Defining the future of long-term condition care
Born out of a close experience with health, Aide Health is the future of long-term condition care, on a mission to make prescribed care as effective as possible. It’s a digital health service using conversational AI to improve patient engagement and clinical assessment for chronic disease.
26 million people in the UK live with a long-term health condition, and 200 million people are affected in the US. These numbers rise every year, and this increasing human and economic cost counts for most healthcare spending. To improve these figures, better self-management and insight of conditions is required.
This is where Aide Health, CEO and Founder, Ian Wharton and his Co-founder, Brian Snyder come in. The pair turned their experience and skillset into something they deeply believe in.
In his mid-30s, Ian was reintroduced to the challenges of managing a long-term condition and how to prevent it from taking over when what was once regarded as childhood asthma returned.
“I’m otherwise a very healthy person... and suddenly it becomes a daily life limiting thing,” Ian explained.
Ian went to the NHS, where a handful of clinicians and a GP took great care in attempting to work out what was going on. Alongside his prescribed medicine, Ian was given a peak-flow metre, which is something you blow into giving a reasonable indication of lung capacity and function. Ian was told to do this three times a day and come back in a few months.
Ian took agency over his own condition, leaving the consultation wondering how he was going to get this data to the GP and how he’d get insight from it. This led him to put all the figures in a spreadsheet where he charted the results.
What happened next was what was expected. The peak flow began erratic, levelled out, then increased as the medicine started working. To the extent where Ian looked at triggers in daily life, including stress and diet, and was left battling these insights. Ian figured out what was causing the issue and how to manage it and was able to come off the medication.
Upon returning to his GP, Ian was astonished to discover that nobody takes the time to do this: “That’s kind of heart-breaking when you realise the gap in that relationship between the clinician and patient,” said Ian.
This spurred the Aide Health team to open the conversation to family members and friends, where they discovered every other person has a story of long-term conditions, and the impact it has on the healthcare system became apparent.
Aide believes these challenges are best solved when there is a deep involvement from healthcare professionals and the system. “There are lots of people designing great healthtech to try and circumvent clinicians, but this is the opposite of what we want to do. We want to extend their reach and strengthen the relationship they have with patients to get better outcomes, rather than removing them from the process,” explained Ian.
“We have a particular interest in helping solve the challenge of comorbidity, which means people who have two or more conditions, which we believe is an underserved part of healthcare.”
Launching deliberately from day one being multi-conditional, Aide Health launched its NHS pilot in May 2022, with asthma and type two diabetes. “We received really promising results. It’s a feasibility study but we’ve learned great things, and we’re well on our way to showing the impact of this support to clinicians and patients.
“We’re in advanced discussions with other organisations within the NHS to partner with them and support their patient population”, explained Ian.
Aide Health’s goal over the coming year is to pay attention to at least the top 10 long term conditions, with the next one being hypertension, affecting 12 million people in the UK. The team will add more conditions as it continues its journey.
The journey has begun with the NHS, believed to be the best way to make the biggest impact on UK healthcare. Aide Health is in conversations as making Aide an employee benefit for certain types of companies. Long-term conditions are almost always left out of private healthcare and employee wellness packages. “We’re talking to some corporations about how Aide might support their workforce,” said Ian.
The goal next is to tap into the US as it has the biggest potential market.
“The best way to think of Aide is that it has short, daily conversations with patients to help them manage their day-to-day, and better understand the medicine. It’s driven by conversational AI,” explained Ian.
Aide reminds patients to take their medication, capturing reasons they might be struggling, and their belief about medicine. It also assists people in monitoring their condition, capturing blood pressure, blood glucose, weight, and symptoms to identify triggers in that condition. Lastly, Aide Health provides structured education to ensure patients gain a better overall understanding of their condition, enabling them to manage it more effectively.
Aide Health made the deliberate decision to bootstrap initially: “It speaks to where we are in our professions and careers that we’re able to, so we’d always advocate it, but we know it’s not realistic for everyone,” said Ian.
Both Ian and Brian invested into the business early on, and bootstrapped for 12 months whilst assembling the initial team.
“We closed a small friends and family round in December 2021, where we raised £100,000. That’s where we got some fantastic angel investors. We’ve just closed out pre-seed round of $1.2 million which will be used to accelerate long-term growth,” he added.
The roadmap to helping everyone
Ian believes there is a huge duty of care to understand long-term conditions as much as possible for a product and design perspective. This has been solved as Aide Health has some of the best clinicians in the UK join as advisors, or join the team. Early on, this was extremely challenging.
Aide’s biggest challenge has been the order of events. Like many startups, prioritising product development and building the business so far has been difficult.
“That translates to what condition do we next provide support for. Asthma was deliberate because it takes us into metabolic syndromes and respiratory. Hypertension is a no brainer because of its impact on people. But it’s the next order of events.
“We discuss things like chronic pain, and even long COVID. For us, that’s probably what keeps us awake most,” said Ian.
Aide Health operates on an evidence-based system, meaning it’s happy to look at and challenge assumptions of how digital therapeutics help people, as medicine moves so quickly.
Ian continued: “As much as we’re able to go down the scientific route of helping as many people as possible, the conflict is that there are a lot of people with underserved conditions that don’t have a great deal of spotlight on them that we’d love to help.”
The immediate focus for Aide is to scale its product engineering and data teams, which is well underway. A focus on rolling out new conditions is also a priority, with hypertension expected to be rolled out in Q1 of 2023. The next big milestone for the team is to similarly pilot Aide in the US healthcare system within the next 12-18 months.
Achieving huge milestones in healthcare
Getting its NHS pilot was a huge milestone for Aide Health, and Ian appreciates the team were lucky in that there’s a great deal of the NHS that wants innovation.
Another key moment for Ian is that most health tech disregards people aged 65+, which is utterly unfair. One of the most active patients in Aide’s pilot was in fact in their 70s, with other people of this age group using the platform. “This is proof that there needn’t be this digital exclusion that happens in health. In fact. Quite the opposite,” exclaimed Ian.