Interview Series: Dr Paul Upton, Co-founder, Ultramed

In our latest interview series we spoke with Dr Paul Upton the co-founder of Ultramed, a pioneering health technology company providing patient-focused solutions to common problems. Over the past three years, the company have developed a suite of online patient assessment programs. They offer a cloud-hosted, online pre-operative assessment and pre-procedure assessment process for a variety of different specialities and departments.

Prior to an operation or procedure, the patient creates a secure Ultramed account and inputs their data online, giving them the option to complete their assessment remotely from the comfort of their own home instead of having to attend a dedicated appointment. In addition to the obvious patient benefits, the Ultraprep suite of programs dramatically enhances hospital processes without the usual complex integration requirements such platforms require, ultimately minimising associated costs and freeing up resources for hospitals and the healthcare professionals who work there.

Dr Upton qualified in 1984 and has had anaesthetic practice at the centre of his clinical career. He was heavily involved in establishing the Peninsula Medical School and then went on to be the Medical Director in his Trust for 4 years. Since retiring early he has set-up Ultramed.

We asked Dr Upton a few questions.

What does your organisation do?

Ultramed’s strap line is ‘health technology for people’. We place the patient/person at the heart of what we do, whilst developing solutions for everyday real problems in clinical practice. MyPreOp is our flagship program providing patient driven online preoperative assessment. We have a range of other pre-procedure programs such as MyEndo in the portfolio of integrated products under the trademark of Ultraprep.

What is unique about your organisation?

Ultramed was founded after I met Alan Sanders on a flight. We sat next to each other, started talking and realised that we had very different skill sets with a common interest in technology. Preoperative assessment was ripe for innovation and combining my previous clinical and NHS managerial experience with Alan’s creative design skills we set out to develop MyPreOp. The User Interface is critical in developing patient facing solutions, it is the combination of our skill sets that makes Ultramed unique.

What is the most significant achievement for your organisation in the past 12 months?

We are delighted to have been awarded a place on the South West AHSN Digital Health Accelerator programme, a roll out of the London accelerator. This recognises all the work that has gone into product development, testing and early trials. We believe that MyPreOp is now ready for adoption at scale by the NHS and in the export market to benefit UK PLC.

What will be the most significant?

One of our trial sites, Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust will be implementing MyPreOp at scale after a successful trial of 2000 uses. Five thousand patients have now completed MyPreOp across 8 different hospitals in the UK. With a rapid increase in numbers of patients using MyPreOp we will be able to develop the evidence base of the financial return.

What projects are you working on at the moment?

We are continually making incremental improvements to MyPreOp and its sibling programs. We are now developing further new products in response to requests from Trusts to help with front line issues.

What problems and challenges are there to overcome?

One of the early problems was getting patient owned, cloud hosted solutions to be acceptable to the NHS. I think we have moved beyond that. However, being at the cutting edge of health technology means that we are now looking to move to blockchain solutions to improve data security. Frankly we risk being ahead of the curve and need to make sure that the solutions we offer are acceptable to the NHS in 2019 as we push ahead at Ultramed.

What is the biggest technology challenge?

The biggest technology challenge is actually nothing to do with the technology itself. It is to do with speed of adoption into the NHS and the cultural barriers that exist in terms of utilising solutions such as MyPreOp. Ideas are relatively easy, product development is a process, marketing costs money but isn’t difficult, the problem comes in achieving uptake. We are enormously grateful for the support from the AHSN network in helping with this.

What is new for your organisation?

At Ultramed we are developing new products and processes. Our most exciting opportunity comes from the overseas interest that we have attracted. This is not just for the use of our existing products but potential overseas investment to open up the global market for Ultramed. It’s all exciting times at Ultramed