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Meet the Innovator

In this series we’ll get up close and personal with an innovator asking them to share their thoughts and experience from their journey into the world of health and care innovation. In our latest edition, we caught up with Lydia Yarlott, Co-Founder at Forward Health; a secure messaging and workflow app, connecting care workers around patient pathways.

Pictured above: Lydia Yarlott.

Tell us about your innovation in a sentence

Forward is a mobile communications platform aiming to connect healthcare professionals for the first time.

What was the ‘lightbulb’ moment?

Probably being a first year doctor on my own in an NHS ward at 2am in the morning trying to get help for a deteriorating patient and being unable to contact anyone. Poor communication leads to a real feeling of helplessness, and I want to change that for doctors and nurses everywhere. It’s hard to believe we’re still using pagers and resorting to WhatsApp to get hold of each other in hospitals, so it wasn’t so much a lightbulb moment as an increasing feeling that something had to change!

What three bits of advice would you give budding innovators?

    1. Talk to everyone, and anyone, you can about your idea. You never know what will happen next. My great friend Will worked with me as a junior doctor; he’s now with us on Forward full-time. We never would have had him as part of the team if we hadn’t spent hours on night shifts discussing the problem together!
    2. Find a Co-Founder (or several!) I couldn’t imagine doing this alone. Philip and Barney are both amazing people and amazing leaders, and it’s their drive and optimism that got us to where we are today – 5% of the doctors in the UK and growing. Whenever one of you is losing faith (inevitable at times!) the others can put you back on your feet and help you with that resilience you need in spades to be a successful Founder.
    3. Care about your problem more than your solution. Get as close to it as you can and stay there. Your solution will be wrong first time around, but as long as the problem isn’t solved, you have a chance of something really worthwhile.

What’s been your toughest obstacle?

Personal doubt!

What’s been your innovator journey highlight?

Getting our first real use cases. Watching our product change the way people work, resulting in better, faster care for patients. We have an amazing group of physios and orthopaedic surgeons using Forward to streamline shoulder surgery for patients, and another group who are using it to coordinate the multidisciplinary team in paediatric allergy. I can’t get enough of those stories because I know how tough it can be on the frontline of the NHS.

Best part of your job now?

The great privilege of working as a doctor and as a Co-Founder. I love clinical work, but I get frustrated by outdated systems, and I would hate it if I couldn’t focus on changing that. I care about healthcare at a systemic level and I want the NHS to survive, but I know that for that to be the case things will have to move forward, fast. I want to be a part of that.

If you were in charge of the NHS and care system, what’s the one thing you’d do to speed up health innovation?

Get Trusts talking to one another and sharing what they do. Incentivise knowledge transfer – both successes and failures. Share the ways in which they are working with others, including start-ups and small businesses, to foster innovation at scale.

A typical day for you would include..

A typical day being a paediatrician is just that – looking after sick children! I’m a junior doctor, so I’m still learning a lot, and working closely within a team to achieve the best outcome for the patient. When I’m at Forward, I spend most of my time meeting with the team to discuss progress and strategy, representing the clinical face of the company and the problem we’re trying to solve. The two jobs couldn’t be more different, but ultimately they are focused on the same thing – improving healthcare for everyone. I love what we’re building at Forward and I love the team – even those of us who aren’t from a healthcare background are driven by the mission to improve communication, and you can feel that energy walking into the office.

For more information on Forward Health visit www.forwardhealth.co or follow them on Twitter @ForwardHealth_