Digital health coach platform Liva Healthcare partnered with the NHS late last year to help the health service in diabetes prevention. We spoke to the company about how health apps can make a difference in healthcare

How does Liva work?

Liva Healthcare is an innovative digital health platform designed to tackle chronic lifestyle diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Liva provides patients with an app which connects them to a personal health coach. Through this unique hybrid model of technology and human intervention, the platform aims to drive behaviour and lifestyle changes through setting and monitoring personal goals for the patient, such as reducing blood sugar levels, calorie intake and smoking, to increasing activity levels and sleep.

The platform is used by healthcare authorities, pharma and insurance companies to drive patient engagement, clinical outcomes and healthcare delivery efficiency with real-time data insight.

Tell us about the history of the app. What unmet needs did you set out to address? How does it aim to help patients?

Liva Healthcare was created in response to the dramatic global increase in diabetes. There are currently 3.9 million people living with diabetes in the UK alone. Healthcare systems are under significant pressure from diabetes – Type 2 diabetes is estimated to cost the NHS nearly £12 billion a year.

We know from our extensive research into diabetes that lifestyle changes to diet and exercise can reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and, in some cases, remove a diagnosis. A recent study published in the Journal of American Medical Association found that, through lifestyle interventions, 56.4% of patients came off their medication altogether and a further 17.1% were able to reduce their medication.

We therefore founded Liva Healthcare in 2015 to find a scalable way to handle diabetes and help patients stop their progression of the disease through digital lifestyle intervention. Pharma companies also can use the app to help their patients stay on track with their medication requirements.

How did the partnership with the NHS come about, and what were the aims of the partnerhsip?

In response to the diabetes health crisis, the NHS has set up the Healthier You: Diabetes Prevention Programme. At the end of 2017 the NHS launched a pilot digital stream of this programme and chose Liva as one of five providers to tackle Type 2 diabetes using digital innovations. GPs can now refer patients at risk of Type 2 diabetes in North East London, Humber, Coast and Vale to use the Liva app.

What are some of the biggest challenges or pitfalls in developing a health app, particularly one that works with the NHS?

There are thousands of health and fitness apps freely available on the market today. They all do a decent job of helping motivated people become fitter and healthier.

However, many people will always need some extra motivation, especially to have long-term results, and that’s why we, and the NHS, recognise that an app alone, isn’t sufficient to change lifestyle behaviour. Research shows a personal relationship is needed.

However, it’s not cheap, or realistic, for the NHS to provide a face to face health coach to every patient in need of lifestyle interventions. That’s the challenge that Liva aims to provide a solution for. Our platform and dashboard enables each health coach to stay personal, manage the lifestyles of hundreds of patients and therefore provide a more cost-effective solution to the NHS.

When developing a service fit for the NHS, Liva has gone through a number of clinical studies to demonstrate real outcomes. It has taken a number of years to perfect and there have been numerous necessary legal, regulatory and data governance processes to go through to secure a contract with the NHS.

What has it been like working with the NHS?

It has been fantastic to work with the NHS on this innovative, forward-thinking programme. As GPs are increasingly under pressure, our solution helps more patients be helped at once. One healthcare professional can manage up to 400 patients in one go, keeping in touch via video and text consultations. The app, through its lifestyle interventions, is in the business of disease prevention and ultimately can help the NHS save money by preventing individuals from having to go onto medication or be subject to the complications associated with Type 2 diabetes such as blindness and amputations. Ultimately, we have been able to work with the NHS to drive efficiencies and save costs.