The accelerator DigitalHealth.London was launched in 2016 by London Mayor Sadiq Khan. Going into its third year, it helps small- and medium-sized businesses grow, and with that helps the UK and NHS adopt innovative healthcare solutions at scale. In 2014, previous Mayor Boris Johnson launched MedCity, a joint venture between Oxford, Cambridge and London Universities KCL, UCL and Imperial. London and its administration has clearly invested a lot of time and money into healthtech and, unsurprisingly, several world-leading startups have emerged from the capital. Here are 10 to keep an eye out for:
Babylon Health is one of the most high-profile healthtech firms dragging the NHS into a new period of innovation. The startup runs GP at Hand, the service which hit the headlines late in 2017: it allowes the NHS to facilitate video consultation, allowing patients to get treatment quicker, more easily and without having to travel to a surgery. The launch has been an overwhelming success so far, and Babylon’s partnership with the NHS puts it in good stead for 2018.
Social media moguls tend to emphasise the importance of connecting people through their businesses. Nowadays this notion might often fall on deaf ears, but Vida is a company which does this more meaningfully. Connecting carers to patients, Vida is a home-care service that offers customers a flat fee and guarantees a decent hourly wage for professional care practitioners. Founded in 2016 by former M&A analyst Naushard Jabir, Vida seeks to redress the much-maligned injustices of an ailing UK care industry.
Having recently raised £20m in funding, DoctorLink is a 2016 startup that provides a digital tool which supports NHS GPs in their triage – the initial assessment of an illness or injury. Its first product, released earlier this year, is a clinically certified Symptom Assessment tool designed to be compatible with a GP Practice’s IT system. It has been piloted in a small number of surgeries and further rollout is expected in the coming months.
Operating for several years now, Physitrack is a key part of Apple’s accelerator, the Mobility Partner Program. The company provides a service to aid the likes of physical therapists and chiropractors as well as their patients. Physitrack allows the practitioner to prescribe physical exercises from a bank of thousands the product provides, support their patients through their recovery as well as monitoring their progress throughout the whole process. Plans for 2018 include seeking public listing on the stock market to raise funds for expansion beyond the 1.2m patients currently on its books.
BenevolentAI is a ‘unicorn’ startup – one with a billion-dollar-plus valuation – which makes it one to take notice of. BenevolentAI is a company which, if it continues to succeed, threatens to turn the pharmaceuticals industry on its head. It uses artificial intelligence to trawl through all manner of biomedical research and statistics to synthesise medical data into its own drug research predictions. BenevolentAI have demonstrated their intent by recently hiring Jerome Pesenti, former AI head honcho for IBM’s Watson, the most sophisticated supercomputer in the world. If you believe the hype, the potential for AI is staggering; BenevolentAI, hopefully as the name suggests, aims for its impact to be a positive one.
Another NHS partner on this list is Echo, a free and simple service that helps patients stay on top of their repeat prescriptions. The app links with your local GP practice and automatically re-orders your prescription as and when you need it. It even tracks your daily usage of drugs and has helped thousands who might find it difficult to stay on top of complex prescriptions. Aside from this, Echo will save the NHS millions of hours in needless appointments and paperwork, providing a common-sense solution to an instance of simple inconvenience for many.
Facebook’s foray into virtual reality, Oculos, was an example of a British startup that hasn’t quite taken off quite how it might have hoped. However, London startup Touch Surgery has found support from the original backers of Oculos and has raised around £20m to develop its augmented reality tool that trains medics in the nuances of surgery. In its current form, the app provides video tutorials for hundreds of procedures, but its future plans of creating interactive digital content delivered through headsets promises to be an exciting and worthwhile addition to surgical training.
Many of the healthtech startups about address the patient-doctor dynamic at some level. Unmind is different in that it helps businesses manage the mental wellbeing of its workforce. Awareness of mental health is forever growing, and the workplace is no different. Unmind allows employers to provide easy access to a toolbox of evidence-based interventions to resort to at times of high stress. Unmind claims to provide each employee reached 11% more energy or 16.7% more happiness. Who doesn’t want to be 16.7% happier?
The simple goal of Sleepstation is to provide online insomnia treatment that works. The usual concern is that technology actually inhibits our ability to sleep well, so the London startup has its work cut out. Co-founder Dr Kirstie Anderson designed the Sleepstation methodology with Teeside University in Newcastle and the app uses Cognitive Behavioural Therapy techniques to help people nod off.
Who says healthcare had to be all work and no play? BfB Labs certainly doesn’t – it make games that keep one eye on the emotional wellbeing of the player. Helped by Google in its early stages, its first title is Champions of Shengha, a game that forces heart-monitoring wearing players to combine strategy skills with emotional control to progress. BfB is an early pioneer in Emotionally Responsive Gaming, a way of playing games that requires the user to control content with both body and mind. Accepting that video games are part and parcel of childhood, BfB provides a means of tapping into that rich time resource to combat child mental illness. These early applications of BfB’s technology are just an indication of how we might be able to play our way to a healthier state of mind.