Playphysio graduated from Cambridge Social Ventures in June 2017.
Playphysio provides gaming solutions that transform the daily physiotherapy routines of children suffering with respiratory conditions from sources of conflict into fun and engaging experiences.
Cambridge Social Ventures believes that Playphysio’s first product has the potential to significantly improve the lives of Cystic Fibrosis (CF) patients and their families, to make massive cost savings within the NHS, and reduce the isolation for CF patients too.
“In 2005, my eldest daughter, aged 16 months, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. This came as a great shock. I hadn’t even heard of this life threatening inherited disease and had no awareness of the journey that lay ahead.
“Today I am very well aware of the daily ‘burden of care’ associated with managing cystic fibrosis. There’s a lot to keep track of and it doesn’t just affect my daughter. By 2013 our twice-daily ‘routine’ of arguments and nagging around physiotherapy was just too stressful. I decided that I really had to do something about the situation,” explains Will.
“I built, prototyped, programmed, developed and tested an invention. It transformed our daily physiotherapy routine from a source of conflict into a fun and engaging experience. By creating an interactive game played by linking her chest physio device with a phone, our routine was transformed. My daughter used it for months at home, during which time I was able to observe and make adjustments and improvements. NHS respiratory teams in Cambridge, and other hospitals in the UK, have helped me to refine, develop and test the device further.”
“I now have a product that works with most chest physiotherapy equipment. It is suitable for children or adults, and can make physiotherapy a fun and engaging activity. My personal goal is to make this available to every family that is affected by CF. I want to ease their burden of care, and improve the quality of life for children and adults,” Will concludes.
Because of the nature of CF, in person support groups are not possible, due to the risk of sharing respiratory infections. Playphysio’s social media capabilities facilitate positive peer-to-peer support.
“Now, with Playphysio, groups of CF patients can connect with each other, indeed, collaborate, compete and compare results to encourage each other’s progress. The potential positive social impact of linking patients together in this way cannot be understated. Indeed, it has not just been the patients and parents that have been getting excited during our clinical trials, it is the clinicians too!” advises Will.
Will trained and worked as a product designer before moving into web design, founding, running and selling an award-winning web design company. Moving to Australia for a period with his family, Will enjoyed the challenges of being a stay at home dad, including the twice daily battles to get his oldest daughter to do her life enhancing physio exercises.
His knowledge around product design, systems, interfaces and human interaction, together with his hobby of flying aeroplanes with cameras and computers, led to him to thinking that he must be able to do something to make it easier for his daughter to do her ‘jobs’.
Having tested the final prototype with Cambridge Addenbrooke’s and Birmingham Heartlands Hospitals, Will is about six months away, funding permitting, from his invention becoming a certified medical device.
It costs the NHS £100 million per year to manage cystic fibrosis, for which there is no cure. Recent research with two groups of children with cystic fibrosis having supervised, managed and monitored physiotherapy for 12 months saw annual savings of £4,000 – £8,000 per patient due to the reduction in their need for medication.
Will estimates that his product could save the NHS at least £20 million per year in the UK. When you add the social cost of parents taking time off work to take their child into hospital, there is potentially further savings.
During phase one, Playphysio plans to continue obtaining feedback from families of CF patients in Addenbrooke’s and Birmingham Heartland hospitals, whilst establishing clinical trials in tandem to evidence actual cost savings and other benefits. Current evidence suggests that hospitals could gain a tenfold ROI within a year.
In addition to the economic impacts for the NHS, this product delivers the following social impacts:
- Quality of life improvement for patients and families.
- Reassurance for families that their loved one is doing their exercises correctly.
- Potential to connect people together to share the burden of care.
- Potential for patients to compete or collaborate when playing games.
With further potential to develop this product to apply to patients with other respiratory conditions, these impacts are just the start of the Playphysio story.