Top 10 European Digital Start-ups Empowering Patients & Health Professionals

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By Fiona Cameron  @cameron_fiona
Digital Communications Manager, My Care Academy.

Today is the end of #NHS70DigitalWeek.  What’s that I hear you ask?  Good question.

It’s part of the NHS 70th birthday celebrations and NHS Digital is promoting all things digital that are improving and empowering the lives of patients and staff.  Often the news is peppered with negative tech news – remember WannaCry and the recent IT issues with Visa and TSB?  It’s easy to forget the opportunities that embracing digital communication and tools can provide healthcare which has been slow to the ‘digital disruption’ party. I’m writing this blog to round-up some of the top 10 digital start-ups emerging across Europe that are shaping the future of healthcare. From phone apps to track our steps and wearables to track our sleep tech has become part of our daily lives.

However, if you’re technophobic and about to click onto another web page I’d urge you to stick with reading this blog – because it’s not all about tech ‘bling’.  The tech of tomorrow is all about empowering people and making it easy and accessible to use for patients and health professionals. Even if you’re a quiet technophobe there should be something that inspires you on this list below whether you’re a healthcare student, patient, carer, clinician or academic.

1 Babylon App Free & Paid on iOS & Android
Babylon website

Babylon is a new healthcare app that enables patients to ‘Ask, Talk or get a health check (coming soon)’. The app combines the power of Ai (that’s Artificial Intelligence) with human medical expertise.  Their vision is to provide ‘put an accessible and affordable health service in the hands of every person on earth.  They have a paid and free NHS plan called GP at Hand – Powered by Babylon – which is subject to being based in travel zones 1 to 3 & being willing to switch from your current surgery to Babylon.  Services for NHS patients that sign up include online and face-to-face appointments, convenient prescriptions, a choice of GP clinics across London. It’s one to watch as London continues to become crowded and traditional GP clinics become busier. Will virtual GPs will become more popular than face to face ones?

2   Cera  Web App Paid

Is a provider of home-care services for senior citizens and adults that need personal care support.  The algorithm and automated systems within Cera enable them to respond to requests within 1 hour and 96% of care begins on the same day as the help request. Prices start at £18 an hour to other price points for half a day or overnight help.   Their business model means they have lower overheads than larger care companies so they are proud of paying their caretakers 50% more than the industry average. Their awards to date include

  • Most Outstanding Digital Health Innovation of the Year
  • LaingBuisson Dementia Care Award
  • Best London Home Care Company at the Social Care Awards – 2018
  • Disruptive Leader of the Year and Britain’s Health Start-up of the Year

Cera is disrupting the care market – will it take off across Europe?

3  Lifesum App Paid iOS & Android
lifesum website

This app promises to make healthy living simple and with over 25 million downloads it looks like they’ve found a recipe for success.  The Swedish health start-up has a vision ‘to make it simple for people everywhere to form habits that build towards healthier, happier lives’. How? By using their applied psychology and technology to help positive behaviour change stick. The website messaging sells the benefits of the app to ‘Lose weight. Get stronger. Eat better. Make it happen with Lifesum’. Tapping into the obesity crisis and the time poor lives we lead they’ve become popular. Backed by Nokia it’s become one of the most popular health apps in Germany, France, Italy, and Scandinavia.

The app offers shopping lists, recipes, pre-planned meal guides, food database, exercise tracker and calorie counter all for 3.75 US Dollars a month. The hook of this versus or free apps like My Fitness Pal is that Lifesum promises to ‘help you lose weight in 3 weeks’ via personalised diet plans and habit tracking integration with Apple Health, Google Fit, Android Health, Runkeeper, Fitbit, Moves, Jawbone, and Endomondo.  No doubt this lose weight within 3 +weeks health plan and features will appeal to people nervously trying on their summer outfits before the big August getaway begins. The app has picked up some awards along the way with

  • Apple giving Editors choice award App of the year 2013, 2014 & 2015
  • Android The best of Google Play 2017 & Android Excellence Awards 2017

4  Selfapy  Web Paid Germany

Is the digitalisation of psychotherapy. Its founders were concerned that in Germany almost every 60 minutes someone dies from death by suicide.  The two psychologists from Berlin decided to make a positive difference to the 4 million people in Germany with depression by creating Selfapy in a bid to remove the usual time delays and hurdles to mental health support. Their online therapy course has 9 modules where users are asked key questions to help minimise negative thoughts. Then each participant has a 45-minute call with a psychotherapist.  The online course is around 125 Euros over time that may be reduced further.  The founders aim is that health insurance companies will cover the course costs.  It’ll be interesting to see how they track their impact and success. Could it revolutionise help and access to early treatment for those with depression across Europe?

5  Bounce Works  Mixed  Web  Game
Bounce Works website

Is targeted towards kids and teens to help them ‘get their bounce back’. Launched in 2016 it teaches compassion, emotional resilience, and well-being.  Their vision is to ‘make moments that count’ through user-centered design. The Bounce Works founder is a child and family psychotherapist with over 16 years experience of supporting marginalised young people. He ran therapeutic education provision for adolescents with complex trauma and also kickstarted Headspace’s mindfulness app for kids. Apart of Me is a crowdsourced product they crowdfunded to create a safe virtual space that helps families find their way through grief.  They are now taking this prototype and scaling it up to reach more families so watch this space.

Echo On App   Free iOS & Android 

Is a new app that allows patients to order repeat prescriptions from Doctors. Did you know that half of all UK adults use repeat prescriptions yet 40% of their medication isn’t taken as directed? This costs the NHS billions in waste each year. Echo’s mission is to ‘remove the barriers to adherence through elegant, user-focused design & technology.’  The app includes advice on how and when take medication to help remove the barriers to medication adherence. Their team includes doctors, pharmacists, designers, and developers.  The co-founders devised the app idea as they both take medication for long-term conditions and wanted to simplify the repeat prescription process, patient-led principles are at the heart of the business. Read about their clinical trial results here.
They’ve won

  • Best British Mobile Start-Up award by KPMG – 2018
  • Outstanding Achievement Mayor of London – 2018 and is featured within the NHS App library


7 Our Path App  iOS and Android   
Paid Individual & NHS Partnerships plans
Our Path website

Is a UK based start-up that focuses on helping patients with Type 2 Diabetes manage their condition better and lead more active lives. It offers personal paid plans or NHS Partnerships.  Our Path is one of five providers that are part of the digital stream of the Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme. Patients who sign up to their 12-week programme are given a wristband to monitor their steps, sleep patterns, heart rate and weight in real time giving them data and the ability to adapt their lifestyle at their fingertips. In addition, they are paired up with a health coach and connected to a diabetes peer group. After graduating from the initial programme patients are moved to ‘Sustain’ for continued support.   In 2017 they received further funding to expand further.  To date, they’ve been rated as one of the Top 50 start-ups in the EU. Look out for more NHS Trusts partnering with them. Will path be rolled out across the UK to help more people with Type 2 Diabetes make positive lifestyle changes?

8 My COPD  App & Web   iOS and Android   Paid & Free in some locations

This app focuses on ‘Helping people with COPD to better manage their condition and medication’. It’s free to download from iOS and Android app stores and accessible via the web. Features for patients include a self-care dashboard with education resources on inhaler videos to med diaries and symptom trackers plus weather forecasts.  For clinicians with Mhealth software, they can check-in with their patients remotely and view real-time symptoms, track their condition, update medication and improve care.   My COPD in the NHS Apps library as it’s been proven to deliver the same outcomes as face to face rehab classes and help correct 98% of inhaler errors without other clinical interventions, improving the quality of life for patients.

If you’re a carer, patient or clinician who’d like to know if the app is available as a free NHS service within your area you can contact your clinical commissioning group. Or you can buy app access for £20 for life from the creator. Other apps in the same family by MHealth include myasthma, mydiabetes, myheart.

9   Headspace  Free and Paid plans on iOS and Android
Headspace web

Over the last five years the Headspace app has made mindfulness for the masses accessible.  Or as they promote on their website it’s ‘meditation made simple’.  They offer a free and paid for app.  There’s useful videos, hints and a community to join so there’s no excuse for meditation anytime, anywhere you need it.  Founder Andy trained as a Buddhist monk, when he returned to the UK he realised stressed out business people, sports personalities, celebrities and more all wanted a simple way to learn how to meditate. Which sparked the foundation of Headspace.  It’s one of my personal favourites. Just don’t use it before you sleep or you’ll nod off midway and won’t benefit from the full mindfulness experience!

10  Pzizz Sleep app    Free & paid plans Available on iOS and Android

If the recent heatwave in London hasn’t helped you get any restful sleep in the last week you could try Pzizz.  The app comes with 3 different features: sleep, nap or focus.  The app describes how it uses the science of ‘psychoacoustics’ and a mix of music, voiceover and sound effects to ease users into sleep each night.  You can adjust sleep duration, volume, 3D effects, and even voice gender for a personalised audio experience.  If you need a siesta during the day or a power nap they’ve even thought of that as well.  Pzizz is clinically validated for more information read their blog blog.pzizz.com.  The app has celebrity fans including Harry Potter author J.K Rowling. If you want to see if it really can provide sleep and better rest at the push of a button give it a try then comment below if it worked for you!

What’s your favourite healthcare app or website? Tell us about tech tools that have empowered you or your patients.  Our round-up here is just a selection of the exciting start-ups shaping digital healthcare across Europe we’d love your views.

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