What was your life like before Hy-genie?
I have been involved throughout my career with early-stage businesses, especially with medical devices and NHS partnerships, so it was in my blood!
Prior to Hy-Genie I was with a company that focused on the issue of hand hygiene compliance in healthcare settings
This was a natural background for Hy-genie, as hospital acquired infections are made worse by a lack of hand-washing!
What gave you the idea?
It was Richard Cooke, Director of Infection Prevention and Control at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital that had the idea, and as it developed and matured both he and Nova needed someone with the experience of growing a business to come in and develop the business. That is where I came in. I was particularly attracted by the ownership model, with Nova Growth Capital providing the financial backing, Nova Cofoundery providing the expertise and support (and me), and the relationship with Alder Hey Hospital providing the link to the NHS.
In terms of identifying the need for something like Hy-genie, it was really the World Health Organisation that must take the credit!
So what does Hy-genie offer?
Hand hygiene is a key component to preventing the spread of germs and bacteria in hospitals. It is estimated that over 300,000 patients suffer from health care associated infections each year in the UK.
The current baseline in the NHS with independent validations is that less than 50% of staff actually wash their hands appropriately.
If all hospital staff were hand hygiene compliant MRSA would largelybe eradicated from Hospitals. Hy-genie has the potential to save thousands of lives each year and the NHS an estimated £1.2bn in treatment costs annually. Hy-genie provides the measurement and monitoring system that is needed at an individual level
What problems and challenges did you encounter?
The biggest problem was to manage the need for speed in development because of demand, alongside the ability to run regular testing programmes to learn what works best.
It has also been important to find ways of changing people’s behaviour, without appearing as though we are ‘big brother’, and watching them all the time!
Has Covid-19 had any significant impact on the development of your business?
The impact of Covid-19 has been immense in terms of growing awareness of the need for very regular handwashing. In turn it has focused much more attention on what we are offering, but it has also brought its own challenges. Partnering with Alder Hey hospital was an enormous plus, but Covid-19 slowed us down as it became harder to access live environments to test the product. There were far tighter access controls in hospitals, and staff were far too stretched to give us as much time as they might have liked
By being forced to slow down, it has made us very methodical and precise, which has been very helpful for regulatory testing.
But overall, the government have been running a great advertising campaign for what we do!
What difference has Nova made?
The main thing is that Nova has been utterly supportive of us. There has been the financial input of course, but to goes far beyond that. They actually empower a company to succeed.
The support that I received included a dedicated person to help, support on the Board, using their network to find the right people to help take us on to the next stage, and of course the team to develop the technology. Yet through all these. They don’t dictate, rather guide and suggest. They also organised an academic study to prove the efficacy of what we were doing. The relationship with Nova is one very much based on partnership rather than ownership.
And what does the future look like?
Having proved what we can do through the tests at Alder Hey, we are now ready to go live with our service there. Already there are 6 other hospital trusts that we are talking to about introducing our service…and after that, the sky’s the limit.
‘Hy-genie offer a product that is absolutely right for our world today. When you combine this with the support of Alder Hey hospital, it has been a very powerful combination. The public awareness of the importance of handwashing is going to be with us for very many years, and Hy-genie will undoubtedly be at the forefront of how this is implemented.‘