Feature Content, Interview

Interview Series: Richard Wyatt-Haines discusses the trials and tribulations of being a start up in the world of digital health

HTN recently chatted with Richard Wyatt-Haines, CEO and founder of HCI (Health and Care Innovations LLP), to talk about how a unique partnership was formed with his local NHS trust and how the last five years working closely with the health sector has helped the business grow and adapt, overcome obstacles, enjoy successes and arrive at a range of patient education and remote monitoring products that are making a difference.

Where did it start?

“Initially I was doing strategy consulting,” Richard said. “That’s my background and I’ve written a book on it. And I’ve also got a background in sales and marketing, and financial services. I got asked to write another book and thought that was wonderful and said yes…but then realised that the important people, the public, don’t have the time [to read a book] …unless it’s a brilliant novel.

“What they need is short bursts of information…so I started playing with the concept of ‘how do you use short video to achieve those aims?’ Then I bumped into someone in health and realised there were millions of patients, every day, being cared for and not fully understanding what was going on around them in their pathways of care.

“So, was there a way of using short videos to help patients…[to] reduce their anxiety, understand what was happening, help them to be better patients, in truth?”

“If you’re coming in for an MRI scan – let’s say you’re bringing in a child for an MRI scan – to actually be able to show people what that looks like, what it feels like…play the noise to them…you can do that in a video really easily. You can’t get that over in the written word.”

Richard also explained why digital resources, including HCI’s patient information videos, are inclusive and accessible, stating: “Video is a massive enabler of accessibility…just the fact that if I’m of limited sight, I can hear someone talking to me and understand it, is helpful.

“The fact that we write our scripts for a reading age of 11-14 so they’re easily understandable, and we continually check against that, means that people with poor literacy skills have a chance of understanding what we’re saying.”

He later added: “I think we also have to be sensitive to people for whom English may be a second language.”

Working in partnership

HCI has now produced over 1,000 patient-facing videos, using scripts written by doctors and healthcare professionals, making it the largest collection of its kind in the UK.

The videos, usually around three to four minutes long, can inform patients about a range of situations, treatments, procedures and self-guided care – aiming to improve understanding and ease the stresses that can sometimes surround pre-procedure preparation and remote care.

As well as helping patients to understand their conditions, procedures or treatment plans, HCI’s resources can also crucially save time for clinicians, who can direct users with multiple conditions to the same platform and edge away from producing their own time-consuming, paper-based, instructional illustrations.

On the partnership between HCI and Torbay and South Devon NHS FT, Richard added: “The partnership has been so important throughout our journey.

“We worked with Dr Matt Halkes, who was Director of Education at the time, but [is] now their Director of Innovation. We saw there was something of much greater substance…we could see what was happening by way of patient response and the time it was saving for healthcare professionals.

“We said ‘hold on, there’s something bigger here, there’s something much more effective if we worked in partnership’. So, we created HCI… we’re equal partners [both] our company and the trust.

“We do different things. The trust provides clinical insight, the clinical skills and the clinical knowledge. It provides the setting, the context, the challenge… [for example] we can see a need in cardiology that, actually, if we change this pathway to bring video into play, we can change the demand on the system.”

A national library for all

Richard also revealed that COVID-19 and the inability of people to be seen by their health care professionals played a significant part in the creation of the NHSX funded National Health and Care Video Library.

“NHSX had the foresight to go, ‘no, hold on a minute’… [and say] video could be a way of solving that problem,” he said.

“During COVID, [we] worked out that if we could create a national library to share across the country, it could be used by trusts, primary care, community care, CCGs, ICSs, to help and support those patients.”

What’s next?

“Growth,” explains Richard. “…it is growth to expand our capabilities in patient education into our newly developed CONNECTPlus multiple conditions app that takes using digital platforms deeper into pathways of care and enables people to manage more of their care at home.  We are not standing still, we are adding in many more conditions this year, making the dashboard better, integrating it with things like Fitbits and smartwatches.

“It’s growth in terms of trying to take CONNECTPlus global, growth in terms of counting the impact and just showing more and more people what it can do for them.”

Finally, Richard asks, “Will we ever go back to the way it was? Can we afford to, as a health system, to go back to the way it was with people coming through our front door all the time? No, we should be looking at, ‘how do we reach the communities that we serve, using digital as one of the tools?’ It doesn’t replace healthcare workers…it runs in parallel with them and it makes sure that they’re using their time in the most effective way.

“Health also takes place in the community and we’ve got to get out there and reach people, and we can’t be in front of them physically every day. So, we’ve got to find other vehicles to do that…and all the rich mix of digital tools out there enable that to happen. We’re part of that offering and believe we can make a real difference.”

To find out more about HCI’s library, tools and content, visit hci.digital.