Born out of founders Maddie and Rob Julian’s personal experience of being parents of a child with Type 1 diabetes, Leeds-based DigiBete has developed an innovative, multi-award-winning digital platform that helps support children, young people and families to self-manage their own diabetes. Maddie tells us about how the platform was created in partnership with Leeds Children’s Hospital.
Co-designed with patients, families and clinicians, the DigiBete web platform includes a range of clinically approved videos and information on areas such as diet and exercise, as well as offering 24/7 support for patients and their families. The DigiBete Clinic and Patient Support App provides easy access to these resources and other important functionality as well as assisting clinics in helping patients and their families to better self-manage their condition.
DigiBete offers a clinic–to–patient communication system that enables clinics to help patients remotely. It also enables patients to keep up to date insulin records, health care plans and appointments. The technology has been especially important for clinics and support networks during the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring patients could still access care without face–to–face support. It continues to have a significant impact on easing the growing burden on healthcare professionals and scarce NHS budgets
The Yorkshire & Humber AHSN has played an instrumental role in helping the company with initial adoption and spread. Our partnership with DigiBete began seven years ago, and since then we have continued to support them with the expertise and guidance to navigate the complex healthcare innovation and regulatory landscape. One of the key drivers has been our Propel@YH digital health accelerator, which has been instrumental in providing the resources and guidance to help the company to grow and develop successfully.
How has the AHSN been involved?
The DigiBete journey accelerated when they enrolled on our Propel@ YH programme which supports organisations from across the world to bring their innovative digital health solutions to the region’s patients and the wider health economy. DigiBete was one of six companies who were successful in their application in 2019.
Through the programme, we provided Digibete with a tailored package of support to help with their development, including close collaboration with our team to build the evidence base for their product. The company was offered guidance, with focused and comprehensive sessions providing plenty of the information required regarding procurement and NHS structures.
They were also signposted to an abundance of high-quality networking opportunities and introductions to support the development of the product. As part of the programme, we supported DigiBete in agreeing funding for an independent evaluation of their service.
Since then we have continued to support DigiBete with scaling their technology, helping them to expand their reach from a small local authority to a national landscape, and now beyond into the international market.
“The Propel@YH programme has been a timely and incredibly helpful resource for our company. This was just before we were commissioned by the NHS, which meant that by the time we were commissioned centrally, we were compliant with Digital Technology Assessment Criteria and well-versed in the regulatory landscape required for our product.” – Maddie Julian
Impacts and outcomes of AHSN support
DigiBete has secured a range of new research collaborations since the start of the programme and directly attributed one of these collaborations to taking part in Propel@YH. This involved the successful development of the ‘Academy’ diabetes training platform for healthcare professionals, working with a major diabetes technology company and national diabetes organisations.
Digibete has also developed new digital health products and services during that time with one of these being a direct result of being on the Propel@ YH programme. These include the Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes platforms and apps and a digital school care plan, working with central NHS Diabetes Programme leads and the National Children and Young People’s Diabetes Network.
DigiBete founder Maddie Julian has also recently graduated from the NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA) Programme which has proven fruitful in consolidating learning and helping the company to develop further important contacts.
What began as a small partnership with the Leeds Children’s Hospital has now expanded to over 230 clinics using DigiBete’s innovative digital health solution nationally, serving 75% of patients and families in the UK diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
“We’ve grown with the AHSN. They’ve been there from the start of our journey, and I know we can contact them and ask for support as and when we need it, the advice is always there as required. They’ve been an excellent sounding board.”
DigiBete aims to further expand its offer and digital resources and bring continued benefits not only to families with children who have Type 1 diabetes but to the clinicians who support them, including through the development of training courses around diabetes. Responding to demand from clinicians and the NHS, DigiBete has also now developed and started to roll out similar resources for the smaller but important Type 2 diabetes children and young people population.
The company is now gearing up for international expansion, and the AHSN is playing a crucial role in helping them navigate this new phase of growth, ensuring their platform reaches its full potential and brings benefits to families around the world.
“Partnering with Yorkshire & Humber AHSN has been a game-changer for us. They’ve provided quick access to valuable support and connections – a bit like a dating agency – matching us with the right expertise and support we need. Their strong network and connections enable companies like ours to benefit greatly from their support. I would highly recommend other companies to explore this opportunity and tap into the expertise that AHSN has to offer.”