UK health grassroots programs not waiting for the NHS: VR for COPD patient exercise, Now Patient for chronic care management

With the painfully slow adoption of health technology (besides telecare and limited telemedicine) in the UK, it’s heartening to see that there are some ingenious approaches outside the NHS gaining traction. The stories behind these two are interesting and inspiring.

Pulmonary Rehabilitation in Virtual Reality (PRinVR) from Concept Health was developed by a GP in a rural area of South Cumbria. Dr. Muhammad Farhan Amin of the Burnett Edgar Medical Centre on Walney Island in Barrow-in-Furness has many patients with pulmonary and lung problems who need to exercise and do specific breathing exercises. To aid them, he developed a five-step VR assessment and rehab program, It uses only a smartphone and a VR headset to transport a patient to a virtual beach where they can interact in an exercise class. The VR program connected via data to the internet can also tailor the breathing exercises individually and send the exercise record back to the health professional. It’s part of the ‘Better Care Together’ program that provides educational help, coaching on breathing strategies, and nutritional advice. Using VR this way is not new–we have reported on VR-aided rehab for several years going back to Microsoft Kinect and Army Medical–but what is different is its use in specific pulmonary conditions and its development in a very remote area. Dr. Amin’s Concept Health is only a year old, according to LinkedInThe Academy of Fabulous Stuff

On the waterfront in Salford Quays, Manchester, a local digital ad exec father who couldn’t book a GP for his son a few years ago has developed a telemedicine app that has virtual doctor visits and prescribing. Lee Dentith’s Now Healthcare has a private individual service (NowGP) that claims to be Europe’s largest, Now Healthcare (group/corporate), and the free Now Patient which combines pharmacy and the virtual visit. The apps and services have been inspected by the Quality Care Commission (QCC). 

Mr. Dentith told the Manchester Evening News that his market for Now Patient is the 15 million people with chronic care conditions who need regular repeat prescriptions, and noted that GP practices, despite the NHS, are private businesses. Now Patient achieved 60,000 downloads shortly after its October 2017 debut. Their focus is on the individual, group, and private pay market. To date Now has a £4m investment from MediCash in a Series A (Crunchbase). Now aims to have 25 million users on the three platforms. 

Hat tip to Roy Lilley’s NHS Managers newsletter via Steve Hards.

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