Jonathan Abeles and Alice Appleton are NHS doctors and Co-Founders of Clera Healthcare. They started the company in 2023 following their experience of working on wards as junior doctors and the frustration they felt with the processes currently in place for updating patient families. They experienced first-hand how much time was spent trying to communicate with the families of patients and repeating information to multiple family members, who themselves were struggling to get the information they needed.

The pair undertook their own research into this issue, and found that only 8% of families were very satisfied with the number of updates they were getting and that staff were spending approximately 14% of their day trying to provide updates. They also found that 76% of families weren’t told when their family member had moved within the system. Questionnaires in the Severn region received responses from 67 responses from doctors, nurses and physiotherapists, and 64 responses from patients, families or general public (Clera Health Market Research 2023). This response rate alone provided insight into the problem, as these people were willing to take time to fill out the survey. The findings almost unanimously indicated that the level of communication is not good enough.

“Our findings were consistent with our personal experiences, and it made us realize that this is a national problem and a systemic issue which has been staring us in the face for a very long time. We knew that there must be a better way of doing it.” – Jonathan

The solution

To solve this problem, they created Clera Health, a one-stop shop for tech-based communication with family, friends and everybody involved in a person’s care. It’s a web application that allows clinicians to very easily and quickly message patient families and friends, not just the nominated next of kin, and, if enabled by staff, the family are able to message back. It can be opened on phones, tablets and desktop computers which allows for the different workflows and processes at different hospitals.

“What could have been an afternoon spent updating families over the phone is done in a matter of minutes, in real time, on the ward.” – Jonathan

Clera isn’t aiming to replace meaningful conversations between doctors and families, but instead to provide quick, helpful updates across the course of an individual’s care, with the aim of reducing the alarming silence families often experience from hospitals. It is being co-designed with patients, families and clinicians.

Clera Health

The impact

Families as part of the care team

Clera empowers families to have more control and more involvement in their relative’s care. Giving updates little and often could improve trust and relationships between hospitals and family members, and families can bring value to the care of their relative. Clera allows them to provide insight into their loved one’s health and care needs and become part of the multi-disciplinary team (MDT). Ultimately this improves patient care as well as reducing the anxiety and frustration or family members.

Freeing up clinician time

Clera Health provides an extra channel of insight for clinicians into how to care for their patient, and it also frees up time previously spent talking to families – time which can instead be focussed on direct patient care.

Less pressure on the system

Better care could then in turn lead to a reduction in a patient’s length of stay and the family’s involvement could increase discharge rates. If the family is empowered and engaged in their loved one’s care, then patient care after discharge may be better and benefit the social care system.

Clinical entrepreneur journey

Jonathan and Alice have faced challenges adapted to running a commercial startup company.

“The biggest difference between being a doctor and going into the founder mindset is the lack of certainty and the lack of a road map. When you go to medical school you are told exactly what to do, when to do it, what you need to achieve and when you need to achieve it by. In the Wild West of entrepreneurship there’s no right answer and, by the nature of what we’re doing, no one has done it before.” – Alice

The pair have had to develop a new set of skills, from project management to accounting, but benefit from room to be more creative and problem-solve on a much bigger scale. When thinking about advice to other clinical entrepreneurs, Jonathan and Alice identified the importance of accepting support and advice, and testing early on.

“Focus on your problem, not your solution – your solution will continually change and will probably be nothing like the first iteration.” – Jonathan

Health Innovation Network support

The Clera Health team became involved with the health innovation network through the Impact Accelerator. Clera Health has been supported by Health Innovation Kent Surrey Sussex (KSS) and Health Innovation West of England to bring their product to market. Health Innovation KSS has supported the Clera team with business mentorship, guidance on the NHS market and through innovator workshops.

“It’s conversations with Health Innovation Kent Surrey Sussex that helped us realise the level of evidence we need in order to get into the NHS – that’s been really helpful and a calibrator for our business planning. We have a good relationship with Alastair, Innovation Manager at Health Innovation KSS, and he’s offered friendly advice, helping us to realise that getting a fully-fledged product into the NHS is not going to happen overnight but that taking it more slowly is going to allow us to build a better product.” – Alice and Jonathan.

What’s next for Clera?

In the next six months, Clera’s main goal is to achieve revenue generation. The product is currently being piloted in a rehab rehabilitation unit in the South of England and its next step is to find a partner for a paid pilot, to continue to codevelop the product with Clera and generate evidence.

The company’s long-term goal is to solve this communication problem within acute NHS hospitals. Beyond that, they recognise that this is a problem present internationally and so they have ambitions to spread to different healthcare systems.

“We want to keep Clera as true to our core concept as possible and achieve our main goal before we move on to other areas. Ultimately, it’s about harnessing the power of communication to improve health.” – Alice

Get involved

Clera Healthcare is looking to connect with you if you want to help solve this problem. Whether you are in the NHS, private sector, a small charity or in any other sector, get in touch with Clera to start a conversation: