COVID-19 start-up CardMedic, the free web and mobile app for healthcare staff to help break down communication barriers with patients at the point of care, which went from concept to launch in just 72 hours, has signed its first UK healthcare agreement with Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex (KSS).
Founded by Dr Rachael Grimaldi, an NHS anaesthetist, in April 2020 and based at The Oxford Trust’s Oxford Centre for Innovation, CardMedic helps healthcare staff to communicate with patients whether they have visual, hearing or cognitive impairment, language barriers or are impacted by PPE communication restrictions.
CardMedic replicates conversations around common healthcare topics using flashcards with simple questions and explanations to guide clinical interaction.
The app is simple and easy-to-use, and it has been developed by clinical experts across the UK, including speech and language therapists, learning disability nurses, midwives, critical care nurses, radiographers, audiologists, dentists, researchers, psychologists, and doctors to ensure its content is accurate.
Language difficulties are particularly hard in emergencies where it is problematic to get a translator or sign language expert on-site in time.
With the CardMedic app going from concept to launch in just 72 hours, Rachael promoted the app on Twitter. Within the first three weeks, they had 8,000 users in 50 countries. The feedback they received was incredible, and they now have 50,000 users in 120 countries and over 16,000 app downloads in under a year.
CardMedic has developed a series of flashcards for different emergency situations and consequently has signed an agreement for use of their app with Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex (KSS), an independent charity that provides world-class, fast response, emergency medical care 24/7 and has attended 30,000 incidents over the last 30 years.
KSS is introducing the app from May 2021 with their team of 60 clinicians.
Leigh Curtis, Executive Director of Service Delivery at KSS, said: “Each of our missions is attended by a doctor and paramedic trained in critical care and accustomed to challenging environments. Their specialist skills mean patients can be treated at the scene with world-class urgent medical care. Clear communication is essential for providing the best care, especially in emergencies, but there are often barriers that can be hard to overcome.
“Our medical staff will now be able to use the CardMedic app on phones and iPads to help with any language and communication issues they have with patients. Now, more than ever, this is particularly important when medics are wearing PPE, making it harder for patients to hear and understand. The CardMedic app gives us an innovative tool to help us to continue to give the best possible care and response to our patients.”
Dr Rachael Grimaldi, CardMedic founder, said: “We are really proud to sign our first pre-hospital beacon site agreement with KSS to install the CardMedic app on phones and iPads used by their emergency staff. We hope that CardMedic will help emergency healthcare staff quickly understand patients’ needs where there are communication difficulties and explain their care in emergency situations.”
On maternity leave and visiting family in the US, CardMedic founder Rachael Grimaldi got caught the other side of the Atlantic when everything shut down in March 2020. While abroad, she read an article about a COVID-19 patient’s terrifying hospital experience when they could not understand the healthcare workers through their personal protective equipment or PPE.
As an anaesthetist in the NHS, she was well aware of similar situations in hospitals where she’s worked where patients were frightened and upset as they could not communicate with hospital staff because of hearing, sight or language difficulties.
Rachael added: “In most circumstances there is little time to call an interpreter, and so we tend to use an ad hoc mixture of family members and staff to act as translators and interpreters or, if desperate, Google translate. This has been exacerbated by the pandemic, with the rules around numbers of people who can be with the patients.”
“The CardMedic flashcards cover topics from breathing and COVID-19 symptoms to end-of-life care and emergency situations. Staff simply select a topic and choose what language they wish to use. The content can be changed to an easy read mode with pictures and sign language videos for the hard of hearing.”
At the moment, there are 11 language options, but the team is aiming for 30. On the app, it is possible to instantly switch the content to sign language with subtitles for deaf users, and it has an additional ‘read aloud’ option for those with visual impairment or literacy issues. The app works on phones, tablets and laptops, making it a flexible tool.
CardMedic is supported by NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence), University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust, and the University of Brighton. They have received two Innovate UK grants, including the incredibly competitive COVID-19 business-led de-minimis grant – and further angel investment.
Rachael concluded: “The challenge now is how to roll-out the idea as we’ve calculated that the NHS has an approximately £5 billion gap in service provision for interpreters and signers, which falls a long way short of the last estimated spend of £23 million. We have ambitious plans to use innovative technology to solve a simple problem of global communication.”
CardMedic has developed a subscription model with a basic free service or “CardMedic Lite” for emergency situations, a “CardMedic Health” where they charge an annual fee for healthcare settings – NHS Trusts, hospitals, GP surgeries, pharmacies, dentists, care homes and more, and a “CardMedic Health+” version which has customisable content, integration with health records and advanced reporting. The service remains free for staff, the public and patients, with the licence paid for at the healthcare level.
The company ‘graduated’ from digital transformation catalyst, The Hill, in Headington, Oxford, and now has a virtual office in The Oxford Trust’s Oxford Centre for Innovation and has plans to set up an office soon.
A local charity set up by Oxford’s first entrepreneurs, Sir Martin and Lady Audrey Wood, the Trust has been supporting start-ups and spinouts for the last 35 years through its two innovation centres – the Oxford Centre for Innovation in central Oxford and its sister site, the Wood Centre for Innovation in Oxford’s Health and Life Sciences District in Headington.