Andrew Jackson CEO ProReal

NIHR MindTech : ProReal’s ‘guide through the labyrinth’


Andrew Jackson, CEO, ProReal Ltd

Date: 06 March 2017

When we started ProReal four years ago, my business partner and I had a clear view of our market. We’d developed a great piece of software, based on a 3D virtual-world including avatars and visual representations, to help business leaders and managers set out their thoughts during coaching sessions.

A meeting at NIHR MindTech’s annual symposium lead to a fruitful series of meetings with NHS mental health clinicians in one of the leading Foundation Trusts. The team at NIHR MindTech Healthcare Technology Co-operative had opened the door and shown us a world about which we knew very little. We knew about suffering – we had built our software to help with the difficulties of our clients, their dark moments, difficult pasts and troubled relationships – but at that stage, you could have written what we knew about randomised controlled trials, commissioning groups and clinical outcome measures on a very small piece of paper.

The door creaked open, and it felt like someone had taken our hand and guided us in. The MindTech team introduced us not just to clinicians, but to academics, world experts in their field. They lead us through bleak faceless corridors to meetings with child and adolescent psychiatrists, educational psychologists, NHS managers (who had to make the finances work) and most importantly to service users.

Four years on, we now have a growing body of evidence for the effectiveness of our software in different mental health settings. We know our way around multiple baseline research design methods. We continue to work with some of the leading clinicians and academics in the world. We feel part of a community who are trying to accelerate bringing evidence-based clinical practices to patients and to make a genuine difference to people’s lives.

Our guide is still there, alongside us. Last week, we got the initial data from an important study at Royal Bethlem Hospital, one of the world’s oldest mental health hospitals. With MindTech’s help, we’re bringing 21 st Century technology into an institution founded over 700 years ago. With MindTech’s researchers, academics and clinicians on the ground delivering the work, and our technologists, we make a formidable team. Our priority now is to continue to work through the various commissioning bodies, so that both patients and the NHS get the benefits of using our technology.

I am sometimes asked what advice I would give to a small company thinking about working in the healthcare system. We could not be on the journey we’re taking without our guides at NIHR MindTech. I am sure your own journey will be different, but I would not try it without finding knowledgeable friends who can guide you through the complex, labyrinthine systems of modern healthcare.

On behalf of all the patients who have been helped so far, I would like to say a warm and sincere thank you to Angela, Bethan, Caroline, Chris, Cris, David, Jen, John, Lucy, Mike, Mike, Richard and Tom.

If you’ve got a solution that could address unmet clinical need in mental health through medical technology don’t miss your chance to apply for the 2018 NIHR Invention for Innovation (i4i) Challenge Award, open until 4 April.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the NIHR, NHS or the Department of Health and Social Care.
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    Andrew Jackson, CEO of ProReal Ltd explains how the NIHR MindTech Healthcare Technology Co-operative has helped his company to develop its virtual reality tool to aid mental health.
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    Andrew Jackson, CEO, ProReal Ltd

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