Doccla, the “virtual service” startup, receives a Series A injection as it considers AI tools – TechCrunch


docclaa Swedish-founded but London-based health tech start-up that sells a remote patient monitoring platform to hospitals to run so-called ‘virtual wards’, has closed a funding round Series A round of £15m (~$17m) a year after raising a Seed of $3.3m.

Series A is led by US VC General Catalyst, with participation from funds managed by healthcare investors KHP Ventures (a collaboration between King’s College London, King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust ). Existing investors Giant Ventures, which led the round, and Speedinvest also backed Series A – which sees Chris Bischoff, MD at General Catalyst, join the board.

General Catalyst invests in the American unicorn of health technologies and remote care Cadence which also sells a remote monitoring service, could therefore be considered a potential competitor of Doccla. Although (currently) different target markets (US vs. Europe) and specific product presentation – we understand that Cadence focuses on populations with chronic conditions, while Doccla speaks in terms of building virtual services/’ Hospital at Home’ – are, of course, distinct enough to convince the venture capitalist that supporting both is worthwhile for growth.

Doccla’s growth trajectory must have helped: the 2019-founded startup only launched its remote patient monitoring service during the pandemic, but says it’s now present in a fifth (20%) of all Integrated Care Systems (ICS) in the UK, with patient care. of more than 20 hospitals. In total, he says he has monitored more than 50,000 patients to date. (NB: ICS are a feature of the UK National Health Service (NHS) in England — essentially partnerships between relevant organizations and local authorities to join the planning and delivery of health services in their area .)

The startup’s platform allows clinical staff at hospitals to monitor the vital signs of people on treatment remotely (continuously or intermittently) – freeing up hospital beds for new patient admissions by enabling early discharge through home monitoring. This matters because the NHS suffers from a particularly low average number of beds per 1,000 population compared to other OECD countries, with just 2.4 beds compared to the OECD average of 4.6 and Germany’s average of 7.9.

It sells an end-to-end remote patient monitoring service that covers the provision of devices used for monitoring (including smartphones pre-configured with large fonts to improve accessibility for the visually impaired/frail etc.; and portable medical devices to measure a wide range of physiological parameters); and take care of software integration, logistics and customer service, as well as technical support for senior citizens and non-digital natives – its pitch being that it differentiates itself from competitors by significantly reducing the workload hospital staff.

Doccla says its current clients include a number of NHS trusts across the UK, including Northampton General Hospital, Cambridgeshire Community Services and Hertfordshire Community Trust.

In terms of competition, he names Huma, Current healthand Docobo as British rivals – but co-founder Martin Ratz highlights three main areas where he says he serves something “very different”.

“To begin with, we are CQC [Care Quality Commission, aka the independent regulatory body for healthcare providers in England] accredited and can therefore take on clinical responsibility for patients, thereby reducing the workload of healthcare personnel,” he told TechCrunch. “We are device agnostic and do not push our own device. Finally, our service layer allows us to deliver market-leading patient compliance, exceeding 95% across all journeys. »

The Series A funding injection will be used to further develop its technology stack to support the integration of more medical devices into its patient monitoring platform and electronic health record systems; and for data analytics and AI – to “expand clinical capacity and availability” to meet the demand for “virtual hospitals that ease pressures on health systems,” as he puts it.

Or, put another way, with beds and doctors in chronic short supply, AI-powered efficiencies are the transformative new tool to enable health services already stretched to breaking point to expand (by safely) even further – or so it is.

“In the future, we will be able to cover additional clinical specialties, with an even more advanced level of care as well as logistical improvements in service delivery,” suggests Ratz.

Asked why Doccla uses AI, he confirms that he is working on developing predictive alerts that could help clinicians monitor more patients.

“Doccla will use data insights to develop automation and AI to further improve service delivery and clinical outcomes,” he tells us. “This will include various support tools for clinicians, such as predictive alerts.”

There are many security pitfalls here, given – for example – the potential for bias around AI if the training data is not representative of the patient population, so how does Doccla go about integrating alerts automated and other AI-powered support tools into its platform without compromising patient safety will definitely be one to watch. (Getting regulatory accreditation on these features will also be less straightforward, with more agencies and watchdogs in play.)

Still, it seems important that Doccla’s list of investors includes a fund with direct links to a number of NHS Trusts.

Image credits: Doccla

On the issue of scalability, particularly around patient support – which can require many one-on-one interactions with tired and/or frail patients who may not be used to using connected technology – Ratz says: “Doccla places a high value on our service layer, as it is critical to building and scaling a virtual hospital.In particular, new models of care, especially at the intersection with behavior change Doccla’s virtual patient support teams, as well as our clinical teams, are highly efficient and benefit from economies of scale.

Also on the A-series program: expansion into new European markets and segments, by Ratz. But he won’t be drawn to where exactly he’s eyeing new launches. “Doccla’s current focus is the UK where we serve a range of customers and our European expansion will be shaped by upcoming public tenders, particularly those in larger markets,” he said, adding: “ I can say that we are already in dialogue with major operators in several countries.

The funding will also be used to fuel the startup’s growth by conducting virtual clinical trials for the pharmaceutical industry, according to Ratz — presumably with the fully informed consent of all patients who agree to enroll in such trials. (Current from Doccla privacy policy states that it will not share users’ personal data – and further claims to “only collect the data we need to provide safe and effective care”.)

The startup’s platform is capable of serving a “very diverse range” of patients, from palliative care to pre- and post-surgery patients, Ratz says – although this type of remote care is clearly not suitable for all. types of patients (even if you’re going to start throwing AI into the mix).

“The largest patient groups we work with include COPD [Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease] and heart health. The applicability of remote care is exceptional, but certain groups of patients – for example, those who need in-person support such as very acute patients or people with dementia – are less suitable for remote monitoring” , he said.

Commenting on the Series A funding in a statement, General Catalyst’s Bischoff added, “Virtualization of hospital services is a critical step in effectively expanding healthcare resources and enabling a rapid and safe transition from home care. Doccla has immense potential and is making a real impact not only providing a much-needed lifeline to overwhelmed hospitals, but also improving patient outcomes through remote monitoring. The founders’ vision of fostering decentralized, more digital healthcare that combines physical and virtual pathways aligns with General Catalyst’s thesis on health insurance. Above all, their approach to partnering with NHS Trusts echoes our core values ​​of radical collaboration and responsible innovation – innovation that improves society. At General Catalyst, we support companies that make powerful, positive change that lasts, and we believe Martin, Dag and the team will make it happen.

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