19 September 2019
I feel very privileged to write a blog for Wessex AHSN. I hope I can rise to the occasion!
My name is Martin Withers from Spearmark Health and our innovation is Droplet. It is a unique hydration reminder system that has a base unit that reminds people verbally to drink regularly and can also alert carers visually so they can assist their charges when they aren’t drinking enough.
Dehydration is a massive issue for the UK. It is difficult to spot, even harder to monitor and is linked with many conditions and occurrences that cost the NHS and social services a great deal of money. It is also something that can be avoided and is where Droplet is having a major impact in increasing the amount people drink through gentle persuasion and raising awareness. Older people are more at risk but make no mistake, in a hospital setting we have yet to see any ward specialism where patients are drinking a healthy amount across the day.
The Droplet team does not come from a medical background. We realized there was an issue with a need and developed a solution. That was the easy (not really) part. We were then faced with the daunting task of navigating the NHS and how to get Droplet established as the key solution for combatting dehydration across primary and secondary care. I didn’t know a CCG from an AMU although I’m sure both hate an AKI (Acute Kidney Injury) or a #NOF fracture. It’s a minefield!
With energy, a lot of tenacity and hitting a few walls, we have set about understanding what different organisations within the care sector wants and needs from Droplet and we have been lucky that there has been recognition from within the NHS that dehydration needs to be tackled and that we have a good solution. I am very proud to be a fellow of the National Innovation Accelerator programme for 2019 for Droplet.
Key support has come from the AHSN network and the lead for us has been Wessex AHSN. Once we had established our credentials through our pilots within care homes and Musgrove Park in Taunton, the Wessex team have set about guiding us through the maze to help us scale and spread Droplet across their patch.
I can break down the support in several ways, firstly some great listening. I have had multiple meetings with different members of the team where we discussed what we felt we needed and how they could support us. The advice has always been insightful, thorough and the follow up exemplary.
Building evidence across different areas was noted as key to the NHS and Kathy Wallis and her team are working with us to gather data and focus on outcomes which will help unlock some faster buying decisions so we can get wider placement. A key pilot on the patch has been possible through linking me with the Wessex Ageing and Frailty teams and has led to a successful pilot led by Southern Health Trust across acute and community hospitals and care homes. Droplet significantly increased average hydration levels and no falls or UTIs were recorded within the cohort using Droplet. A fantastic result and something we can use to talk to other Trusts nationally and hopefully a wider usage across Southern Health!
Real world evaluations are important to show how your product works outside of a possibly sterile test environment and Wessex has helped us to build a project where Droplet can gather data within the domiciliary care sector, linking us up with Hampshire County Council and Portsmouth City Council. Watch this space for results but we wouldn’t have been able to do this anywhere near as successfully without key support from the AHSN.
Making connections is also hard to do and again the AHSN team has responded to my requests for introductions across CCGs, Trusts, specialist teams, care homes and councils. This has helped my learning enormously and is knowledge we can use to start conversations with the right people in different regions across the UK. To be clear, this is about facilitating and helping. The team can cross the ball, but you still have to head it in yourself! Apologies for the football reference.
Finally, I am really grateful for the chance to have a platform within the region. I have been invited to speak at a number of functions, we were invited to exhibit at NHS Expo and as a Twitter junkie, I have seen images of Droplet in presentations where different members of the Wessex team have talked about my product and we weren’t even there! Great support and hugely appreciated.
The next phase for us is in two parts. Firstly, continue to build our data and evidence across Wessex and connect to other AHSNs across England. There is already an exciting project about to start within Kent, Surrey and Sussex in conjunction with Wessex. Lots to do!
Secondly is to continue to refine and perfect Droplet mark 2 and it will be hydration game changer! Droplet will still remind people to drink more but going forwards we will also be able to gather hydration data electronically and report it to carers remotely. We are already talking to key players within the Wessex area including hospitals, care homes and telehealth home services about delivery and evaluation and I know the AHSN team will remain a huge help.
Signing off, I would ask anyone with the NHS and social care that is reading this to look very hard at how you prioritise hydration within your organization. No-one I have spoken to hasn’t recognised dehydration is a big issue, so please make a positive change! Just because you put a jug or tumbler by someone, doesn’t mean they have drunk from it… We are ready to help with a proven solution and your patients, clients and residents will drink more fluids and be healthier.