the caring process and specifically addressed them using tech.
2. Live Better With & online cancer shopping and support
Live Better With initially sought to provide advice about managing day-to-day symptoms to cancer patients. Following its global success, it now also assists those dealing with dementia and menopause and hopes to branch out further in the future.
How does it work? Live Better With is more or less an online community – albeit a massive one, with more than 70k members – through which individuals can read reviews from other community members about products related to cancer/dementia/menopause side effects and purchase them. Specific concerns (e.g. hair loss, nausea, poor sleep…) can be searched, allowing users to browse a wide range of different products proven by the community to be useful. As a result, users are saved immense amounts of time and stress and can be directed to products and services they perhaps never even knew existed to help them manage their symptoms.
Through the Live Better With website and app, users can also read helpful articles and first-hand stories from others facing similar conditions, chat on the community forum, and find support services ranging from support groups to travel insurance providers.
What do we love most about Live Better With’s approach to health care? Live Better With has created a platform which illuminates the brightest, most promising corner of the Internet and the wonderful potential it holds for those facing serious health conditions. So often, when it comes to anything on the net, there is a focus on the negative such as online bullying, scams and trolling. Live Better With has demonstrated the opposite. It shows that the online space can be a supportive one.
Its work is also another fantastic example of how private sector pursuits can complement the work being done by the third sector (e.g. cancer charities) and the public sector (the NHS). Likewise, it demonstrates that not all commercialism (online shopping for healthcare products) is focused on simply making profits.
3. Thriva & the at-home finger-prick test
The concept behind Holborne-based health startup Thriva’s offering is simple: putting power back in the hand (or should we say, finger?!) of the patient.
Thriva’s primary service is marketed as ‘personalised blood test’ for those wanting to better track their own health, sans the traditional visit to the doctor. Individuals can go online, take a short quiz (answering questions focused around their healthcare goals such as mood improvement, general long-term health, weight management, monitoring an existing medical condition, etc.), and then receive a finger-prick test in the mail. After it’s sent back, within around 48-hours customers receive a detailed report online compiled by a qualified GP outlining suggestions on how to track and improve their health based on the results of the prick test. The service can be purchased in a subscription format, enabling users to regularly monitor their health.
It’s also complemented by an app allowing individuals to further record and track their health progress online. If, for example, the test determined you were a little low on vitamin B12 or iron, you would be aided through diet and lifestyle changes to help improve your health status.
While Thriva’s service by no means aims to replace regular check-ups with a GP and is no doubt a divider of opinion in terms of accuracy, there are few who would dispute the merits of empowering patients to take their health into their own hands through, for example, making healthier lifestyle choices.
What do we love most about Thriva’s approach to health care? Aside from the patient empowerment aspect we’ve already mentioned, the company is a fabulous example of vibrant marketing and how health services can be marketed, modernly. The company’s Instagram account, for example, boasts an eye-catching assortment of sharply branded designs and frequently features staff profiles to personalise the brand. Thriva also hosts an informative podcast – ‘How does *blank* affect your health?” – exploring issues related to health and wellbeing with qualified experts as well as an active blog function on its website featuring relevant reads such as Is Organic Food Worth the Pricetag. Thriva’s friendly, social-media-savvy approach to health is one that all in the sector could benefit from observing.
4. Walk With Path & some truly innovative walking solutions
Walk With Path is a health-tech company focused on assistive solutions to prevent falls for the elderly and people with Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, neuropathy or stroke. In an amazing display of innovation, the Denmark-based organisation has developed a shoe attachment, called the Path Finder, that provides visual cues to help people with unsteady and irregular gait. The device fits onto a persons’ ordinary shoes and projects laser lines to help the individual find a more regular gait.
Walk With Path also produces a product called Path Feel, an insole for shoes which helps the wearer to feel the floor better and thereby reduces the risk of falls.
What do we love most about Walk With Path’s approach to health care? It’s always uplifting to see examples of companies utilising science and cutting-edge design to create products that really make an impact on the lives of those who need help most. Walk With Path is one such organisation.
Walk With Path should also be commended on their efforts to build a better online community for those who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. On its Facebook page, for example, the company shares regular engaging updates ranging from must-see movies about the disease to ‘did you know’ facts such as the benefits of owning a dog for those with Parkinson’s. It’s a fresh, fun approach that not only assists people with the disease but helps raise awareness of it in a relatable way.
As the sector continues to grow, it will become more and more important that healthtech companies are able to build trusting relationships with customers, philanthropic capital funders, institutional funders and delivery partners.
Over the past year and to support innovative start-ups with both their sales and their service delivery efforts, we have teamed up with sales experts Miradorus to create a new sales training offer for organisations focused on creating social value within the health and local government sectors. This allows us to help healthtech startups bring together advanced technology skills with core business development and sales capabilities and by doing so, maximise the impact of their work.
For more information on our ‘Selling Social Good’ training session, please visit LINK.