Technology social enterprise Appt Health wins Innovate UK funding to improve population health

The UK government’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, has awarded a promising technology start-up funding to ensure that people can enjoy at least 5 extra healthy, independent years of life by 2035, while reducing health inequalities.

Appt Health plans to take on this Grand Challenge mission by working with care providers to increase the uptake of screening programmes in the UK, while ensuring their methods are accessible to all.

Currently, England has 11 screening programmes delivered by primary care providers. These range from bowel and cervical cancer screening to heart health risk factor identification programmes.

As it stands, screening rates are well below the national targets that were set out for them. For example, the NHS Health Check, which is designed to spot the early signs of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and type 2 diabetes, has seen just 35% of those eligible attending an appointment.

Research suggests that inaccessible appointments, lack of understanding of their purpose, and difficulty for GP practice staff to efficiently invite patients is part of the underlying problem resulting in low uptake rates.

Working closely with healthcare commissioners and front-line care providers, Appt Health is in the process of building a software solution to the problem. They will create a platform that integrates into GP practice administration systems, automatically messaging eligible patients with a series of invitations designed to engage the public in their healthcare journey.

The social enterprise is currently utilising the Innovate UK funding to conduct an at-scale randomised control trial in 18 GP practices in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, one of the UKs most deprived regions.

The trial will provide evidence that Appt can deliver on their goal of consistently achieving 65% uptake of the NHS Health Check, with significantly less effort from GP practice staff.

The Appt Health team has provided us with an exclusive update on the first round of invitations sent to patients, which was an optimised SMS message that allowed patients to choose and book a suitable time for themselves by simply responding to the SMS.

The first SMS invitation achieved a 45% booking rate, meaning more than 600 people in Barking & Dagenham who received one of Appt’s special text messages booked themselves into an NHS Health Check appointment.

The full trial will be completed by April 2020, with a full report due to be released by the social enterprise and Barking and Dagenham local authority soon afterwards.