First-of-its-Kind Healthcare Communications App Inspired by the Challenges of COVID-19 Signs First Agreement with Acute NHS Trust

CardMedicA web and mobile app-based start-up launched during the COVID-19 pandemic to help UK healthcare professionals communicate with patients has signed its first commercial agreement with a hospital trust.

The Oxford-based CardMedic app, which offers online flashcards to guide patients through common clinical interactions, will be now available to healthcare professionals across University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust.

Josephine Octobre, a practice educator at the Trust's Royal Sussex County Hospital, who has been using the app since April last year, said: "All the basic and essential things are covered in terms of communicating with patients, and it enhances their experience and care."

The CardMedic app, which is the first of its kind in the world, was developed by NHS anaesthetist Rachael Grimaldi during her maternity leave.

While caught by travel restrictions in the US in March 2020, she read an article about a COVID-19 patient's terrifying experience of not understanding hospital workers through their PPE. Within 72 hours, Dr. Grimaldi created an app to help her NHS frontline colleagues communicate with patients with hearing, sight, or language difficulties, cognitive impairment, learning disabilities or literacy issues, or those who need to be treated by a healthcare professional wearing PPE.

Josephine downloaded the app shortly after launch. She said: "There were areas of the hospital where we found it difficult to communicate through doors and with full PPE. We tried to use paper held up to the glass, but we soon ran out of paper."

"What we could do now, especially with patients who were hard of hearing, was put our phones in plastic baggies and use them to give immediate information about what we were doing," she says.

The app uses flashcards to replicate conversations on a wide range of healthcare topics. Staff can use questions and explanations developed by clinical professionals or can add free text. The content can be flexed to overcome different communication barriers, by converting it to different languages, sign language videos, easy read or read-aloud mode, or using the integrated speech-to-text translation tool.

Today, Josephine uses the app regularly for patients facing a wide range of communication challenges, including a deaf patient who recently gave birth and struggles to lipread through a mask.

Other benefits to the Trust include complementing its interpreting and translation services. The app covers healthcare topics ranging from breathing and heart problems, to end-of-life care and emergency situations. Staff simply select a topic and choose from nearly 20 language options.

According to Barbara Harris, Head of Inclusion at the Trust, "When shorter conversations need to take place, especially in the middle of the night, clinicians often feel they don’t want to disturb a translator. CardMedic bridges that gap to meet the needs of patients."

Under the new five-year contract, the UH Sussex NHS Trust will roll out the CardMedic app across the whole business domain of the Trust, which serves a population of 1.8 million patients and around 20,000 staff.

Barbara added: "You've got something that’s an absolutely instant way to communicate with your patients, and in so many language formats - that's a major benefit."

Dr Rachael Grimaldi, Co-Founder and CEO, CardMedic, adds: "We are so proud to launch CardMedic with University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust as our Beacon acute secondary care site. Our relationship is a true reflection of what a multi-disciplinary team effort can achieve. Everyone involved shares our passion of putting clear patient communication at the heart of healthcare, improving patient experience and quality of care, and reducing health inequalities."

To take the software forward, Barbara is bringing together a working group of speech and language therapists, maternity, learning disability, patient experience and other professionals, as well as CardMedic representatives, to tweak and optimise the software as it is rolled out across the Trust.

About CardMedic

CardMedic is an innovative website and app designed to improve communication between healthcare staff and patients across any barrier – whether that’s visual, hearing or cognitive impairment, a language barrier or PPE. The company was founded by Dr Rachael Grimaldi in 2020 and now has 50,000 users in 120 countries and 22,000 app downloads.

CardMedic operates a subscription model with three levels of service. “CardMedic Lite” is a basic free service for emergency situations. “CardMedic Health” charges an annual fee for any healthcare setting, including NHS Trusts, hospitals, GP surgeries, pharmacies, dental practices, ambulances and air ambulances, social care and care homes in the UK and overseas. “CardMedic HealthPlus” has customisable content, integration with health records and advanced reporting. The service remains free for staff, public and patients, with the licence paid for at the healthcare level.

The company has been the recipient of two Innovate UK grants; been recruited by the Department for International Trade for inclusion in their Digital Health Export “Top 100 Playbook” and placed on the Top 25 'Ones to Watch' list for international expansion; been fast-tracked through the Ministry of Defence’s Clinical Research and Innovation Gateway COVID-19 Taskforce for rapid dissemination across the UK; been recruited by NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) for endorsement against their Rapid COVID-19 Guidelines; received endorsements from ORCHA (the NHS app library) and the national patient safety body Patient Safety Learning; been the recipient of two awards: a Points of Light Award from the UK Prime Minister and a national patient safety award from the Safe Anaesthesia Liaison Group; CardMedic was also a finalist in the 2021 HSJ (Health Services Journal) ‘Most Effective Contribution to Patient Safety’ Partnerships Award, the National Medilink UK awards for Collaboration with the NHS, and two of the national COVID Business Response Awards.

CardMedic has also been a part of two accelerator programs run by Oxford University and Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, TheHill, and Dr Grimaldi has also been awarded a place on the coveted NHS Clinical Entrepreneur program. She has just won the UK Nationals for She Loves Tech, the world’s largest start-up competition for women and technology, and will be going on to represent the UK at the global semi-finals in Singapore next month. CardMedic is also a finalist in theinternational MassChallenge accelerator program, with the 2021 cohort being based out of Houston Texas, USA.

The company 'graduated' from digital transformation catalyst, The Hill, in Headington, Oxford, and is based in The Oxford Trust's Oxford Centre for Innovation. A local charity set up by Oxford’s first entrepreneurs, Sir Martin and Lady Audrey Wood, the Trust has been supporting start-ups and spinouts for the last 35 years through its two innovation centres, the Oxford Centre for Innovation in central Oxford and its sister site, the Wood Centre for Innovation in Oxford’s Health and Life Sciences District in Headington. The centres are managed by Oxford Innovation.

Aside from their work in the UK, CardMedic are working with refugees in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, in partnership with StepUp, to translate CardMedic into languages indigenous to Africa. They are also establishing the CardMedic Foundation to subsidise the app’s use in developing countries and provide grants to female entrepreneurs and healthcare entrepreneurs in these settings.

https://www.cardmedic.com

About The Oxford Trust

The Oxford Trust is an independent charitable trust, founded in 1985 by entrepreneurs Sir Martin and Lady Audrey Wood, co-founders of Oxford Instruments. Producing superconducting magnets for MRI scanners, the company went on to be a great commercial success which enabled the Woods to start the Trust.

The Trust’s mission is to encourage the pursuit of science and enterprise. It supports science and tech start-ups and spinouts in its innovation centres - the Oxford Centre for Innovation in the City Centre and the Wood Centre for Innovation in Headington's Global Health and Life Sciences District. The income from the innovation centres is invested into innovation programmes and Science Oxford's education and engagement programmes to inspire the scientists and innovators of the future.

Over the last 35 years, the Trust has helped hundreds of tech companies to flourish and grow including Mirada Medical, Perspectum Diagnostics, Navenio, Natural Motion and Oxford Computer Consultants.

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