When it comes to life’s key priorities, few things take precedence over caring for a relative or loved one. Unfortunately, it’s a situation that the majority of people will experience at some point in their lives, be it helping someone with a long-term illness or disability, or looking after an elderly relative.
With an ageing population and increasing life expectancy, the level of public demand for care, health and wellbeing services is poised to increase significantly in the UK over the next decade. However, the extent to which the NHS will be able to deal with this future demand has come into question. Structural inefficiencies and a lack of available resources this year resulted in the worst winter crisis on record for the NHS.
Thankfully, change is on the horizon; the same digital disruption witnessed in the financial services and property industries over recent years is beginning to take hold of the UK’s healthcare sector. Addressing the outdated legacy systems that have undermined the efficient delivery of services, HealthTech solutions are emerging at pace across the country. In a similar vein to FinTech, these exciting innovations are being led by startups and scaling SMEs, offering new apps, wearable tech, online platforms and medical tools to empower individuals and medical professionals to ensure they are ideally positioned to manage the health and care of themselves or others.
Worth an estimated £23 billion in 2014, the global digital health sector is expected to have almost doubled in value to £43 billion by the close of 2018. When we look specifically at the UK, the size of its digital health market is projected to reach £2.9 billion this year. Digital technologies clearly have an important role to play in enhancing accessibility, transparency and the responsive delivery of care and wellbeing services. Not only can this alleviate the pressure currently being placed on the NHS, it can also promote people to live healthier lives and contribute to preventative health outcomes.
Connecting care within communities through Lavanya Plus
Lavanya Plus was established in 2016 with the goal of connecting care within communities through a unique B2B and B2C proposition. Myself, my wife Rajal Patni, and our son Vivek Patni, sought to launch an online HealthTech platform to assist both those in need of health and care services, and businesses looking for a method to manage the delivery of their services. Through our combined experiences, we worked together to develop and launch a new platform. The result was Wellness Management for Life – WeMa Life, an online ecosystem that empowers people and businesses to connect seamlessly through web and mobile apps. In doing so, it delivers a complete 360o experience of managing the search, compare, book and payment of services by users whilst helping businesses improve efficiencies and lower the cost of service delivery.
Prior to creating the business, all three of us enjoyed very different careers. I worked for over 30 years in IT, supporting the long-term scale-up of small firms into reputable international brands – in 2013, I successfully sold card payment services company YESpay to WorldPay for more than £20 million. My wife Rajal has over 25 years’ experience working within a range of businesses in the construction, outsourcing and technology sectors, combining strategic, operational, and financial expertise to help these companies grow. And our son Vivek holds a degree in biomedical sciences – after completing this degree Vivek went on to work in professional services before deciding to join us in the establishment of Lavanya Plus.
We’re proud to say that we are a family business in the truest sense of the term. Indeed, our decision to launch WeMa Life was borne out of our personal experiences looking after an elderly family member. It became immediately apparent to us that the process of finding and managing in-home care and wellbeing services was incredibly difficult. Anyone who has ever been tasked with sourcing domiciliary care for themselves or someone close to them will know how difficult, stressful and cumbersome the process can be. Often blighted by a selection of unvetted service providers, poor communication and requiring the use of multiple platforms, it can be a costly and time-consuming experience. Moreover, it can be the cause of significant emotional strain.
After an extensive period of development and testing of the tech, as well as sourcing health and care service providers for our platform, WeMa Life was successfully launched to market in February 2018.
Welcome to WeMa Life
WeMa Life’s multi-service platform offers benefits to both consumers and businesses. For people seeking health, care and wellbeing services – either for themselves or someone close to them – WeMa Life makes it easy to source, compare, book and pay reputable providers. Services available through the online marketplace and app will include: social care; domiciliary care; nursing; domestic help; personal care and hygiene; massages; yoga and Pilates instructors; nutritionists; physiotherapists; personal trainers; and more. Users can book one-off and on-going sessions, as well as services from multiple providers in one transaction.
From young people wanting regular fitness sessions to people in their 50s responsible for looking after elderly parents, WeMa Life has a broad appeal. It also has significant benefits for individuals needing to arrange care before or after clinical treatment, removing stress and complexity from an already difficult situation.
Meanwhile, the tools available through the online portal and mobile app enable businesses to improve the management and delivery of their services. As well as opening them up to communities of potential customers across the nation, WeMa Life lets health and care providers roster staff, arrange appointments, communicate with customers, accept payments and enhance efficiency.
What’s more, research commissioned by WeMa Life to coincide with its launch, which was carried out independently among more than 2,000 UK adults in early 2018, showed just how common these experiences are and therefore how great the need is for new digital tools to take the pain out of booking health, care and wellbeing services.
The study found that 15% of UK adults currently act as informal carers, each spending on average 13 hours a week taking on duties such as cooking, cleaning and caring for someone close to them. More than half (53%) say the role has had a significant emotional impact on them, with 30% even falling out with friends or family because of tensions around their responsibilities. Furthermore, 46% find it difficult to source suitable providers and two thirds (66%) want to see an online solution to make it easier to source and book healthcare services.
Empowering people to better manage their own health
With the NHS near breaking point, we cannot overlook some of the exciting innovations currently on offer in the HealthTech space. HealthTech solutions like WeMa Life are making it easier and quicker for people to manage the care, health and wellbeing of either themselves or a close loved one. As such, it’s now important for government and industry bodies to encourage the adoption and promotion of tech in the UK’s health, care and wellness space.
But WeMa Life also caters to a different group of people: those who simple want to be empowered to take better control over their own health. For those who want nutritionists, yoga instructors or personal trainers, the HealthTech solution makes it easy for them to access the services of a wide range of reputable professionals. This ensures WeMa Life has broad appeal to substantial portions of society.
Empowering individuals to better manage their own health lies at the heart of WeMa Life’s proposition. But, as stated, the multi-faceted HealthTech solution also stands to improve how healthcare professionals – from individual, self-employed carers through to businesses providing wellbeing services – can connect with new and existing customers.
The launch of WeMa Life comes at an important time for the UK. Technological platforms have catered to the rise of the gig economy, allowing people to independently decide when they want to work. The likes of Deliveroo and Uber have exemplified just how willing the public is to embrace the gig economy, which has been simplified and made accessible through online platforms and apps. As a consequence, there are estimated to be around 1.3 million people working in the UK’s gig economy.
The UK’s health and care sectors are ideally positioned to benefit from a flexible and mobile working force, with the gig economy empowering those able to offer health, care and wellness services starting from just a few hours a week. In a bid to alleviate the strain currently being placed on the NHS, the UK Government has also announced the need for more flexible models to be adopted in the healthcare sector. Technology and app-based solutions are empowering workers and creating an exciting new medium of exchange between service users and service providers, so it is no surprise that the rise of HealthTech and the gig economy are closely linked.