Birdie: The evidence generation journey – Part 2

Birdie offers home care technology for domiciliary care providers. Established in 2017, the platform now offers a suite of products that comprises an Agency Hub to assess and set up care plans, a Care Worker App to record care delivered, a Family App to share information about a loved one and Connected Sensor Devices to monitor activity and safety within the home.

The start of the journey

Birdie joined the fourth cohort of the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator Programme in September 2019. Last year, we described how during their time on the programme, they accessed support from digital evidence generation and research experts from the Generator, the NIHR and the London Clinical Research Network. Birdie’s evidence generation priorities were focussed on validating their product in terms of usability, usage and user experience of the product. They were also focussed on developing evidence to demonstrate the value of a shared care record across integrated health and social care teams through pilots with NHS, Local Authorities and private care providers.

What has been the outcome?

The last 12 months for Birdie has been focused on making sure the Birdie platform meets the needs of their users (domiciliary carers and managers) and ultimately the care recipients. This involves continual review and development of the digital product with input from users and other experts.  Malte Gerhold, former Chief Integration Officer for Birdie has identified some key challenges in taking forward formal evaluation in the social care sector.

  1. There is often a time delay between robust evaluation and commercial relevance; by the time Birdie have carried out a study over 18 months, their product has moved on substantially to meet the needs of users.  This means the focus of evaluation needs to be on real world implementation.
  2. There is a need to raise the profile of evidence generation in the social care sector.  Buyers often have different expectations of evidence compared to the NHS, meaning that there aren’t a lot of detailed asks for evidence from buyers.
  3. This in turn means that there are less established academic mechanisms to take forward evidence generation in social care compared to in the NHS and causal attributions are also harder to establish.  For example there are no comparative baselines for home care recipients’ well-being.
  4. Another of the frequent challenges the team at Birdie come across is that whilst they are fundamentally interested in demonstrating how their product improves care recipients’ well-being and independence, they see that these factors often don’t get the priority they deserve.  This is because the health and care system is driven by demonstrating economic benefits to the NHS, such as reducing acute activity or reducing delayed transfers to residential care.

What’s next?

Birdie’s appetite to evaluate and generate an evidence base for their technology and an integrated approach to health and care delivery is strong; they believe it creates a significant opportunity to better showcase the impact and benefits of technology in the social care sector and drive competition in the market. 

They now have a better sense of the commercial value of evidence generation. For example in evaluating what aspects of the Birdie platform are relevant for different market segments to inform the product roadmap.  This approach has led them to work on an application with Imperial College London for a 2022 funding opportunity to carry out a mixed methods evaluation into Birdie’s impact. This will look at both the potential impact of using a digital care management platform for home care recipients’ interaction with the NHS (looking at health care activity data), and the acceptability and quality improvement for home care workers, recipients and their families.

As an Accelerator Alumni, Birdie have re-accessed support of the DigitalHealth.London Generator programme to strengthen their understanding of how to design an evaluation framework for pilots and projects.  This was critical when they embarked on a project with Nottinghamshire CCG and Nottinghamshire Council to share early warning sign information from home care to GPs to ensure that the pilot evaluation met the needs of all involved parties.

The Generator legacy

Birdie have clearly taken many learnings from their time working with the Accelerator and Generator Programmes.  The have placed evaluation and evidence generation at the heart of what they do to inform commercial focus and Product development.  Finding and creating opportunities to collaborate, co-design and co-produce evidence through real world evaluation then means the outcomes are more valuable to buyers.  These opportunities can bridge the gap where social care systems may not be familiar with the value that research practices can bring.  For Birdie, it is important that they develop and maintain relationships across research networks so that when opportunities to collaborate arise they are in the strongest position to leverage their evidence generation expertise.

Kath Middleton, former Clinical AI Lead Birdie, said: “Working with the Accelerator equipped us with knowledge on research techniques and connected us to an impressive network of academic and health institutions which has led to impactful projects. Importantly, they made sure to listen to what we needed, and to advise where our needs or expectations could be refined.”

Birdie is an alumnus of the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator programme.

The DigitalHealth.London Accelerator is a collaborative programme funded by London’s three Academic Health Science Networks – UCL Partners, Imperial College Health Partners, and the Health Innovation Network, MedCity, CW+ and receives match funding from the European Regional Development Fund.