London-based Echo has launched its medication management app, now available to all NHS providers in England. It is backed by $2.24 million (1.8 million British pounds) in new funding led by British venture capital firm LocalGlobe.
Co-founded by Dr. Sai Lakshmi, a former Apple executive and Stephen Bourke, a former executive with UK retail pharmacy chain LloydsPharmacy, Echo aims to make it easier for patients with repeat prescriptions to stay on top of their medication. Patients can refill prescriptions directly from the app through integration with their NHS-provided general practitioner, and the app also features reminders and on-demand delivery service.
Once a user downloads the app, they enter their medication and NHS doctor into the app, and Echo handles it from there. Users then scan the barcode of their existing medication bottle or package, and once it is approved by their doctor, Echo sends the medication via Royal Mail at no costs to the user.
“We both take repeat medication so Echo was born out of our shared frustration with a system that’s confusing and has yet to properly take advantage of mobile technology,” Bourke said in a statement “There are too many barriers to obtaining a repeat prescription, from having to take time off work to attend a GP appointment to the pharmacy not having enough medication in stock. Echo brings the whole process to your smartphone, with delivery to your door. Our goal is to simplify things, maximizing mediation possession, minimizing fuss.”
Echo works with existing prescription workflows and is compatible with all NHS primary care providers. It uses natural language processing to convert doctors’ directions into reminders, automatically prompting users when to take their meds and notifying them when they are running low. The company’s team is comprised of a multidisciplinary team of doctors, pharmacists and specialists and works with a London primary care practice, the Hurley Group, to foster efficient communication pathways between all parties.
"We are excited to be working with Echo as it provides patients with a hassle-free way to better manage their medication,” Dr. Murray Ellender, a partner at the Hurley Group said in a statement. “A doctor’s time is precious, so by eliminating unnecessary appointments Echo will make our GP’s lives easier and improve clinical outcomes for patients.”
On the company website, Echo referenced research that showed a fifth of full-time workers run out of medication just due to the fact that they are busy. The research also found this group, (professionals between the age of 25 and 34) as the worst at medication adherence, with more than a third admitting they often forget to even refill their medication. They are is also the least likely to follow a primary care doctor’s guidelines, and also reported making emergency appointments just to refill a prescription, which translates to extra operating costs for the NHS and time wasted for all parties.
Lakshmi and Bourke said the research confirms what they had suspected, but presents an opportunity – 94 percent of people in this same group have smartphones. As repeat medication-takers themselves, they wanted to devise a solution that leveraged mobile technology to make refilling and taking prescription drugs fast and easy.
Since research has attributed poor medication adherence to many everyday logistical factors – time, inconvenience or not remembering – Echo believes removing those barriers can significantly improve medication management.
“Once the user has their medication, the chances are they will take it properly,” Lakshmi said. “Forgetfulness is the number one reason for non-adherence. With UK smartphone penetration passing 80 percent, there’s a huge opportunity to use mobile technology to nudge people towards better health. We want to make adherence the path of least resistance, significantly improving outcomes and reducing waste.”