After his daughter had made a successful recovery from a rare form of bone cancer, IT specialist Dom Raban was convinced he could improve the way in which young people are helped to prepare for long and often frightening stays in hospital.
Dom, who is managing director of Manchester-based digital innovation agency Corporation Pop, was concerned that patients like his daughter received very little information about their treatments, the people they would meet, and even the hospital environment. This can leave youngsters afraid, isolated and often resistant to their treatment.
Dom has spent the last two years developing an app that delivers health information directly to children. Xploro taps into young people’s natural affinity with the digital world, and uses avatars and augmented reality 3D models to help demystify what it’s like to be in hospital.
By embarking on a virtual hospital walkthrough, children can discover more about their treatment and find out about technology that they may encounter, such as MRI scanners and heart rate monitors.
They can also ask their ‘guide’ questions that are answered in language they can understand, as well as leave feedback and interact through games with other youngsters on their ward.
However, developing the app was just part of the challenge, explains Dom: “I realised early on that if our app was to be a success then we needed to be able to clearly articulate the benefits to the NHS. As we formulated our business case, it became clear that navigating the healthcare system was going to be more difficult than we first thought.”
To find out more about marketing a product to the NHS, and dealing with its complex procurement process, Dom signed up to the 12-week STEP INto Healthcare programme. This expert programme is run by GC Business Growth Hub, TRUSTECH and Health Innovation Manchester, and is designed to help SMEs increase their chances of commercial success in the life sciences market.
It helps businesses to realise that entering into the NHS and other health markets with a new product or service is extremely difficult, not just because it is a highly regulated sector, but also because it is important to address problems that stand in the way of effective and efficient care delivery.
GC Business Growth Hub’s Ian MacArthur adds: “While Dom is obviously an expert when it comes to digital technology, he was also quick to realise that navigating NHS procurement can be a nightmare for the uninitiated.
“Our STEP INto Healthcare programme has now helped dozens of regional businesses take their first step into working with the NHS, offering hospitals and Trusts the innovation they need to create a twenty-first century health service, while allowing individuals companies, and the regional economy as whole, to flourish.”
The app is now set to undergo a major six-month funded by Innovate UK and the Biomedical Research Council, while Corporation Pop has taken on four new full-time members of staff following their STEP Into Healthcare support.
And Dom adds: “Whilst I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, the course equipped me with the confidence and tools to take our product to market. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone who sees the NHS as a potential customer.”