Forward Health, the healthcare messaging app, scores $3.9M led by Stride.VC

Forward Health, the UK startup that has created an application to help healthcare professionals communicate safely, has raised $ 3.9 million in seed funds.

Leading the round is Stride.VC, the new VC fund of Fred Destin, former partner of Accel, and Harry Stebbings, producer of "The Twenty Minute VC" and more recently Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the VC firm Atomic.

Additional support comes from Albion Capital, while Forward already has a decent variety of angel investors. Among them are the founders of healthtech Jay Desai, of the American company Patient Ping, and Melissa Morris, of Lantum, based in the United Kingdom.

Founded in 2016 by UK doctors Barney Gilbert and Lydia Yarlott, with serial entrepreneur Philip Mundy (who previously founded Goodlord), Forward Health is a messaging application and broader communications platform designed to health professionals, particularly for those who work in hospitals.

A very simple way to think about this is like a "WhatsApp for doctors", which helps health professionals to stop using the popular professional messaging application, which is completely inadequate for a regulated industry like health . However, the broader vision is to "connect health care systems around the world" by improving communication and exchanging information from doctor to doctor (and possibly doctor to patient) with a platform created from the beginning to be sure. , flexible and compatible.

"Health care communication is incredibly fragmented," says Mundy of Forward Healthcare. "This has a direct impact on how clinicians can do their job and the level of care patients receive. Currently, doctors and nurses working in the NHS have to rely on an obsolete and inefficient combination of pagers, landlines, switches and fax machines to get in touch with each other. "This infrastructure of the 1960s wastes a lot of time and can lead to critical delays in the flow of information."

It is in this context that physicians have resorted to alternative methods of communication, such as WhatsApp, which Mundy rightly says are not suitable for their purpose and pose real risks.

"Any communication of this type must be compatible with the exchange of highly sensitive patient information, any application used must be compatible with digital NHS, GDPR and operate within the highest levels of data security," he explains. "WhatsApp and others do not, which means that individual doctors could be held responsible if the patient's data is sent to the wrong contact or thread, and an application like Forward is designed by and for physicians, which it means that it can work in the right way. "

In the case of Forward, that means offering an integrated directory of health professionals working in the same hospital, so that it is possible to send messages to colleagues, even if you do not know their number, the "safe exchange" of information and images ", the ability to create lists of tasks and a way to ensure that all the people involved with the care of a patient are on the same page and working from the same information." The latter includes the ability of physicians to share patient cards, similar to a mini electronic health record, based on the need to know.

For that purpose, the Forward application is compatible with GDPR, NHS IG Toolkit Certified and complies with the guidelines GMC Confidentiality – Physicians must have an approved email address from NHS or Trust to log in. During the past year, a pi test lotus with a community of 5,000 doctors in five partner hospitals.

In a call with Harry Stebbings, who led the round on behalf of Stride and who I promised not to refer to as a converted podcaster -VC (sorry, Harry, I'm a terrible person!) – told me that Forward's mission Health resonated with him personally because of his direct experience of how doctors communicate and share information in the NHS. It is well known that Stebbings' mother has MS, while more recently her father suffered a heart attack.

"I knew that the medical communication was broken when, after my father's heart attack, they faxed their ECG scanners," he says.

When he was introduced to the Forward Health team, Stebbings says he already understood the problem. But, moreover, it seeks the adjustment of the founding market and believes that the founders of Forward are extremely well placed to solve this particular problem, with the right combination of health and product backgrounds.

He says that another thing that has impressed him is the bottom-up growth that the Forward application has garnered, and we both agree to remember a bit the way the Yammer business social network originally penetrated corporations. This allows health professionals to download the application and register using their NHS email address, without the need for a central dictation. In general, they encourage colleagues to do the same, which creates more network effects. This viral growth is also benefiting from the current career of young doctors, who, as part of their training, move from one hospital to another and, in turn, disseminate the use of the Forward application

adds Mundy "Last year, we did not just expand our goals to help thousands of doctors and nurses avoid the use of pagers and WhatsApp, but it also shows us the magnitude of the clinical communication problem." It is a problem at all levels of medical care. From A & E to community services, and affects all doctors and all patients, with this capital, we can work with more doctors across the UK to identify their challenges and expand our product to help solve them. it's just the beginning of what our platform is programmed to be. "