SME of the Week: Isla

We caught up with Pete Hansell, Co-founder and CEO of DigitalHealth.London Accelerator company and SME of the week, Islacare. Here he summarises Isla’s journey and their plans for the future.

Isla seems to be growing quickly, what do you think you are doing right as a team?

Thank you, yes it feels like we are making good progress – there is so much that we still want to achieve but it’s nice to reflect on our progress so far. I think one of the key things is that we are ‘impact obsessed’. We have always focussed as much on delivering change as we have on building technology. Execution is everything and so we obsess over the edge case problem that affects a handful of users and that maintains a high standard.

I also think that in a crowded market where there are new digital offerings popping up every day, evidence is essential. We have been very fortunate to find clinicians across a wide range of specialties who have wanted to work with us to evidence the benefit of using Isla in their specialty.

We also seem to say ‘yes’ to most things, conversations with people, experiments, events, you just never know where you may find opportunities and so I think this has helped us a lot.

What are you most proud of with Isla so far?

I can honestly say that the thing I am constantly struck by is that I am working as part of the best team I have ever worked with. I am proud every day of what we are achieving and the fact that inspiring people have chosen to come and work at Isla.

The other thing that I think we all feel proud of is seeing the results of our efforts and the efforts of the clinical teams we work with. It can be something tiny in the grand scheme of things, like a clinician telling us how much an individual patient has appreciated not needing to make a long trip to hospital or impact on a much bigger scale but it makes the hard work and the long days worth it.

What has been the biggest challenge since starting Isla?

For me personally it has been finding the hours in each day to actually execute, there are so many competing things that pull on my attention that I often feel frustrated with myself for not dedicating time to the top priority. 

As a team, I think the biggest challenge is maintaining the discipline of building business processes whilst we are all flat out delivering projects and new technology. In the moment, rigorous documentation or updating training guides to make onboarding the next team member easier all feel like things which can wait but that discipline is what sets us up for scale.

What are you most excited about for Isla’s future?

We have started by working on what is a conceptually simple but important problem. How do we make it easy for patients to provide rich insight into their clinical conditions in real time, across all specialties? There is a long way to go in refining our solution but equally, we are getting to a scale where the next level of the platform becomes essential. As we surface more and more data for clinicians we need to structure this in a fundamentally new way to support clinicians to deliver optimised care.

I am really excited by this concept and I think the technology we are building now is groundbreaking – we are already seeing amazing results from manual tests of this approach.

What advice do you have for digital health innovators?

One thing that we have stuck to that many other startups have not is that we see fundraising and venture capital as a useful tool rather than an exciting goal in itself. I may be wrong but I feel that fundraising can be such a distraction for founders right at the time when they should be working out the fundamentals of how their business works.

I would also say that for early stage digital health companies, it is impossible to understate the importance of evidence and interoperability. Keep a laser focus on these two things and you will be able to clearly articulate the benefit of your technology and how it fits into a clinical workflow. 

Finally, find the people who share your vision, they will be your most honest and valuable critics as well as the people who celebrate your successes with you.

For more information: Contact Islacare

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Isla is part of the sixth cohort of the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator programme.

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