MyWay Digital Health
A passion for helping those with diabetes and a realisation that tech could help manage the condition, led Unlocking Ambition Ambassador Debbie Wake on the path to co-founding MyWay Digital Health in 2017.
A spin-out from the University of Dundee, Debbie had worked with diabetes patients for over 20 years as an NHS doctor; 15 with MyWay’s co-founder Scott Cunningham who was technical lead for NHS Scotland’s shared electronic record for diabetes. Together, they wanted to improve the lives of the increasing number of those living with the condition.
MyWay Digital Health’s ‘MyDiabetesMyWay’, originally funded by NHS Scotland, provides diabetes patients with an app that enables them to monitor key health indicators and to receive treatment advice ‘on the go’. It is able to provide electronic health record access, remote glucose monitoring data linkage, and tailored, automated support to help patients manage their conditions. It covers all types of diabetes including Type 1, Type 2 and gestational. It takes a holistic approach to patient care covering everything from appointments to mental health.
With 50,000 users of the app in Scotland; the opportunities for growth in the UK beyond the third of NHS England already covered and abroad are huge.
“In the UK around 15% of the health budget is spent on diabetes; in America that rises to over 20%. In the Middle East, one in four people suffer from diabetes. The potential is huge. Through a Global Scot connection we are hoping to start a USA test in North Carolina; in the Middle East we are in discussions with the Ministries of Health and private insurance companies,” explains Debbie.
It’s enabled me to take a step back and look at myself and the business and I keep coming back to the learnings again and again.
The team at MyWay has had significant help along the way including through both the NHS and RBS Accelerator Programmes, Innovate UK, SDI, as well as Unlocking Ambition.
“Scotland’s eco system for entrepreneurs is amazing and we are so lucky to have it. It’s the envy of my peers on the NHS England Accelerator programme. Unlocking Ambition in particular has opened our eyes to the international opportunity, with visits to Babson in Boston and Silicon Valley; SDI trips to the Middle East have also been invaluable.
“I applied for Unlocking Ambition as an academic, to give me greater business insight and to help us scale up. With regard the more formal elements of the programme, whilst it is easy to think that you don’t have time to do masterclasses and workshops, in reflection it’s been hugely advantageous. It’s enabled me to take a step back and look at myself and the business and I keep coming back to the learnings again and again,” comments Debbie.
Scotland’s eco system for entrepreneurs is amazing and we are so lucky to have it. It’s the envy of my peers on the NHS England Accelerator programme.
She also finds that cohort-based learning has huge advantages and compares it with the approach to group-based diabetes clinics where ‘you leave with 10 more friends and 100% support.”
The hardest points for Debbie have been the resourcing challenge, the need to do a million things without enough people and personally balancing the commercial role with public sector and academia, as Debbie explains, “Some academic and NHS colleagues believe that in running a business, you’ve lost your moral compass, rather than seeing it an opportunity to have massive health impact.” She is a clinician and still runs one NHS clinic a week, to help diabetes patients and keep her hand in clinically, and is a Clinical Reader at the University of Edinburgh/ holds an honorary University of Dundee position.
Expanding the business internationally – having a presence in the Middle East and the USA - and looking at the potential to go beyond diabetes and harness technology in a similar way to tackle other chronic diseases is the way ahead for the business. In doing so, she hopes to grow the business to a £5m turnover in around three years.
As Debbie says: “Our USP is turning data into intelligence and advice through data analytics and artificial intelligence. There are huge parallels in using this to tackle other conditions. In doing so, I hope we can continue to build a commercial business that improves the lives of people with long term health conditions and helps reduce the burden on health budgets around the world.”