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- European healthtech startups have seen a surge in demand as the coronavirus outbreak continues to take its toll throughout the region.
- Unicorn healthcare firm Babylon and blood-testing company Thriva, two of the UK’s most prominent health startups, met Boris Johnson to discuss strategy in a Westminster meeting on Tuesday.
- British healthtech firms produce a combined annual turnover of £24 billion ($28 billion), according to the Association of British Healthtech Industries.
- Business Insider asked five of the most prominent startups working today how they were helping to deal with an international emergency.
- Click here for more BI Prime stories.
Demand for healthtech solutions to the coronavirus pandemic is surging in Europe, with previously modest startups becoming inundated with calls for help.
In London, the UK government has approached at least two healthtech startups – Babylon Health and Thriva – to help it in the fight against the pandemic.
The UK is currently planning to scale up testing for the novel coronavirus, with 44,000 tests conducted overall.
Business Insider spoke to five firms working to tackle the current crisis, with specialities ranging in everything from worker provision through to in-house communications and blood testing.
Across the board, industry leaders said there had been a surge in demand in recent days, as health officials work around the clock to find a solution to what increasingly looks like an unstoppable crisis.
Read what chief execs at firms such as Babylon, Patchwork, and Pando had to say below:
Founded in 2013 by British-Iranian entrepreneur Ali Parsa, Babylon provides remote consultations with doctors and healthcare professionals via text and videolink.
Speaking to Business Insider, a spokesman said the firm had “been approached by many governments and health authorities” trying to combat the coronavirus outbreak.
We previously reported how Babylon was invited to a Westminster roundtable, overseen by Boris Johnson, alongside Amazon and Swiss healthcare firm Roche, to discuss the government’s strategy.
The firm said it had seen a large increase in demand in line with the growing pandemic, with some of its videos being watched more than 100,000 times in the past week.
“It’s very hard to predict the coming impact of the virus, but all the predictions are that far more people are going to be looking to us for help,” the spokesman said.
“We are working on new features for our patients that will help them even more with the information, advice and support they need throughout the coronavirus outbreak.”
Patchwork, founded in 2016 by junior doctors Anas Nader and Jing Ouyang, has designed software which it hopes could tackle the coming NHS staffing crisis.
The firm’s app connects hospitals and other medical institutions with doctors looking for shift work. Backed by the BMJ, the firm raised $4 million in funding earlier this year.
At present the firm has around 13,000 doctors and clinicians signed up to its platform, and works with 32 different healthcare institutions looking for workers.
Now Patchwork is hurrying to address the growing need for doctors to step in where their colleagues have been forced to self-isolate.
“Hospitals have been getting in touch to find out how quickly they can roll us out,” Nader told Business Insider.
“We’re definitely seeing a rise in demand. Right now, we’re in the eye of the storm…The number of healthcare workers infected hasn’t risen too much yet.
“But we need to make sure we’re prepared for it when they do.”
Alexander Finlayson is chief exec at Nye, which provides encrypted communications tech for doctors to communicate with patients remotely. He said user growth was currently surging 25% per week.
“It’s extraordinary,” he said. “We’re making new partners almost every hour.”
The firm, named after Aneurin “Nye” Bevan (the minister of health who effectively founded the NHS in 1948), has acted fast to respond to the coronavirus crisis. It has created new software called the “NyePhone”.
Similar to Babylon, which provides remote medical appointments, the firm allows doctors and patients to connect via video link using their smartphones.
On top of all this, Finlayson told Business Insider the startup’s cybersecurity and digital infrastructure partners had significantly cut their rates.
“They offered to reduce their costs just because they know we’re responding to a crisis,” he told Business Insider.
“I’ve never seen so much solidarity.”
Nye said it had contacted around 30,000 doctors in the UK to offer its services.
Founded in 2016 by London-based trio Hamish Grierson, Tom Livesey, and Eliot Brooks, Thriva offers at-home blood test kits for customers to check everything from their cholesterol levels to liver function.
Having raised $7.3 million in Series A funding in August, Thriva says its mission is to help individuals put healthcare into their own hands, keeping track of “all the stuff that matters” day to day.
As reported by Business Insider, Thriva was one of a select number of industry players invited to a roundtable discussion, overseen by Boris Johnson in Westminster, on scaling up testing.
Grierson, the firm’s chief exec, told us Thriva was “thinking through how we can be most helpful” to the government.
“If you are a hospital that needs to keep people from coming in, because you don’t want to risk them spreading the virus, we want to help you,” he said.
“At present, we don’t offer a coronavirus test ourselves, but it is something we are looking into.
“At the end of the day, while the NHS is becoming increasingly stretched by the growing number of coronavirus cases, patients are going to need somewhere to go for all the other tests they need doing.”
The firm has asked any healthcare institution interested in using its services to contact it on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Philip Mundy is the cofounder of Pando, a communications app connecting more than 40,000 medical professionals across the country. He said he had “never before seen so much collaboration”.
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Pando acts as a kind of “WhatsApp for doctors”, meaning they can sign up with their NHS emails and have one-to-one and group conversations with their colleagues at their own institution and across the country, allowing them share to new information and best practice.
Mundy told Business Insider: “It’s obviously a busy time for everyone; but those in the healthtech sector are 500% busier than they were a week ago.
“It’s no exaggeration to say we’ve seen more demand in the last two weeks than we had in the previous 12 months.”
Speaking about the impact coronavirus is set to have on the UK, he said the nation was uniquely placed to deal with the coming crisis.
“We have the NHS, which is the gold standard for health services around the world, as well as one of the best tech startup scenes around.
“If we can’t come together to defeat this, then I don’t know who could.”
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