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CardMedic breaks down communication barriers for COVID-19 patients

View from behind elderly patient's head of a nurse in full personal protection holding up a tablet with text explaining how oxygen treatment might make him feel.

© CardMedic. A health worker uses a flashcard on a notebook computer to explain to an elderly patient how he might feel the effect of oxygen treatment.

Digital flashcards devised by a doctor from Brighton to aid communication between patients and PPE-clad health workers during the COVID-19 pandemic are now being used in 120 countries.


With strategic support from Enterprise Europe Network and COVID-19 funding from Innovate UK, CardMedic has had more than 42,000 users and 11,500 app downloads since launch in April.


The cards, covering topics from comfort and breathing to end-of-life care, can be used on a mobile, tablet or desktop computer by patients or hospital staff.


The idea came to NHS anaesthetist Rachael Grimaldi when she read about a COVID patient in intensive care who could not understand what clinicians and nurses were saying behind their full-face masks.


She needed help to attract funding to ensure that her simple but novel idea remains free for the end-users – the patients and staff.


Funding opportunities


After a referral from the Department of International Trade (DIT), EEN South East innovation and growth adviser Valerie Pondaven helped Rachael to understand the different funding opportunities available and to prepare a pitch to potential investors.


One of the first suggestions was to apply to Innovate UK for a business-led innovation grant and CardMedic was awarded £50,000.  


Meanwhile, Valerie worked with the company to develop a business strategy and identify the best routes to market to make the business sustainable and profitable.


Valerie and EEN colleague Jim Bristow provided detailed and insightful feedback in preparing for investor pitches, helping to define commercialisation strategies and financial modelling approaches. The EEN team also signposted relevant overseas development webinars.


Rachael said: “We are hugely grateful to Valerie Pondaven and Jim Bristow at EEN, for their invaluable time, advice and support in these crucial early stages.”


“Their realistic, practical and insightful advice has not only helped shape our current thinking and approach, but also enabled us to plan ahead and model various routes forward.”


CardMedic can be downloaded from the website or app, offering a multi-lingual A-Z compendium of digital flashcards replicating clinical conversations around common healthcare topics.


There is also a ‘read aloud’ option for patients too unwell or unable to read the cards and the content is being converted to British Sign Language and Easy Read English.


NHS digital safety standards and other milestones


CardMedic was fast-tracked through the Defence Medical Services (DMS) Clinical Research and Innovation Gateway as part of the COVID-19 taskforce and distributed to more than 70 senior DMS clinicians across the UK. In May, it was awarded a Points of Light Award by the Prime Minister.


The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has endorsed the free, online resource and it has received approval by ORCHA, the NHS app library. It also has NHS Digital Clinical Safety Standards and Digital and Security Protection Toolkit clearance.


Other clinical applications for CardMedic include upskilling for returning or redeployed staff working outside their usual clinical practice area, and as a communication training tool for healthcare students.

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