CardMedic: Development of a Communication Tool for Covid-19 Patients and Healthcare Staff

Find out more about the story of CardMedic and the support provided by KTN’s Health Team, which has enabled them to secure funding from Innovate UK.

Posted on: 16/10/2020

Find out more about the story of CardMedic and the support provided by KTN’s Health Team, which has enabled them to secure funding from Innovate UK.

CardMedic is a digital communication tool, which has been developed to improve the transfer of information between healthcare staff and patients, regardless of any barrier which could prevent that (for instance language differences or visual/hearing impairments). It involves a collection of communication flashcards on healthcare topics, devised by clinical experts.


Prof. Mehdi Tavakoli from the KTN Health Team was contacted by Ms Jennifer Wells, Knowledge Exchange Manager from The University of Brighton, to review and support a proposal to Innovate UK that Founder and CEO of CardMedic, Dr. Rachael Grimaldi, was making in partnership with innovation academic Dr Mary Darking from the School of Applied Social Sciences, The University of Brighton. Dr. Darking designed a rapid evaluation of the CardMedic communication tool in collaboration with intensive care clinicians at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust and drew on her track record in supporting digital health start-ups to advise CardMedic on business development and the Innovate UK proposal. Prof Tavakoli carried out a comprehensive review of the proposal with a number of important comments and recommendations. He offered further support and guidance during a conference call with the team before Dr. Grimaldi submitted the final proposal to the Innovate UK business-led competition. This proposal was successful in securing funding from Innovate UK.


KTN caught up with Dr. Rachael Grimaldi to find out more about the organisation and their relationship with KTN. Dr. Rachael Grimaldi is an NHS Anaesthetist and Associate Medical Director of Brighton Marathon – also leads for i). Integration of roadside ECMO [Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation] into Advanced Cardiac Arrest Team and ii). Brighton Marathon Research Group.



Hi Rachael, could you tell us a bit about the background behind CardMedic? What is it specifically that you do, what sectors do you operate in, and what makes you unique?

CardMedic is a website and app, designed to improve communication between frontline healthcare staff and patients, irrespective of the barrier; whether that is visual, hearing or cognitive impairment, foreign language or PPE (personal protective equipment).

Written by clinical experts, it essentially replicates the conversations that take place around common healthcare topics, simply and succinctly. It is multi-lingual, has read-aloud functionality, an in-built translation tool and ability for users in PPE to upload their photo, so the patient can see who is looking after them. It is being converted into EasyRead English and British Sign Language.

We currently operate in the healthcare sector and are unique in the communication tools market. There are human language and sign language translators/interpreters available in-person, over telephone or video. There are paper or digital communication boards with pictures/photos/single words and options to create own content. There are speech-to-text, read-aloud and translation apps. There are multi-lingual databases of short 2-3 word medical phrases, but none:

1) Combine tools in one application

2) Specifically convey pre-written blocks/scripts of medical information

3) Encompass 1) and 2) whilst remaining free for the end-user

4) Integrate into Electronic Medical Record systems (in technology roadmap)


What inspired you to set up CardMedic?

Whilst on maternity leave with three children under four years old and stuck abroad unable to return to work in the pandemic, I was desperate to do something to help; I then read an inspiring story. A Covid-19 patient had been to Intensive Care and described feeling terrified when unable to understand healthcare staff through PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).

The global societal need for clear communication in healthcare has been severely disrupted. Existing approaches of hand-writing messages or using communication boards is an impractical, non-scalable solution. Could I create a digital solution? What aspects of clinical care would I discuss with patients? What if I transcribed these conversations simply and succinctly, helping convey and glean critical information? Colleagues across the UK said this tool did not exist, so I created an online A-Z ‘directory’ of flashcards of common healthcare topics, covering salient points and asking basic (mostly yes/no) questions.

From concept to launch in 72 hours, the CardMedic website was created on April 1st. Within 10 days, the app (Google Play and Apple) was built. National media coverage (TV/radio/newspaper/magazine), webinars, podcasts, articles/blogs and Twitter spread the word. Within 3 weeks we had 8,000 users across 50 countries; within 8 weeks we had 35,000 users in 120 countries and more than 11,500 app downloads.

Frontline healthcare staff report deploying it in emergency, urgent and elective settings in hospitals (emergency departments/intensive care units/clinics/wards) and dental practices.


Please click here to view an introductory video on CardMedic. 


What are the challenges and opportunities facing your company and the sectors in which you operate?

The challenges facing CardMedic include funding, accessing the NHS and developing a commercialisation model to enable CardMedic to become sustainable beyond the pandemic.

The challenges facing the NHS which in turn impact in one form or another upon patients’ ability to access healthcare information include: workforce retention; lack of funding to resource all translation needs; and an ageing population with increased cognitive, visual and hearing impairments.

The opportunities to CardMedic include being a unique solution that is widely applicable both in healthcare and in a number of other settings. The opportunities to the NHS include an increase in adoption of MedTech solutions with a greater institutional and staff appetite for technology in the healthcare ecosystem.


What specific help did KTN give you?

When applying for an Innovate UK grant, KTN helped review the application form and provided fantastic insight and support in adjusting sections of the form to meet the criteria. KTN also provided advice around commercialisation models and routes into the NHS, which have been really valuable.


Have you benefited from receiving funding? If so, how are you utilising this funding support?

We were successful in achieving the Innovate UK grant and have been using the funding to develop the technology, functionality and commercialisation models.


Would you recommend KTN and what would you describe as the benefits of working with us?

Yes absolutely. KTN has a unique market oversight across both the NHS and innovation sector, with experience in Digital Health, providing invaluable and relevant insight into the feasibility of an innovation. KTN is experienced in accessing the NHS and able to offer suggestions and solutions to overcoming barriers.


Where do you see CardMedic growing and do you have scope for expansion outside of the UK? 

The aim is for CardMedic to grow initially in the healthcare sector and then branch into other industries. Initial markets include the UK and US, followed by Europe, Australia and Brazil. It is important that it remains free for the end-user and we would like to subsidise its use in lower middle-income countries, refugee camps and disaster response situations.


What’s next for CardMedic?

We are seeking investment to facilitate technological development, team expansion and commercialisation.


Find out more about CardMedic here.


Members of the KTN Health Team have been very busy during the pandemic and have been actively involved in supporting many companies, clinicians and academics such as CardMedic and Dr. Grimaldi, as well as supporting collaborations and submissions of a number of successful proposals to funding organisations to address many key challenges related to Covid-19. To find out more and to get in touch with the team please click here.


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