Scotland’s digital health is a success story - Dr Matthew Freer

It’s hard to put into words the effect Covid-19 has had on society. In so many ways, it has caused devastating consequences but there have also been pockets of positivity.

As NHS Scotland witnessed the effects Covid was having in England, it gave us time to prepare. On the flip side, the lag period brought fear and anxiety around the impending impact. But, the preparation and training I witnessed in my own hospital was exceptional, and how the front line staff came together made me so proud to be part of the team.

We all have had our own personal journeys. My wife, also working in a hospital, tested positive for Covid mid-pregnancy, was isolated during maternity leave, and then cut off from her family in London which was difficult. The last 15 months have been such a mental and physical strain for so many, but they have also helped us focus on what is important.

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The pandemic has consolidated my commitment to remain driven to succeed with my medical technology startup company, Infix Support. I started the company pre-pandemic in the face of rising patient waiting lists and the knowledge that digital innovation will play a pivotal role in improving efficiency within operating theatres.

In 2018, the Scottish Government set out a target of 100 per cent for treating patients within 12 weeks, but even before Covid we only achieved 71 per cent. Due to the impact of Covid, the figure was at 35 per cent, with over twenty-eight thousand patients waiting over fifty-two weeks for operations, four times greater than in 2019.

In Scotland, we have kept emergency operations running and our prioritisation of cancer surgery has resulted in reduced impact to this service, however, we have a tidal wave of demand ahead of us and the need for technology to support the fatigued workforce is more vital than ever.

Infix’s cloud-based digital platform fully integrates with electronic patient records, developing a patient waiting list system which can prioritise patients most in need. We are able to utilise robust NHS data within our automated scheduling tool, leading to significant improvements in theatre utilisation.

We recently carried out a successful 4-month trial with one of the largest NHS health boards and, with the support of Scottish Enterprise, the University of Stirling independently reviewed our system and showed that we could increase operating theatre utilisation by up to 35 per cent.

Our early successes have led to discussions with NHS England trusts, large private healthcare providers, several EU healthcare contacts, and private hospital groups in the United Arab Emirates.

As a startup founder, I’ve realised the importance of advisers and mentors. We are fortunate to have Forrit founder and CEO Peter Proud on our board, along with Trace founder Sorcha Lorimer. Getting to know other startup founders like Callum Murray at Amiqus and Paul Reid at Trickle has also been an important learning curve.

Scotland is doing such great things in digital health when you look at companies like Current Health and Care Sourcer, and it’s our ambition for Infix to be one of the next generation of Scottish success stories in the sector, tackling challenges in Scotland and exporting to the rest of the world.

Dr Matthew Freer is a consultant anaesthetist and the CEO and co-founder of Infix Support

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