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25 January, 2012 - 14:12 By Tony Quested

An App a day to keep the doctor away!

Professor Alan Barrell (left) and Dawson King

A young Cambridge company is set to fire another telling shot in the healthcare revolution that is gathering force in the UK.

Cambridge Healthcare Ltd (CHL) is at the cutting edge of the technology needed to deliver digital improvements for patient care. And at the end of this month it is set to unveil its first full i-Phone App.

If an Apple a day keeps the doctor away then an app on Apple from CHL could help patients fend off the medics permanently.

Spearheaded by thrusting young entrepreneur Dawson King and backed by the experience of industry veteran Professor Alan Barrell, CHL is working in partnership with the NHS and Connecting for Health to develop howareyou.com, an e-Health portal for patients and healthcare professionals. The portal will integrate with the NHS IT infrastructure and provide the platform for an unlimited number of healthcare applications.

As well as providing an electronic personal health plan for patients, CHL is creating the first ever healthcare application store, encouraging third parties – including medical technology companies and healthcare providers –to design an unlimited range of innovative, useful and high-quality applications.

Yes – www.howareyou.com will be fully accessible on the i-Phone. If that wasn’t sufficient glory, CHL will in parallel be launching a marketing push with another global technology giant, Microsoft. Microsoft HealthVault has joined forces with the Cambridge startup to improve storage of patient medical data and deliver more effective treatment.

The alliance will shoehorn medical information from a range of sources into one online fountainhead through an innovative new app. It will provide a framework for NHS Trusts and commercial third-parties to develop apps that directly engage with patients and their healthcare professionals. This resource will also be accessible through the www.howareyou.com online platform.

A little more icing could find its way onto the CHL cake as it is in the process of having a major NHS Foundation Trust in the region make decisions on the adoption of the system. The blockbusting start to 2012 represents a stunning year for CHL. At the start of 2011 the company was little more than a set of sparkling ideas in Dawson King’s fertile brain. But in a matter of a few months, the company and www.howareyou.com are truly up and running.

Having raised seed capital from Cambridge-based and overseas investors, the product is now open to all NHS patients. The core technology provides security-enhanced data sharing and manages authentication, hosting and data modelling so that NHS Trusts can focus on building tools that citizens need to lead a healthier, happier life. Thousands of patients have already signed up to the beta, hospital trusts planning pilot schemes.

CHL is an unusual business model. Starting and continuing as a partnership with the NHS East of England and extending to all the NHS, the portal is accessible without charge to all patients and practitioners in the UK.

The revenue streams to finance the business will come from partnerships, licensing including international expansion, special services and information provision and through the apps store, which is expected to become very popular and grow quickly given the current development and take up of social media activities.

A number of press pieces have referred to www.howareyou.com as “the Facebook of healthcare.”

Some of the key ‘third sector’ organisations are engaged now in either pilot studies with members being signed up (The Arthritis Trust) or thinking through with the company what special provisions might be needed to optimise peer communications using www.howareyou.com (Organisations working with Diabetes, ME., Cystic Fibrosis and others are in this camp).

The power of peer communications and information exchange and aggregation is clearly a major attraction. On the overseas front – The Blue Cross in New Zealand and GP consortia – there are active discussions of commercial arrangements and in Canada and the US and in Hong Kong, prospective partners and representatives are lined up.

The company is now engaged in next round equity financing and a number of private investors and venture firms are in active discussion. The director team of Dawson King – CEO and CTO – Alan Barrell  (commercial director) and FD John Martyn are working extensively in this area to secure funds for continued rapid growth.

King is jetting to Silicon Valley to meet with US investors in February and investigating partnership prospects further. He will also make a flying visit to Beijing where the company is attracting a lot of interest from Chinese healthcare organisations and some private Chinese investors. Upcoming Chinese health sector reforms can only be implemented on the back of developments in IT/communications support programmes.

Cambridge Healthcare Ltd reckons it holds the key. Given the number of opportunities the company promises to open up in 2012, the key in question would appear to be of the skeleton variety.

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Professor Alan Barrell (left) and Dawson King

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