Digital health is no longer the fascination of science fiction movies and future theorists as more companies seek to move control of people’s health into their own hands, through the use of trusted, medically recognised and endorsed professional services. One brand at the forefront of this movement is, healthily and we caught up with one of its directors, Dr. Raj Joshi to get a better idea of what 21st-century health care looks like.
Amiable and open, Dr. Joshi is a medical doctor with over 20 years’ experience, having a combination of several years in both hospital medicine and general practice.
His current focus is on developing more testing in the UK for COVID-19 that will assist in reducing the spread and save lives. He is helping the efforts by developing COVID-19 screening programs to be used by frontline NHS workers and supporting healthcare workers and residents in care homes through testing.
When I first heard of healthily, I must confess to a degree of scepticism with my thoughts immediately taken back to the notorious Elizabeth Holmes and her failed company, Theranos but I quickly came to realise that the endeavours of healthily and its pioneering team were grounded in science and medicine rather than smokescreen and marketing.
I opened by asking Dr. Joshi to give us a little background into his involvement with the company.
“I was first asked by an Australian medical company called Intelligent Screening to become the Medical Director of that company. Intelligent Screening was started by Amelia Thornycroft who I had known from university whilst I was at medical school.
“Since then, we had both gained considerable experience, so pooling our skills and talents had the potential to deliver a comprehensive set of service to the benefit of others.
“The Australian company went well and we then set up a second division in New Zealand. In the UK I was getting several requests from friends who were worried about health conditions that required testing. The issues were common ones, with long delays in the NHS increasing their health risks.
“One of the ideas for healthily was to expedite testing for significant health conditions, for those that were currently unable to obtain this through the normal means. Other ideas included an integrative healthcare approach, looking to treat the root cause of a problem and not just the symptoms.”
So what needs were they seeking to meet specifically?
“One of the most important things a doctor can give a patient is time. If proper time is dedicated to the person then this gives a better understanding of the human being and the root cause of a problem. There can be a lack of time given to patients. This means that often symptoms rather than the underlying health issues are treated.
“At healthily we have an integrative approach to healthcare to tackle the underlying health issue to try to stop the symptoms happening in the first place. This has come about from our own beliefs and training in functional medicine.
“We offer time to our patients in our virtual consultations. An initial consultation with one of our doctors is a minimum of 1 hour, which allows so much more understanding of the individual as a whole.
“Our integrative approach allows us to look at aspects commonly overlooked, such as nutrition and physical activity. We have doctors that are functional medicine practitioners looking at nutritional based evidence to help manage and treat conditions, as well as doctors that are qualified personal trainers who can help optimize health and treat conditions through physical activity, specifically designed for the individual.
“We bring through our integrative health approach a team of nutritional therapists that add value in personalising nutritional plans for our clients with health issues. Again, this is done by looking at the latest evidence and research. We also intend to offer mental health consultations soon due to the increasing need we have seen that is currently left unmet.”
Of course, healthily is about much more than just treating existing conditions and the old adage that prevention is far better than the cure is surely something anyone involved in medicine and health should be aiming for?
“That statement is the cornerstone of our over-riding philosophy. As well as treating current conditions it is really important to optimise the health of an individual. There is not enough emphasis on preventative healthcare due to a lack of resources focusing on more reactive, rather than proactive healthcare. If more was done to optimise the population’s health, then not only could this improve the quality of life but the individual is less likely to become ill and ultimately place less of a burden on an already overstretched health system.
“The other need we fill is both timelier testing and a greater range of testing as new evidence and technology emerges. We can offer testing for patients at facilities but also can offer home testing. The home testing can be useful for people that are unable to leave home for whatever reason, as well as those that find it difficult to get to facilities for testing during certain hours.
“We can also expedite results for our patients and reduce error by combining the latest technology and artificial intelligence (AI) with the knowledge and expertise of a high quality, experienced doctor. Our AI will personalise and look at the results for the individual to work out what can be going on and make recommendations for the next steps. Every abnormal result is also assessed by one of our doctors who can look at the overall picture and change or add recommendations that can only come from the intuition of an experienced doctor.
“New testing technologies and evidence are emerging, and we look into, evaluate and offer where we think it can improve the health of individuals. These are not normally done by the GP Surgery and include for example the gut microbiome which is emerging as an important component of both physical and mental health, or epigenetics that can look at changes in our genetic make-up that have been altered by our lifestyle and environment leading to health problems.”
Do you think that people will take more responsibility for their health if they feel empowered to do so?
“I believe people need to be empowered to be responsible for their own health. At healthily, we enable this by giving people full access to their health records with us. These can be accessed securely through their computer or mobile device wherever they are in the world. Not only can the individual see a full catalogue of their test results, but they can also view all the messaging given to them by the healthily medical team including next steps and recommendations. All too often patients seeing a doctor forget the important points as they normally won’t have any written information to refer back to.
“I have worked with the NHS for the past 20 years. I’m a great believer in the NHS and free health care for all. The NHS does an amazing job with the resources at its disposal, but the realism is that the systems comes under ever-increasing demand and in turn this will have a detrimental impact on people’s lives.
“healthily can help by supplementing the existing healthcare framework. Those that do use our services will lessen the demand on the current health services, which means they can be better resourced to help people. The NHS can then spend more time with patients, reduced waiting times and further improve the health of the individual.”
What else can you tell us about the other people involved with this product?
“Amelia Thornycroft, who is a Director of healthily, has a Bachelor in Medical Sciences. She had spent a number of years working as a Managing Director in the technology department of Accenture. This combined medical and tech background led to her understanding on the utility of merging these two specialities together and so healthily came to fruition.
“I have been practicing actively as a doctor now for 20 years. I have a sincere belief in a holistic approach to patients as the body, mind and spirit can be interlinked. I also have another job and my life has been fortunate enough to allow me two careers. I work as an Expedition Leader, guiding people on adventure trips around the world. These expeditions can be quite challenging. In addition to keeping people safe, I have to inspire those under my charge to achieve and overcome their challenge. I have a focus to unlock the power of the mind in the individual, as only then is the true potential and inner strength of the person reached. I’ve had to train myself to overcome challenges, not just from a physical perspective but also a psychological one. This has allowed me to undertake and overcome challenges such as climbing the highest mountain on every continent in the world. I use my expertise gained from the expedition challenges to bolster my medical skills in helping people.
“We have an experienced, highly capable team that includes doctors, nutritional therapists and this group will be further expanded on by the current recruitment plan for mental health professionals. They are each experts in their respective fields, have a passion for life and have done incredible things both within and outside the medical world.”
Big plans and an obvious desire to keep learning and keep expanding so what’s next for the company?
“Our immediate strategy is to help the fight against COVID-19. We are working with partners to introduce more testing for COVID-19 into the UK as currently there is not enough.
“We are not doing this for profit and are already sending test kits to GP Surgeries for the NHS frontline healthcare workers.
“We also have an initiative to help supply NHS frontline healthcare workers with personal protective equipment (PPE). Again, there is not enough which leaves people exposed to harm and unnecessarily puts lives at risk. Those are our main efforts until this can be properly resourced.”
If you would like to learn more about healthily and their unique approach to medicine and patient care, then visit their website here.