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Ireland-UK, 2019, EIT Health Ireland-UK

University of Newcastle spin-out is delivering NHS online support for Type 2 diabetes

11th March 2020

An EIT Health supported digital health Spin-out from the University of Newcastle is bringing about behaviour change at scale

Currently, 1.9 billion adults are overweight or obese – that’s 25% of the global population.

The mission of the team behind the platform, Changing Health, is to empower millions of people to live happier, healthier lives through digital, personalised programmes for Type 2 diabetes management, prevention and weight loss.

Changing Health is now delivering a major roll-out of NHS online support for people living with Type 2 diabetes – meeting a commitment in the NHS Long Term plan – which will be available for up to 600,000 people.

Traditionally, people with Type 2 diabetes have been required to attend a full day, classroom-based group education session to access support, or visit a clinician in person. This approach breaks all the rules of what is considered to be a good customer (or in this case patient) experience.

Changing Health’s CEO, Mike Trenell, and his team knew there must be a better way. That’s when they decided to build a health intervention platform from the ground up, using the most robust research in metabolism, lifestyle and behavioural science.

“We spent 18 months translating a course of face-to-face education on Type 2 diabetes prevention into a digital behaviour change programme,” says Trenell.

The digital platform empowers participants by combining learning content, personalised to the individual on a smartphone, tablet or web browser, with bespoke, one-to-one lifestyle coaching (delivered over the phone).

Changing Health users learn how they can best fit simple lifestyle changes into their lives, then receive personalised support to help them make those changes.  Each participant sets their goals based on their ability to change at any one time and they can call on their dedicated lifestyle coach whenever they are in need of support – or even just to chat about their health.

Behaviour change at scale

Behaviour change at scale

Changing Health can be adapted for any partner ­– a private healthcare provider, a health insurer or an employer, for example – to deliver a behaviour change programme unique to their members’/customers’/patients’ needs.

Long-term change: unlike other providers, which generally focus on “quick-fix” approaches to weight loss, the platform uses evidence-based techniques to empower people to make a sustainable, long-term behaviour change.

The results speak for themselves:

  • Changing Health has grown from a founding team of 2 in 2016 to 26 full time staff, raising £4 million along the way in two funding rounds with UK and international investors.
  • The digital platform for behaviour change, which is now being commissioned at scale, is based on POWeR, one of the world’s biggest RCTs of kind conducted by Southampton University.
  • In 2017-18, 4,000 Changing Health user licenses had been contracted. That number has risen to 600,000 in 2020-21.
  • Changing Health was chosen as provider to NHS England of the new NHS digital platform for Type 2 diabetes support.
  • Changing Health is also one of the five providers on the new digital stream of the national NHS Healthier You Diabetes Prevention Programme (DPP) in addition to partnerships with more than 30 of the 211 NHS CCGs.
  • In 2020 Changing Health made two international expansions, now delivering behaviour change in the Netherlands and in Switzerland in partnership with major health insurers in those countries.

Internal expansion

As a partner in Vitality, an EIT Health project which integrates two existing platforms and a health watch to assist patients at risk of diabetes in managing their own health, Changing Health has been able to validate the commercial use of their health intervention platform.

According to Mike Trenell, it is the support of EIT Health that has made the digital platform’s international expansion possible.

“The Vitality app pilots in both the Netherlands and Germany have provided Changing Health with strong evidence of successful adaptation of the UK-originated learning programmes for European markets. These links have also allowed the company to embed within an established network that they were not in before the programme,” says Trenell.

“Additionally, the company secured an additional £3 million investment, including one investor from the Netherlands. The company would not have developed a presence within the Netherlands and attracted the investor without the programme funding.”

Developing their presence in other markets is central to Changing Health addressing another challenge – tackling the global economic cost of unhealthy lifestyles and associated health conditions. By employing a model that offers users, regardless of geographical or demographic differences, the accessible, effective support they need to sustain a lifestyle change for the long term, Changing Health is offering quality care – at scale.

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