The former NHS medical director stepped down from the national role at the end of 2017 and became chair of Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust.

Sir Bruce Keogh to advise digital therapeutics company Big Health

By Leontina Postelnicu
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London and San Francisco-based digital therapeutics company Big Health has tapped Sir Bruce Keogh, former medical director for NHS England, to join its Advisory Board in an effort to expand access to their products. 

Sir Bruce stepped down after 10 years in the national role at the end of 2017 and took up a new position as chair of the Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust. Earlier this year, he joined another startup in an advisory capacity, Medic Creations, maker of an instant-communication app for healthcare professionals called Medic Bleep.

WHY IT MATTERS

Big Health is known for its digital sleep improvement programme Sleepio, which is based on CBT. In a study of over 1,700 people published last year, its use was reported to have “significantly improved insomnia symptoms, functional health, psychological well-being, and sleep-related quality of life”.

The company was founded in 2013 by NHS Innovation Fellow Peter Hames, who himself struggled with insomnia, and sleep expert Professor Colin Espie from the University of Oxford.

Since then, the Sleepio app has become available to 12 million people in the UK through Big Health’s employer customers, and is used by over 70,000 patients in London, Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, where it is free at the point of access through the NHS.

In February, the company also launched Daylight, an app aiming to help people manage chronic anxiety through proven CBT strategies, which is not yet freely available.

“At this time, Daylight is undergoing rigorous clinical trials, and will be made available once we've demonstrated clinical effectiveness,” Professor Espie told MobiHealthNews. 

THE LARGER TREND

According to a 2016 report from the Royal Society of Public Health, co-authored by Professor Espie, Britons were under-sleeping by an hour on average every night, which amounts to losing an entire night’s sleep over one week. In addition, over half of 2,000 adults polled for the report said they felt stressed as a result, and four in 10 that they had fallen asleep on public transport. 

ON THE RECORD

Big Health recently partnered with the Oxford Academic Health and Science Network and Innovate UK to create a blueprint for the adoption of digital therapeutics in the NHS.

“By the end of the project we will have evaluated a number of distribution models and developed a digital therapeutics pathway for the NHS,” Professor Espie said.

“Our goal at Big Health is to bring millions back to good mental health. We've only scratched the surface of this mission in the UK, where millions of people deal with chronic poor sleep. We're excited to mature the Digital Therapeutics pathway in the NHS and how this could transform digital patient care,” he added.

On Sir Bruce's appointment, the cofounder said: “Sir Bruce Keogh will act as an adviser as we work with the NHS to find the best ways to make Sleepio free to patients at the point of use. Sir Bruce's experience, knowledge and input will be invaluable to help us navigate the NHS.”

In a statement, Sir Bruce added: “The value of digital therapies is being increasingly recognised, not just because they work when based on sound evidence, but because they are very easily accessible when needed. That’s why I’m pleased to be joining Big Health who have developed Sleepio according to the highest standars of clinical evidence and scientific rigour to underpin a proven, effective and safe digital therapy which addresses a remarkably common problem.”