Q&A: Digital health
Q&A: how tech can unleash preventative personalised medicine with Verita
Verita Healthcare Group is a company with fingers in many pies, but one of its key focuses is on bringing preventative healthcare to the masses through technology. Chloe Kent catches up with Julian Andriesz and James Grant Wetherill to find out more about the company’s latest digital health acquisitions and what it sees in its future.
he final year of the 2010s has been an eventful one for Verita Healthcare Group. Having appointed banking and PLC veteran Michael Kirkwood to its board of directors and partnered with Minor Group to tap into the growing $639bn medical wellness industry, it’s also sent shockwaves through the digital health sphere, absorbing a number of platforms across Europe and Asia into its Verita Wellness application.
Verita Wellness focuses on the importance of prevention before cure, and aims to support patients in learning to care for their health before they become unwell in the first place. Chloe Kent speaks to Verita’s CEO Julian Andriesz and chief operating officer James Grant Wetherill about the platform’s latest acquisitions, how they can enhance the relationship between patient and clinician and where they want to head next.
James Grant Wetherill
Can you tell me a little bit about Verita’s background as a company?
Verita Healthcare Group is a healthcare platform that's focused primarily on preventative personalised medicine, and I think we’re one of the few healthcare groups around the world that has that focus and objective.
With the rise of ageing populations and preventable chronic diseases around the world, we think Verita is extremely timely. We've created a platform which combines the bricks and mortar clinics and front facing services with the product research and development side, which is overlaid by the digital health care platform Verita Wisdom. That that allows us to mass customise to much larger populations.
You recently acquired CelliHealth and nBuddy, as well as a significant minority stake in Hanako – how are those platforms going to function as part of the Verita family?
James Grant Wetherill
We believe that the first step on your journey to long, healthy life is one of discovery. Hanako have created a platform using the latest state of the art mobile devices, which they take into retail and corporate environments to conduct on-the-spot health checks. The data is analysed there and then in real time, and the doctor can sit down with you straight away and recommend action plans to address any issues that are identified. That was the first investment we made, and we’ve already started rolling that out into our Verita centres.
In addition to the Hanako investment, we're partnering up with a group to provide us with access to health kiosks and health pods, which can provide you with a real-time health data capture to kickstart your journey. That’s when the CelliHealth app kicks in, and that is very much based around setting yourself goals, tracking your activity, rewarding people, challenging people, almost gamifying it – you find that there’s a correlation between making things fun and challenging people to do things in groups. With every ten people or so we screen, eight of them have a form of early or serious stage of chronic health condition, so we then offer a range of digital therapeutics or intervention programmes to help them manage their lifestyle.
The nBuddy programme is specifically designed around nutrition – planning and tracking and recording, looking at recipes, eating lower carbohydrates, having coaches to support you through that journey, plus exercise. We sync up with Apple Health and Google Health, as well as some of the major players in the devices world like FitBits. People are reducing their HbA1C, losing 5% or more body weight, even reversing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and substantially improving their blood pressure.
Do you have any other investments in the pipeline?
We have two additional investments and acquisitions that we're lining up. One of these is in the US market, also based around chronic disease management, and the other is based in the UK. I can't say too much as we're under NDA on some of these acquisitions, but the long story short is they all complement each other. Ultimately what we'll do is have a series of steps which go from detection, through to prevention and wellness, through to chronic disease management and reversals, to get people off their meds and avoid painful and expensive medical interventions.
What role do platforms like this have in enhancing the relationship between patient and healthcare provider?
James Grant Wetherill
With the permissions that we request, people have the power to grant their caregivers access to their data so clinicians can set their plans, check their progress, adjust their meds and so on. Typically, people will only see their GP or their caregiver when they're quite sick, rather than having this sort of always-on relationship.
The elephant in the room is there’s a massive healthcare timebomb with aging populations. Doctors are being put under tremendous amounts of pressure to see huge numbers of patients in a short space of time, and the doctors that we speak to are struggling to cope with just the symptomatic relief of patients with diseases, let alone have time to look into prevention.
There’s a desperate need to quickly create a mass customised approach using this technology, bringing screenings into the home as opposed to queuing up for an hour to see a GP once in a while. This is the future, and I think it’s going to support the prevention and reversal of these chronic diseases, and I think it’s certainly something that’s going to be embraced by governments and corporate insurers.
How many people are signed up to the Verita Wisdom platform right now and how do you keep their data secure?
James Grant Wetherill
The combined platforms have 1.5 million registered users. Each platform is compliant in terms of local security and privacy of information laws. Data is key, but the privacy and security and protection of that data is also taken very seriously.
Where do you see 2020 taking Verita?
We’re growing on all fronts, both in terms of revenue increase and also geographically, and not just on the digital side. Our plan is to continue to work on the M&A side so we’re making strategic, targeted acquisitions and investments, as well as growing organically. We’re looking the whole time at new technologies, medtech devices, new protocols, new digital technology to incorporate into the platform when it becomes available and it’s proven to be effective.
This is a constant R&D innovation strategy, and we have a whole division focused on that. We’re constantly reinventing the wheel to improve and refine and make sure that we can deliver the best to the consumer over the coming years.
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