The VCare Beginning
It’s been a tough couple of years in the world of Social Care, but one interesting side-effect of the pandemic has been the acceleration of digital adoption within healthcare organisations. This hasn’t always been the case, though, and it got all of us at VCare thinking about our own journey over these past 6-years.
The journey to connect the dots in healthcare started with COO and co-founder, Saurabh, who worked as a pharmacist in Wimbledon for 15-years before co-founding VCare Systems. It was in this pharmacy context that he witnessed first-hand the issues that can occur when communicating between different healthcare boundaries and systems. The frustration ultimately got the better of him and at this point he called on his close friends and technology experts, Abhijeet, Kalpesh and Jagbir, to ask for some advice on digitising various processes used to manage his care home clients. At the time all three of the other co-founders were working for large multinational banks and financial services firms.
A Little Help From Some Friends
After describing the pain-points of these manual processes to the three people who knew what it would take to build a solution, the VCare journey really was born. As Saurabh puts it, “It was actually really fortunate that I happened to have friends who could both understand and resolve these issues. I think the timing thing is important too, as we didn’t know it then, but we were all subconsciously ready to scratch our entrepreneurial itch.
I had only got in touch with them to see if they could hack me an excel spreadsheet or something and a few months later we had designed our first product and incorporated the company.
I gave the guys a list of 100 items that needed fixing on my legacy pharmacy system and we quite quickly agreed that rather than fixing all the old code with a proverbial sticky plaster, we would be better off starting with a blank slate. I’m just glad I had the audacity to call on all three of them. Having the technological firepower particularly in those early stages, as well as the domain knowledge I can bring in the pharmacy world, allowed us to build a scalable and deep product that could compete with larger organisations right from the start. You hear lots of horror stories of non-IT founders who get their fingers burnt outsourcing all of their technology, but fortunately that was never an issue for us.”
From PMR to eMAR
The first product VCare creates was a secondary PMR (Patient Medication Record), which would help pharmacies to manage their care home clients and create high quality and diverse Medication Administration Record (MAR) charts. Saurabh adds, “Calling in some favours from friends in the industry and bringing on our early pharmacy clients was key as it allowed us to iterate based on user feedback. Again, we didn’t realise it at the time, but we were reinforcing things that would later be deeply embedded into our company culture. A huge part of VCare today is how we stay close to our customers to ensure that features are built with input from direct user feedback. We also make sure that we speak a customer’s language and for this reason we have many people within the company that have worked in care homes, wider healthcare and pharmacies.”
The next product step would seem like an obvious one in hindsight, but it actually came a year or so after the PMR. As Saurabh continues, “5 or 6 years’ ago, the term eMAR really wasn’t so well-understood, with only a tiny percentage of care homes using an eMAR system. We wanted to streamline communication between care homes and pharmacies and so we built our own eMAR app for care homes that directly integrates with the home’s regular pharmacy. This was an intense product build as we all immersed ourselves in the care home world. We were fortunate to have an early care home client who allowed us to spend a considerable amount of time in the home, looking into the intricacies of a medicine round and medication ordering. We would stay for as long as we possibly could, and would have slept there if they’d have allowed us to. Joking aside though, we had so many important product insights from this process.”
In terms of the kind of product nuggets that VCare gained from this process, “As an example, right from the beginning we knew that we needed to have a dedicated app that functions in all corners of a care home – even when there's no Wi-Fi. We saw first-hand how Wi-Fi routers often sit in a manager’s office and connectivity does not reach all parts of a home. With the technical team we have in place, we're able to solve this issue as rounds can be administered on the VCare app, at the point-of-care, when there is no internet connectivity whatsoever.”
Despite this, it hasn’t always been plain sailing. As Saurabh recalls, “Another thing we quickly realised was that we would need to work with all types of pharmacies to enable the direct integration between pharmacy and care home. This has led us to where we are today where we work with independents, the largest chains and any organisation in the middle of these categories."
Care home clients are understandably extremely reliant on the VCare eMAR solution to ensure medicines are administered on time and documented accurately. As Saurabh puts it, “I also think it’s not well understood how technically complex achieving a fully-functional eMAR solution is.
Dosage instructions can be complex and the system needs to be flexible to cater for all types of prescriptions including, for example, gradual reduction in steroids like prednisolone and dexamethasone.
I think, for us, what is exciting is that we firmly believe that the vast majority of UK care homes will be using eMAR in the next five-years.”
Full Patient Context
As for what’s next, VCare’s Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) solution offers plenty of insight into the future by connecting patient information to healthcare professionals. “We started recording healthcare readings in our product after receiving requests from our customers to allow them to measure these inputs. This was really the start of a wider push from ourselves to unite medicine adherence information with other healthcare inputs, such as vital signs and soft signs. The pandemic really brought to the fore the need for joined-up healthcare. In those early days when everyone was just getting to grips with the virus, care homes and wider social care were left completely exposed. We are seeing the true benefits of joined-up care with our remote monitoring solution, which works to connects key contextual health information of care home residents, as well as people receiving community care, to bespoke clinical teams.
With technology it’s now really simple to provide the NHS with key, live information of what it is going on in social care. The benefits of this are really clear as a patient’s care is enhanced with more people having visibility of their health.
From the NHS standpoint, there is oversight of health deteriorations which promotes early interventions and reductions in emergencies, with issues dealt with earlier. From the perspective of social care organisations, they have the support of clinical staff and a shared language with both care organisation and NHS able to see the same information. What’s exciting is that we are only just scratching the surface of this technology. We’re doing really cutting-edge things with wearables and generally bringing elements of telecare into the sphere of remote patient monitoring.”
What is clear is that we at VCare are only just starting in our journey to connect the dots in healthcare.