Alistair Murray, Clinical Director of Echo, talks funding, prevention and behaviour, medication management and the use of digital technology!

Just last week, Echo was featured in the NHS Digital Annual Report for 2017-18. This landmark caps a stellar twelve months for the business, during which time we’ve trebled our numbers; appeared on the official NHS Apps Library; been named ‘Best British Startup’ at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona; and received £7 million in Series A funding – with backing from the likes of White Star Capital, MMC Ventures,, LocalGlobe and Global Founders Capital.

Such milestones are not only testament to the incredible hard work and dedication of the team, but also underscore the prevalence of the very problem we are trying to solve: people not taking their medication properly.

Preventative measures

Although we help users manage their medication, we are well aware of our responsibility to encourage behaviours that prevent someone’s health getting worse – even if that means ensuring people don’t need to take medication in the first place. As a society, a big share of our collective efforts should be directed towards cutting out the causes of illness before it can take root.

In many cases, a person cannot live a normal life without their medication, so the focus then becomes about stopping symptoms or illnesses from escalating. Once a person has been diagnosed with a condition and prescribed a course of a particular medication, prevention boils down to promoting proper adherence alongside healthy lifestyle choices. Just as medication won’t work if they are not taken as directed, they won’t work properly if they are not supplemented by healthy behaviours.

For example, if someone takes a statin (medication used to help control the amount of cholesterol in the blood), they might feel no difference if they come off the drug. However, doing so may put them at greater risk of developing or exacerbating cardiovascular problems – especially if they’re also eating unhealthily and smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. This is why taking steps to improve other habits as part of a lifestyle change is so important. If it’s too late to stop an illness occurring, we need to at least ensure we have the means to prevent it from escalating.

Echo’s mission is to pave the way towards better public health by making medication management easy and hassle-free. Not only will this lead to a healthier population, but it will also save the public coffers millions – allowing government funding to be redirected to more timely and cost-effective areas of research.

When we look at the facts, it becomes clear that there’s a palpable sense of urgency. NICE estimates that between a third and half of all medication in the UK isn’t taken as directed. The World Health Organisation believes medication adherence rates in developed countries to be around 50%. In total, the UK spends £17bn p.a. on medication, so between £5.5bn and £8.5bn is wasted – money that could otherwise be spent on vital NHS services.

Good adherence, therefore, should be considered just as important as other lifestyle measures when it comes to preventing escalation for people with conditions that require long-term treatment.

Enter digital technology

At Echo we’re building an ecosystem of health where people, medicine, and data support each other. Through a user-focused app that integrates seamlessly into existing GP workflows, we are improving medication adherence by focusing on simple solutions to complex problems.

Echo works like this. You tell us who your GP is and which repeat medication you need. We sort out the prescription and deliver your medication for free via our network of NHS partner pharmacies. Smart reminders linked to your prescription tell you when to take your meds and when you are about to run out. It’s free for patients and GPs and means that people are more likely to take their medication as directed.

From the start, we never lost sight of the fact we’re a patient-led platform, adopting a serious approach to data protection and privacy that continues up until today. The wellbeing of our patients underpins everything we do, and the positive feedback we get from users has constantly pushed us to improve wherever we can.

As we celebrate the 70th birthday of the NHS, it’s clear that there’s much room for improvement. This is where digital technology enters the fray. Aside from optimising fractured care pathways, freeing up the valuable time of NHS staff and saving a fortune, healthtech solutions can empower patients to take control of their conditions and get on with their lives.

Modern life is hectic, and the last thing people need is to have to stress about their health management. And that’s why we launched Echo in the first place.

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