On 24th April, 18 companies were announced as winners of the Techforce19 program and began testing their digital solutions across the UK. This week, we’re taking a closer look at the six companies that put forward solutions to answer the programme’s challenge on mental health.
In March, NHSX launched TechForce19 in partnership with PUBLIC, AHSN and the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government. TechForce19 is a challenge based program calling on innovators to support the elderly, vulnerable and self-isolating during Covid-19 to apply for government funding of up to £25,000 to test their solutions.
The Mental Health Challenge
Since the Government introduced measures around social distancing in response to the Covid-19 spread, Britons have been required to isolate, reduce contact with others, and change the way we interact with friends, neighbours and colleagues. From the moment these measures were announced, there has been concern from a number of sources about the toll that adapting could take on individuals’ mental health.
Health authorities and Mental Health Charities have done incredible work putting out resources to help those who may be experiencing problems at this time. Health Charity Mind has outlined many possible difficulties that, if you’re forced to stay at home, you may struggle with and that could affect your mental health. Likewise, the NHS have released a guide to keeping your mind healthy while at home as part of the ‘Every Mind Matters’ initiative.
The unprecedented challenges presented by the crisis meant that mental health was a clear area in which digital solutions might provide effective support to those facing difficulties. To help companies identify areas of particular importance, TechForce19 split the mental health challenge into 4 sub themes, detailed below:
- Discovering and delivering mental health services
- Accessing relevant and inclusive peer 2 peer communities
- Supporting self-management of mental health and well-being
- Facilitating employee well-being
The chosen companies:
Winners of the 2018 London Homelessness Awards, Beam describes itself as a digital platform that supports the homeless and vulnerable. The company, founded and led by Alex Stephany, takes referrals from local authorities and homeless charities, then ensures goods are funded, delivered and documented.
Beyond their trials as part of the TechForce19 programme, Beam has taken a proactive approach to helping the homeless during COVID-19. As part of its coronavirus response, it is crowdfunding a Coronavirus Emergency Fund and coordinating the provision of emergency care packages to London’s homeless community.
Find out more at beam.org/coronavirus
Vinehealth supports cancer patients and their loved ones during treatment by allowing them to easily track and understand their care, including their symptoms, side effects, appointments and medications.
Co-founded by Rayna Patel and Georgia Kirby, Vinehealth have captured attention across the health and technology worlds. The company took a place on the 2019 intake of PUBLIC’s GovStart, and have participated in both Google for Startups and the Digitalhealth.London accelerators. In 2019, the company also drew £1.2investment from Playfair Capital, and were named a startup to watch by industry publication TechCrunch. Kirby was named one of Forbes ‘30 under 30’ in the Science & Healthcare Category back in March.
The app, which launched earlier this year, combines behavioural science with machine learning to help cancer patients track, manage and understand their treatment.
By completing a 1-minute daily log, cancer patients can develop a clear overview of their progress through treatment and access advice on how to cope and when to access health services. The Vinehealth app empowers cancer patients who are self-isolating to self-manage and feel more in control.
Ampersand Health is a specialist in digital therapeutics, using apps to help individuals suffering from long term inflammatory conditions to self-manage their diseases.
Using behavioural and data science, the apps deliver courses and programmes designed to improve sleep quality, stress management and medication adherence; with modules for activity, diet and relationships in the works.
During the COVID-19 crisis, this will help these people better manage their conditions and reduce the need for clinical support. Ampersand are also offering their clinical management portal free of charge to NHS Trusts until January 2021, no strings attached. This will allow clinical teams to help manage their patients, remotely.
Neurolove.org (by Chanua)
With young people likely to spend even more time online than usual due to Covid19, it is especially important that they can stay social, even virtually, while also staying safe.
Here, Neurolove, by Chanua, Chanua provides Neurolove.org, a platform providing a friendly ear and human support for young people. The platform offers young people a resource to help them to stay active, fit, relaxed and creative, while also prioritising self-care. Users can join live or tune into past events.
Setting the platform apart is the ability to book sessions directly with mentors and therapists to help manage anxiety and mood.
The platform is run by an extensive team, and has been developed by the “Healthcare Problem Solvers” at Chanua – a #techforgood focused company that solves “organisational challenges”, through research, technology, games, psychology, data and good design”.
Peppy for new parents
For TechForce19, Peppy is rolling out a solution to help parents-to-be and new parents remotely access trusted, convenient advice from perinatal and mental health experts.
To do this, the company has partnered with NCT, the UK’s largest charity for parents and Lactation Consultants of Great Britain (LCGB), to conduct a 1000 person trials over the weeks following the announcement.
The trial will include remote support via phone/video with lactation consultants, baby sleep consultants, specialist mental health support and more. Peppy provides timely interventions that reduce stress, anxiety and burn out for parents-to-be and new parents.
As with the specialist mental health support provided through their existing platform, users receive support from fully accredited specialist providers.
“In the Covid-19 outbreak, new parents are more isolated and vulnerable than ever. Following a successful pilot project we want to make this service available to parents across the country throughout this turbulent period. Our digital solution will allow any parent to ask an expert for advice on anything from breastfeeding to mental wellbeing, making it accessible to all and convenient.”
Simply Do is a digital collaboration platform that aims to “ engage and enable individuals, organisations and communities to make their ideas happen”.
Founded in 2015 by Lee Sharma, the company has helped a range of organisations in the public and private sectors develop their ideas, set challenges and innovate around them via a Software as a service (SaaS) app.
For TechForce19, the company will adapt their solution to develop a virtual community of NHS medical professionals currently in self-isolation. These employees have significant expertise, experience and skills which can be unlocked virtually to help solve COVID-19 care challenges set within the platform. This will create a powerful ‘think-tank’ of medical professionals to contribute virtually to fight COVID-19 by solving wider health challenges (i.e. challenges faced in the care sector).
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