my mhealth, a company which builds digital therapeutics for patients with a range of chronic conditions, has been supported by The Department for International Trade (DIT) as part of the drive to level up businesses in the region, to successfully export to New Zealand with its NHS-approved COPD app, myCOPD.
my mhealth, based in Bournemouth, was established in 2012 to give patients with a range of chronic conditions access to healthcare online and therefore be able to easily access crucial information about their health and the services available to them.
The company expects to increase export sales to New Zealand over the next two years as it looks to expand on commercial activity beyond UK borders.
The news comes a month after New Zealand and the UK agreed a free trade agreement in principle which will create new opportunities for UK businesses. UK-New Zealand trade was worth £2.3bn in 2020, with the South West exporting £43m of goods to the market.
As part of International Trade Week taking place between 15-19 November 2021, a series of exciting events will help businesses learn more about selling globally. Businesses will have the opportunity to learn about topics such as what the United Kingdom’s Free Trade Agreements mean for businesses and the Department for International Trade’s approach to supporting exporters. You can find a full schedule of the events here.
COPD is a major respiratory disease in New Zealand. An estimated 15% (200,000) of all New Zealanders aged over 45 years suffer from the condition and is the fourth leading cause of death in the region behind cancer, heart disease and stroke.
The rollout is initially focused on the Māori and Pasifika population, making it the first NHS approved digital self-management programme for COPD to be available in a clinical setting beyond British borders.
Ian Thompson, Global Digital Transformation Specialist at the company said:
“The app, my COPD, is beneficial to COPD services in New Zealand as their patients live across different settings including islands away from the mainland. Being able to bring patients digital access to health care services will help to revolutionise how these populations can access clinical expertise.
“The clinical insights generated from the digital therapeutic will also allow healthcare services to understand what patients’ needs are, without there being a need for unnecessary travel in cars or on boats to where services are based.
“During the pandemic, as we found within the NHS, face-to-face delivery of rehabilitation programmes ceased, meaning patients couldn’t access essential services to help them manage their condition. The app alleviated some service access issues as it allowed patients to interact online and refer back to information that they might have been given in a face-to-face setting.”
The company initially approached the District Health Board (DHB) in New Zealand as they were looking for a market that was English speaking and would give them the expertise and credibility to expand into other markets.
“The DHB team within New Zealand were either looking at developing their own digital COPD programme, or bring something in that did what they wanted; we just happened to approach them at the right time.”
DIT gave the company advice on regulatory requirements surrounding bringing a medical device into the New Zealand market and supported the company to ensure it was complying with local regulations and laws around personal data. DIT also gave the company adhoc advice around market entry and will be supporting the company in its expansion into Australia and the US.
my mhealth was also given the opportunity to speak at a DIT South West Healthcare and Healthtech event in September and has been signposted to various opportunities, such as pitching to the Medtech Accelerator.
Ian says that New Zealand has been the ideal test bed market for the product:
“As a market, the teams we spoke to in New Zealand were really engaging, we had no language barrier, and we both understood we had to go on a journey to get this into the hands of patients.
“We found the biggest hurdle was ensuring we were compliant with the data laws. We needed to ensure everyone could sign off the right documents and we fully complied with the laws around data. You have to remember that this was a new step for both us and the DHB with a digital therapeutic.
“In terms of the biggest challenge we have faced, it has been the time difference. If you have a product that needs customer support, then this is one issue to consider. My advice to other businesses is that if you have any questions, get in touch with the DIT as they will be able to support you on your export journey.”
Paul Shand, Head of Trade for DIT in the South West said:
“There has never been a more opportune time to explore new markets and take advantage of the strong demand for British goods and services to help boost sales. I am delighted to see my mhealth thriving through providing access to digital healthcare for people who need it most.
“The UK’s historic free trade deal with New Zealand will boost British exports and I look forward to seeing more South West businesses break into and thrive in this exciting market as tariffs are removed and red tape slashed.”
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