If anyone was in any doubt about the motivation of health professionals, the Covid-19 crisis reminds us that they are not in it for the money, nor because it is the safest occupation. A sense of vocation underpins many, if not most of those involved, which at its core lies the desire to do good for individuals and the community.
This is evident in the ethos of Nye Health, an Oxford-based start-up whose timely solutions are founded on the principle of kindness for patients, health care practitioners and the very system in which they operate.
Nye Health has developed a communications platform that enables effective remote contact between doctor and patient using either phone- or internet-mediated video calls. The Nye Phone is browser- or app-based, works with existing NHS systems, and doesn’t require doctors to change their current setups. It enables continuity of care for patients, even when staff members have to be at home to self-isolate or care for others during the coronavirus pandemic. The system is free to all GP practices in the UK.
Nye Health is named after Aneurin (‘Nye’) Bevan, the architect of the NHS, and was founded in 2018 by three healthcare professionals with backgrounds in clinical practice, academia, pharmacology, consulting and international development. Its aim was to create a straightforward communications system which integrated into pre-existing health system processes, structures and information systems.
Unsurprisingly, the Covid-19 pandemic has lit a fire under the company’s efforts to make the technology more widely available across the country, and the team, which is based in Oxford University’s venture support centre the Oxford Foundry, is working flat out to ensure that as many NHS staff as possible get access to the tools they need to look after their patients. The service now covers up to ten million patients and take-up is growing at 200% per week.
This effort is currently Nye’s main focus, and plans to improve the product and extend its use internationally have been put on the back burner pending the outcome of the pandemic, and they say that they will return to these once the crisis is over.
Although the Nye Phone is primarily designed for GP’s, it is already being used across a range of other clinical settings, including secondary care outpatients, mental health, ICU’s and other acute spaces, as well as throughout primary care. Chief executive, Alexander Finlayson observes, “As a GP it has proved helpful to be able to connect with patients via video feed in order to be able to better read non-verbal cues, and also for the sense of connection and shared humanity.”
Advanced nurse practitioner Kirsty Edmunds (pictured above) has been using the Nye Phone for the last 18 months or so, and is helping the company with her real life experiences. Her role places Edmunds on the front line and she handles many of Headington-based Hedena Health Centre’s emergency calls. She told TechTribe Oxford that she is able to resolve over 60% of patients’ issues over the phone without recourse to further interaction. Although she uses both phone and video calls, she reckons to use the phone service more often.
However the video can be helpful. Edmunds explained how one patient called from a building site concerned that he might have tonsillitis. As well as being able to tell that he was not very sick in bed, she was able to have him point his camera down his throat, allowing her to assess his condition. She pointed out that this online consultation not only saved the NHS time and expense, but also allowed someone who may well be self-employed to avoid taking time off work for a visit to the doctor
Edmunds considers that the Nye Phone has helped save her a lot of time and allowed her to work from home easily. She explains that NHS staff have been understandably reluctant to expose their own phone numbers and values the anonymity that using the Nye Phone provides.
Commenting on the rapid take-up of the Nye Phone across NHS, Finlayson concludes,
“As more GP’s must self-isolate, or whole practices need to close in order to keep people safe, the Nye Phone will maintain the link between doctors and their patients and allow them to continue to provide the same support and care that they usually do, whilst keeping themselves and their patients safe.
“At the same time, we are building the capabilities to transform the way in which citizens access, navigate and engage with health and social care systems.”