01 Oct 2015

Why we’re interested in health

By Paul Miller

Over the next few weeks we’ll be writing about our four impact themes including why we think they’re important and what we’re looking for if you’re thinking of applying. Remember, we’re very happy to talk on the phone or meet for a coffee if you’d like to talk your idea through.

Since we started investing and supporting social ventures, health has been the largest single area for us. We’ve backed 24 teams over that time spanning physical and mental health, preventative and acute care and working in the UK as well as internationally.

In some ways the world has never had better access to healthcare. Many diseases have been all but eradicated and others are much more easily treated or controlled. But at the same time, things are getting much, much worse. The growth in some of the ‘diseases of affluence’ is pretty shocking. Because of changing diets and poor levels of activity, diabetes is set to affect around 10% of the european population. Poor mental health affects one in four of us each year.

And then there are the real doomsday scenarios. Antibiotic resistance or the potential for epidemic diseases that we don’t know how to deal with are now an ever present risk.

In short, there are plenty of problems to get stuck into in health. Can technology help solve these problems? Well, we think so. We’re interested in ideas that could have a positive social impact in one or more of the following ways:

Improve the way healthcare is organised and lower costs in the process. DrDoctor is a great example here. The day hospitals turn the system on they get a 33% reduction in so-called DNAs (Did Not Attends).

Using advances in technology to create better diagnostic tools and better treatments. Such as Project Tide, who have created a smartphone app that can be used to improve the diagnosis of tuberculosis in the developing world, or Andiamo who are using 3D scanning and printing technology to revolutionise the way we make orthotics.

Preventative health is also a big area for us. OurPath are helping prevent people going from ‘pre-diabetes’ to having Type 2 diabetes which now accounts for over 10% of NHS costs. We sometimes call these ‘prevention engines’.

Mental health is also a particular interest for us. We’re very interested in non-stigmatising approaches which is why we’ve backed Biblio and Cove. We’re also interested in peer support for mental health which is why we backed Talklife.

In all cases we’re looking for ideas that increase access to healthcare and positive health outcomes at the same time as lowering costs and inequality.

If you’ve got an idea you’d like our help getting off the ground, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Photo: Founder of See What I Mean Ilyanna Kerr is pictured with a client piloting their digital tool for helping people with dementia communicate.