Everybody is eager to embrace or invest in technology as it begins to establish itself firmly in the health industry. But could the fusing of worlds actually benefit entire Government programmes? That’s what entrepreneur Chris Edson is hedging his bets on, with his eyes firmly on the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK. He has set his sights on a problem that he believes could save the NHS half a billion pounds over the next ten years—and he wants to do it with an app.
Through a collaborative partnership, Edson launched OurPath in London in June 2016. Since the start of this year, the app has helped nearly 500 patients address unhealthy lifestyle choices that Edson claims have replaced some of the biggest problems facing civilizations nearly 100 years ago. Whereas once vaccinations and viral disease were eradicating large swaths of the population (though outside the first world, such issues remain in tragic abundance even today), it is individual lifestyle habits that pose the biggest threat to us now.
The app pushes patients to alter certain habits over a three-month period, and found that those who stick to the apps regimen have seen an average seven kilogram loss in the process. Recently, OurPath secured a half-a-million pound investment from funds as varied as UK-based Bethnal Green Ventures and American venture capital firm 500 Startups.
OurPath is based on the principles of third wave Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). According to Wired UK, Edson himself has a background in engineering and quantum computing, but his passion has always been in medicine. His devotion to OurPath came to a head when he found himself eyeing a family at great risk of Type 2 Diabetes having dessert forcefully pried out of their hands. That degree of denial helped shepherd the idea for the app, which trades in the success-failure-based programmes of traditional diets in favour of more holistic and cognitive focuses. The app asks patients on the programme to list values or goals that they wish to see executed, and guides them to those highly specified goals.
Edson, along with his partner Mike Gibbs, have already announced a lucrative partnership with pharmaceutical company Roche, aiming for 750,000 people to test the programme over the next five years—an amount of time that Edson says will have the NHS seeing changes almost instantaneously. According to guidelines set by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence, 3kg of sustained weightloss is only cost effective if the treatment in question can cost £1000 or less. OurPath has stated that the NHS will be responsible for just over £300 a person—over their entire lifetime. That’s a £700 difference per patient, and if the programme continues as planned through to 2020, it will save the NHS £525 million.
The app’s growth isn’t being formulated outside the confines of the government-funded programme either. Edson has stated that they want to expand OurPath within the NHS itself, helping usher in a period of innovation for a system that has not exactly proven itself most able to adhere to innovation. OurPath, for instance, took nearly two years to secure an NHS commission, which is a notably long time for a start-up.
Heath and Tech Connections
This of course comes from the bureaucracy inherent in everything from government regulation, approvals, trials and concerns regarding data security (the EU is notoriously strict about citizen’s private data—a notable difference from America, which helped OurPath secure some of its last rounds of funding). Still, the attempt shows that there is a space for national health services to meet with the private sector. In order to help bring in a new era, something like an olive branch or connected tissue might be the answer. OurPath marks one of the first such examples, of a tech programme developed with a national service in mind as a kind of incubator. But judging from the project’s early success, and that it’s speaking the language of the programs themselves (namely, saving money in times of lean public assistance), OurPath may be paving the way to success for everyone who uses it.