Healthcare start-up achieves growth in a flash

Cardmedic used in hospital context

In little more than twelve months, Oxford-based healthcare company CardMedic has gone from launch to signing a major NHS contract, and having users in 120 countries. That’s how quickly a business can grow with the right support – support provided by UK Innovate EDGE specialists.

CardMedic’s innovative website and app is designed to improve communication between healthcare staff and patients, across barriers created by visual, hearing or cognitive impairment, language barriers, or the barriers created by healthcare staff having to wear PPE. 

The company was born in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Founder Dr Rachael Grimaldi heard about the experience of COVID patients, who were distressed when they could not understand healthcare workers through the personal protective equipment (PPE) that they had to wear. 

As an anaesthetist in the NHS, Rachael Grimaldi knew that these situations are not limited to the pandemic: hospital patients can also be frightened and upset when hearing, sight or language issues make it difficult to communicate with hospital staff. These longstanding barriers to good communication can lead to serious problems in healthcare.

Concept to launch in 72 hours

Set up in April 2020 (the company went from concept to launch in just 72 hours), CardMedic provides digital flashcards that patients and healthcare staff can use to communicate with each other. Covering a wide range of healthcare topics, from breathing and heart problems, to end-of-life care and emergency situations, the easy-to-use cards make conversations easier between healthcare staff and patients. 

Content is provided in a range of languages, as well as an easy-read mode with pictures and sign language videos for people who are hard of hearing. The app, which includes content for use in emergencies, works on phones, tablets and laptops, and it can be downloaded for free.

In just over a year, CardMedic has rapidly developed its core technology from a rapid-response tool to improve the transfer of vital information between healthcare staff and patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, to a sustainable solution for improved communication in many different healthcare settings, leading to better care and reduced health inequalities. 

Innovate UK EDGE helps with growth opportunities in healthcare

Innovate UK EDGE innovation & growth specialists have helped at every step. Valerie Pondaven worked with the company to make the most of the different funding opportunities available, and to prepare a pitch to potential investors. At her suggestion CardMedic applied to Innovate UK for a ‘business-led innovation in response to global disruption’ grant: the company was awarded £50K in June 2020, with follow-on funding worth £25K in January 2021. 

Meanwhile, Valerie worked with CardMedic to develop a business strategy and identify the best routes to market, to make the business sustainable and profitable. In February 2021 CardMedic was awarded a place on the NHS Clinical Entrepreneur Programme, and in April it gained its first licenced partner – Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex. June 2021 saw it being accepted onto the US market accelerator programme Mass Challenge, and successfully closed its second seed investment round. CardMedic now has over 55,000 users around the world, with its app being downloaded over 22,000 times. The company employs staff and generates revenue.

First major NHS contract

Now, CardMedic has won its first major healthcare contract. In July 2021 the company signed a five-year agreement with University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust, which has led to the CardMedic app being made available across the Trust, which serves a population of 1.8 million patients and employs 20,000 staff.

For Rachael Grimaldi, “the support from Valerie and the Innovate UK EDGE team has been invaluable. As an overnight COVID start-up, CardMedic needed to develop rapidly in order to support patients and healthcare teams during the pandemic. The guidance we received from Innovate UK EDGE was pivotal in helping us to do this.”

“They have also helped us to grow the use of CardMedic for healthcare professionals and patients beyond the pandemic. We are hugely grateful for the mentoring and advice we’ve received from Innovate UK EDGE over the past 12 months.” 
 

We are hugely grateful for the mentoring and advice we’ve received from Innovate UK EDGE over the past 12 months.”

CardMedic Founder Dr Rachael Grimaldi