Earlier this year new health tech start-up EQL unveiled its debut product at the Google Campus in London to an audience of industry leaders in the healthcare and insurance markets. But how did they turn a dream into reality?
Improving healthcare through the use of smart technology had long been a passion for EQL founders Jason Ward and Pete Grinbergs. Jason had seen his mum, a nurse and his step-dad, a GP, struggle with the inefficiency in the NHS and work hard to ensure that their patients received the best care. He started life working in finance in the City and in 2015 set up a digital primary care start-up in 2015 which sadly didn’t make the grade. “It’s a shame as the concept was good but I just missed the boat with it to be honest. I learned a lot from the experience!” explained Jason.
Meanwhile Pete had been a physio for Birmingham City FC and then went on to run a successful physio practice where he became increasingly frustrated by the limitations of the treatment he could give.
“Working in elite sport, there is much more of a holistic and pro-active approach to the management of MSK conditions and I felt strongly that technology could help make that kind of treatment accessible to everyone. There are real problems with how healthcare is accessed. Yet there is so much data and clever tech solutions that analyse data and point people in the right direction. It seems counter intuitive not to use this – it’s actually negligent.”
So, EQL was born out of a desire to radically improve global healthcare systems, by challenging traditional concepts with revolutionary technology solutions that are highly accessible, scalable, cost effective and designed to eliminate inefficiency.
In order to make this work they needed advice and, of course, funding. They were accepted onto the google start up programme which gives companies early access to their tools as well as unrivalled expertise. They were also fortunate to find a receptive and supportive investor in the Handl Group, an accelerator for start-ups with a portfolio of industry leading legal, insurance and healthcare brands.
“Lots of incumbents in the market place see our type of disruptive innovation as a problem but Handl Group totally saw the potential of what we had. We couldn’t ask for a better investor,” said Jason.
Physiotherapy was an obvious place to start as with over 30% of all GP appointments being MSK related and two thirds of people suffering from back pain, there was a real opportunity to make a with a huge difference and take the strain from the existing system.
And so Phio was introduced to the world. Phio is a chatbot that thinks and acts like a Physiotherapist, initially providing an agile triage tool for all MSK conditions, with a Digital Injury Management tool to follow later in the year. It uses AI and machine learning to be able to constantly evolve and adapt its behaviour to every user, giving it a ‘personality’ and the ability to absorb knowledge. A personalised tone and language are used to enhance engagement and adherence.
It can deliver personalised rehab programmes with the ability to monitor adherence and collect relevant data throughout the treatment. It is scalable with no language restrictions making it a truly global solution. Phio also puts the patient in control of their treatment giving them options and choice.
Whilst they knew the market well it was important for EQL to understand how patients would react to a digital MSK solution so the next stage was to implement two large pilots – one with a leading occupational health organisation and another with a leading NHS provider. The data gathered from these will guide further development of the product.
“Since we launched I have to say that our feet haven’t touched the ground! We have been inundated with interest from organisations including NHS providers, Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), global insurance companies and Occupational Health providers. As a result, we are in the process of signing MOUs with over 30 organisations. There has been a lot of international interest too, particularly from the US and Middle East, and we are looking carefully at our global growth strategy. We will be doubling the team in the next few months and moving offices – we have a way to go yet but so far so good!” said Jason.
By harnessing the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning, EQL is well on its journey to radically improving clinical pathways through technology, democratising healthcare and making it accessible to anyone, anytime, anywhere in the world.
Kizzi Nkwocha is the editor of Business Game Changer Magazine and publisher of The UK Newspaper, Money and Finance Magazine, the net’s fastest growing wealth creation publication. Kizzi Nkwocha is chair of The Ethical Publishers Association and co-chair of The Logistics Association. Kizzi made his mark in the UK as a publicist, journalist and social media pioneer. As a widely respected and successful media consultant he has represented a diverse range of clients including the King of Uganda, and Amnesty International. Nkwocha has also become a well-known personality on both radio and television. He has been the focus of a Channel 4 documentary on publicity and has hosted his own talk show, London Line, on Sky TV. He has also produced and presented both radio and TV shows in Cyprus and Spain.