case study
October 12, 2023
Approx 4 min read

Doctors dispense with £10,000 compliance consultancy fees

The situation

Every day, more than 130,000 people are admitted into hospitals across England, and 10% of these are urgent admissions, involving a sudden health issue. Once a person is in hospital, it can be hard for family members to know what is happening, and they can fear the worst. Visiting is understandably restricted, and it can be frustratingly hard to call the ward and get through, let alone speak to the right person. Besides, the UK public doesn’t really want to distract NHS staff from giving vital care.

Whilst healthcare teams sometimes use messaging apps, such as WhatsApp internally, it is not sufficiently secure for external communications, is in breach of GDPR compliance and upcoming law may end its use by the NHS entirely.    

To help address this communication issue, Bristol doctors, Alice Appleton and Jonathan Abeles founded Clera Healthcare. Their product is a web app where healthcare teams can securely upload their patient list, to keep family members updated efficiently and regularly on the status of their loved ones. An unlimited number of relatives and the patient themselves can receive ward details and text messages as needed. It removes frustration for families and pressures on ever busier healthcare teams.

The challenge

The doctors knew that security and compliance with standards was paramount when holding patient data. But they didn’t know which standards they needed to comply with and how.  Appleton comments “We knew the stringent way tech is evaluated before it can be used in patient facing ways, and we'd heard all these words flying about like DTAC and DSPT, but didn’t know exactly what was needed. With so many unknown unknowns, it made the task quite overwhelming.” 

They first turned to lawyers and specialist digital health compliance consultancies, where they were quoted £10,000 for just the basics. Explaining the impact of this, Appleton said “We were in an impossible catch 22 situation. That fee would have bankrupted us before we were able to build our product. Yet, we also knew that we wouldn't be able to sell our product to the NHS without the right compliance in place. ”

The solution

As a start-up, to succeed, Appleton and Abeles needed to carefully balance getting the compliance requirements right, with building the product, getting customers and attracting investors. So they turned to their local Health Innovation Network for advice. 

The doctors found the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Health Innovation Network so helpful, as their advisor gave them a good understanding of what regulations would be important. They also introduced Appleton and Abeles to Naq, as a way of gaining compliance at a fraction of the price. Naq is an automated  platform that guides businesses through gaining compliance with NHS required frameworks such as GDPR, Cyber Essentials, Data Security Protection Toolkit (DSPT) and the NHS Digital Technology Assessment Compliance (DTAC), by automating over 80% of the manual work necessary to meet comply with these frameworks, Naq reduces the time and cost traditionally associated with meeting compliance.

The result

After an introductory call with an expert at Naq, Appleton and Abeles worked their way through the training modules, and the step by step instructions, ticking off their action checklists, to achieve the frameworks they needed. In just a couple of months, the Clera Healthcare product achieved compliance in GDPR, Cyber Essentials and DSPT.  

Adopting the automated Naq platform compliance saved the team £10,000, enabling their scarce resources to be focussed on product development, which saved them months in product development time.  

The Clera Healthcare web app has been successfully launched, and the team are in discussions with NHS Hospitals seeking to adopt their solution to improve communication and satisfaction. Thanks to Naq, safe in the knowledge that it meets NHS requirements. 

Commenting on this self-serve approach, Appleton said “Instead of outsourcing compliance, not only have we saved money and accelerated our product development, but by conducting the compliance ourselves, we understand the NHS requirements and their purpose better. As a manager of a digital health business, this understanding is vitally important. 

“Naq is a game-changer for startups in the digital health space, offering unparalleled value and peace of mind. If you're a startup looking to nail your compliance, the Naq self guided platform is the place to start. Highly recommended!”