Meet Adrian Flowerday, CEO of Docobo, a company which develops and deploys remote patient monitoring and demand analytic solutions which are used across the NHS and further afield in care homes, primary care settings, patients’ own homes and in hospitals to transform out of hospital care. The company is celebrating 20 years in digital healthcare in 2021.
Tell us about your innovations – what and why?
Our telehealth system DOC@HOME® is a remote monitoring solution which enables overstretched clinicians to provide timely and preventative care to more patients. ARTEMUS – our population health analytics solution – enables commissioners and clinicians to determine priorities by primary diagnosis, regional prevalence priority, cost, complexity and risk.
Our solutions meet our mission, which is to improve quality of life for patients, carers and staff through efficient implementation of digital health, which supports teams across the health and social care space to deliver world-class care. We also want to enable patients to be more aware of their condition and empowered to self-manage themselves. DOC@HOME is used across the NHS to support patients in their own place of residence, whether in their own homes or in care homes.
We work with our clients to develop smart solutions to problems and provide clinically based insight, direction and guidance for healthcare systems.
What was the lightbulb moment?
For many years I ran my own electronics and software company, mainly in data acquisition and system monitoring, but my lightbulb moment came when we were asked to join an EU R&D project from an Estonian research organisation back in 1999, who had the original idea of DOC@HOME.
I’m surrounded by nurses in my family, so the idea of utilising tech product skills to help patients appealed. It was then I realised that chronic disease was such a big problem and one of the main causes of hospital utilisation and bed occupancy, much of which could be prevented by regular monitoring of a person’s vital signs and symptoms.
So I invested a chunk of money and set up Docobo in 2001 to develop and market our DOC@HOME telehealth system.
What’s been your innovator journey highlight to date?
We’ve had many highlights along the way, we have engaged in so many different programmes and aspects of healthcare in the UK, the EU and across the globe, meeting and working with some fantastic and wonderful people. We’ve done remote monitoring on falls prevention as part of a EU programme, “I don’t fall“… we’ve worked on heart programmes, such as the IC heart programme … we’ve also been involved in successful cancer care projects and Motor Neurone Disease programmes.
I’d have to say the highlight of the journey has been meeting many of the patients who have benefitted from using DOC@HOME, seeing how it has reduced their anxiety and that of their loved ones, given freedom, and significantly reduced visits to GPs and hospitals. Seeing it rolled out into mainstream practice within the NHS and other international healthcare systems is hugely satisfying.
How has KSS AHSN supported you?
KSS AHSN has been a fantastic support for us at Docobo. Among many other things, they provide a really good way to reach our NHS customers. Normally we’d have to go and see them one by one and find the right people, which takes a lot of time and effort. KSS AHSN have given us access to the right people and pointed us in the right direction, which has been a great help. In addition, they have supported us via PR and publishing articles and sharing the work our NHS customers have been involved in.
What has been your toughest obstacle to date?
We’ve found it difficult for people in the NHS to catch up with the technology and to realise that this technology is going to be great for keeping patients at home for longer, while getting better care. Understandably, healthcare staff felt they needed to see their patients and that remote contact didn’t work. Whilst some pioneering areas led the way for many years, it has taken a very long time for the benefits to be spread and adopted. COVID has changed all that and remote monitoring is now top of the agenda.
Hopes for the future?
When Docobo started out, it was quite unusual to have two long term conditions, now in 2021, over 25% of the UK’s adult population has two or three or more LTCs – and these are major drivers of cost for the NHS and demand on the frontline. Any healthcare delivery needs to be integrated to meet these co-morbidities with a single solution.
We are now in a place where a patient’s natural interface with the NHS will be online and – with all that’s happened during the COVID pandemic – we’re finding that people are recognising this. With the success we’ve had with our clients from Bexley to Liverpool, from Warwickshire to Kent, we’re hoping to keep developing the unique flexibility of the solution to monitor multiple conditions and sharing the fantastic technology further afield and with more people.
A typical day for you would include?
Pre-Covid, I was travelling across the country and the globe. Now I’m much more office based and with Teams seem to have 10 times more meetings! We’re based in the old Granary in Bookham, a unique 15th century building, and I’d normally get there and meet with the team to discuss what’s going on. We’re currently working on so many projects across the UK, that a lot of time is spent talking to clients about various deployments across care homes and other settings. I also spend some with our developers discussing our solution roadmap and what we are working on now.
Our User Group is a really important part of our work, so I’ll often spend some time preparing what to share at our next meeting. Then of course the ongoing development of building and maintaining relationships with our clients.
What’s the best part of your job now?
Seeing the remote monitoring rolling out across so many sites and care homes and to people’s homes and seeing the effect it is having on citizens’ lives is just so amazing. I also work with an amazing team, many of whom have also been on this journey for long time.
What three bits of advice would you give budding innovators?
It sounds obvious, but persistence and not giving up is what I’d really say was important.
Talking and sharing ideas with your team face to face is also a great way to pick up on expertise across the company.
Think carefully if you want to sell into the healthcare market. You will need deep pockets, tenacity, and patience. It’s said that an innovation takes on average 17 years to be adopted in the NHS. If your product will disrupt the way care is delivered and people work, be prepared for the 20-year journey!
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