Looking Forward: An Interview with Forward Health

Mia Millman

26 October 2018

Forward Health, a member of PUBLIC’s most recent GovStart cohort, has recently secured $3.9 million in seed funding. We spoke to Forward about how they got here, what they’re doing now, and what they hope to be doing in the future.

Founding Forward

Doctors face an NHS overly dependent on inefficient ways of communicating. Rather than using the fast messaging services we all rely on, the NHS remains tied to outdated landlines and pagers. The solutions to which many doctors turn, like WhatsApp, are neither secure nor designed for clinical use. This was the situation facing doctors Barney Gilbert and Lydia Yarlott which led them, alongside Philip Munday, to founding Forward.

They wanted to provide a secure, easy and efficient alternative for clinicians to use – to fix the “broken communication in healthcare”. The idea is that the less time doctors need to spend waiting for messages to deliver, or landlines to be answered, the better. It would mean more time to spend helping patients – this is why Forward designed a secure clinical messaging app for UK-based clinicians.

Is it working? Well, according to co-founder Barney, Forward is already “saving them time and improving the quality of care they can offer to patients”.

For now, the app is being used by 5000 UK-based clinicians. From talking to Barney, it’s clear that this is only set to grow. Forward is currently in their “love” phase. Rather than rolling the app out to all UK clinicians immediately, Forward is determined to perfect their offering first. They want to know what makes their users tick, and be able to offer this from the start. Once they’ve understood what makes the first 5000 users tick, it’s about understanding the first 10,000, and so on.

We asked Barney where he saw the future of Forward going: “We’d like to be the UK’s leader in healthcare messaging by the end of next year.” 

And after that? “Scale internationally”.

Forward’s Funding and GovStart

Forward has recently secured $3.9 million in seed funding, courtesy of Stride.VC accompanied by Albion Capital, which will go a long way to helping them achieve what they have planned for the future. As well as being funded by Stride.VC and Albion Capital, Forward is now over halfway through PUBLIC’s GovStart 2018 programme – we asked Forward about its GovStart experience.

Whilst PUBLIC provides its cohort with support by helping them achieve specific goals, Barney stressed it was the “intangible extras” that were most helpful. For them, this included discussions with startups data experts in different areas.

GovStart has given Forward the chance to interact more with other leading entrepreneurs and innovators wanting to make waves in the public sector. This has had a huge impact for Barney and for Forward: “It allows for the collision of ideas. It’s transformative and helps you think in a new way – that’s what is most helpful.”

Alexander de Carvalho, PUBLIC co-founder and CIO, had this to say of Forward’s recent successes:

“We’re so excited to be working with Barney, Philip and Lydia and the rest of the Forward team as they look to solve the huge problem of communication in healthcare today. The best way to improve care pathways and therefore patient outcomes is to build better, more joined-up systems that allow multiple stakeholders to collaborate in a truly connected way. The Forward platform does just that through a beautifully-designed, intuitive mobile app.

“The progress that the team has made over the past 18 months is extraordinary and I can’t wait to see what functionality they will be offering clinicians in the years to come.”

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