DISRUPTOR 10: Ieso Digital Health

A handheld therapist’s couch, honest

The Virgin Media Business Disruptors to Watch 10 list, in conjunction with Fast Track 100, is back.

In a climate of ‘disrupt or be disrupted’, we’re determined to help businesses triumph, and our leading-edge research and round-up of 10 of the UK’s most disruptive companies provides much-needed insight into how it’s done.

We’ve spoken to the movers and shakers in our 10 finalists to find out what makes them tick. And in this instalment, we learn that healthcare disruptors don’t just change lives, but save them too. Step up Ieso Digital Health…

Delegates fell silent as the woman nervously rose to her feet, determined to contribute to a conference recently convened by Ieso Digital Health.

After clearing her throat, she spoke loud and proud to the gathering: “A therapist I’ve never met probably saved my life.”

For Rob Brougham, UK MD of the Cambridge-based mental healthcare disruptor, that patient’s revelation stands testament to the achievements of a firm taking therapy from the couch to the handheld – with undeniably impressive results.

Doing things differently

“Obviously that lady is at the extreme end of case studies for whom we have delivered,” says Rob. “But for the vast majority of patients living with mental health disorders that impact on their lives as well as the lives of their friends and families, we are able to help them improve and recover in ways that we have never been able to do so before.”

Even Rob admits he was doubtful when the founders of Ieso Digital Health explained their idea for the delivery of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) sessions online, but the firm claims its unique method reduces patient treatment by 30% and that by the end of 2017 it will have delivered more than 100,000 therapy hours.

Rob explains, “Our delivery is online via typed conversation. The therapist and the patient never speak or see each other. When I first heard of that, I thought it was bizarre. But in many cases it turns out to be a much more effective way of offering therapy than any other mechanism. From the patient’s point of view, there is a really powerful effect where they begin to open up more quickly. The therapist can diagnose more quickly and treat more quickly and therefore the patient recovers more quickly. Our mission is to get more people better more quickly than anyone else.”

Artifical intelligence

Naturally disruption is a key part of the culture at Ieso Digital Health, but the firm is doing even more than just facilitating therapy sessions over the internet. As each patient and therapist type their answers, it is possible for Artificial Intelligence (AI) to monitor the data from their exchanges so therapists can improve what they do.

“We have been preparing to use AI to improve our capabilities,” says Rob. “Our 400 therapists are delivering therapy to patients and we are hoping to augment what they do by providing the kind of tools and background they would expect from, say, a second colleague who can’t be there at the time. By using Artificial Intelligence we are going to further drive up the clinical outcomes and therefore help more patients recover. It has an extraordinary impact on people’s lives.”

Security is key

Like increasing numbers of disruptors, Ieso Digital Health has opted for a Cambridge base over London, Manchester or other major tech hubs, but Rob believes the university city gives the firm access to the best talent.

He says, “Cambridge is a fantastic place to be. There is a little microcosm of technical people. The skill set we have been able to pull together and the passion is just extraordinary and naturally technology has played a huge part in what we do.

“We are a digital health company, health first, and we are absolutely a technically driven company as well. We spend a lot of time and money investing in our technology. We understand where the security is, how to make sure our patient data is secure and how to make sure our therapists can work well with our patients. We invest a lot of money in that area.”

Understand your market

Although it’s early days, the company recently opened an office in the USA, and hopes are high its unique CBT sessions will be quickly adopted there. Meanwhile, what advice does Rob have for other disruptors?

He says, “Make sure you understand what it is you are disrupting and that you are trying to make a difference to something important. In our case, we wanted to make a difference to the provision of mental health care. We were disrupting something we understood and came at it from that point of view. Understand the market or industry you are in and see if there is a way of doing things better.”

We wish Rob and the rest of the team at Ieso Digital Health all the best as they continue their disruptive journey.

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