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Startup in spotlight: This digital health startup founded by three doctors wants to automate care journeys, scoops €7M funding

Portugal-based UpHill raises €7M to automate care journeys and empower healthcare teams

UpHill, a Portuguese technology firm specialising automating care journeys for hospitals and patients, has recently secured €7 million funding led by Explorer, Redstone, edtech VC Brighteye Ventures, and Maze. This investment will largely be dedicated to scaling its operations internationally.

While UpHill is a digital care journey solution for both patients and hospitals, it was interesting to see, earlier this month, a Dutch VC investing $8.2M in a startup that connected caregivers, health insurance and care providers.

The startup is a healthcare technology company on a mission to change healthcare delivery through automation and streamlined processes. Their software focuses on clinical pathways, which are essentially predefined care plans for various medical conditions. Their technology automates parts of these pathways, allowing physicians to dedicate more time to complex cases while ensuring optimal care for all patients.

Eduardo Freire Rodrigues, co-founder, and CEO of UpHill, spoke to TFN in an exclusive interview. He stated that the company was founded by three medical doctors. He added, “We were unhappy with the state of hospital management and quality of care.”

They observed that doctors were overloaded with tasks, from simple to complex. Its core idea was founded with the idea that clinical pathways, or journey-based care, could improve healthcare delivery. UpHill’s software automates parts of these pathways, allowing doctors to focus on more complex tasks and increasing hospital capacity. This approach is particularly relevant in Europe where waiting times and lists are a growing problem. Currently, their solution is being used by healthcare centres such as Santa Maria Local Health (includes the biggest hospital in Portugal), São José Local Health, Santo António Local Health, Coimbra Local Health, Litoral Alentejano Local Health and Institut Guttmann (in Barcelona).

Care delivery with automation and efficiency

This healthcare tech company’s core innovation lies in automating repetitive tasks within established clinical pathways. This includes tasks like exam prescription, note taking, referral booking, and appointment scheduling. By automating these administrative burdens, UpHill frees up valuable physician time. Imagine a scenario where a patient with chronic illness like diabetes is admitted to the emergency room.

Eduardo told TFN that their technology, upon recognizing the patient’s medical history, can automatically trigger the appropriate clinical pathway. This pathway might include pre-populated discharge instructions or suggest adjustments to existing medication regimes based on real-time health data. This not only reduces the workload for overwhelmed physicians but also ensures a smoother and more efficient experience for patients, ultimately reducing waiting times and improving overall satisfaction.

Streamlining patient journeys and ensuring adherence

UpHill’s technology streamlines patient journeys by ensuring patients stay on track with their care plan. This is achieved through features like automated appointment reminders, medication refill prompts, and patient portals that display relevant care pathway information. Their approach fosters better patient adherence to treatment plans, leading to potentially improved health outcomes.

Empowering healthcare teams with decision support and reduced workload

By automating repetitive tasks, UpHill allows physicians to focus on what they do best: managing complex patients and making critical clinical decisions. Additionally, their software, as told by the CEO to TFN, integrates decision support tools that provide relevant data and evidence-based recommendations to physicians at the point of care. This empowers them to make more informed decisions while reducing the cognitive load associated with information overload.

Leveraging data for personalised care and continuous improvement

UpHill’s platform leverages data from various sources, including patient electronic health records, hospital information systems, and even patient-reported data collected through their mobile app, Liber. This comprehensive data pool allows their software to personalise care journeys and optimise patient outcomes. For instance, by analysing historical data, it can identify potential bottlenecks within specific clinical pathways and suggest improvements. This data-driven approach ensures continuous improvement and adaptation within the healthcare system.

A holistic approach to healthcare: Integrating digital health solutions

UpHill recognizes that a holistic approach is necessary to improve healthcare delivery. This is where their mobile app, Liber, comes into play. Liber complements UpHill’s core software by offering patients a way to address minor health issues quickly and conveniently. Imagine experiencing a sore throat or a mild allergic reaction. Through Liber, patients can report symptoms, receive triage guidance, and even connect with a doctor for online consultations. This not only empowers patients to take charge of their health but also alleviates the burden on traditional healthcare systems by diverting non-emergency cases to a more appropriate setting.

Addressing concerns about job displacement in healthcare

UpHill understands the potential concerns healthcare professionals might have regarding automation and job displacement. They emphasise that their technology is not meant to replace doctors but rather to empower them. By automating repetitive tasks, their solution allows physicians to dedicate more time to complex patients and clinical reasoning, which are areas where human expertise is irreplaceable. The company envisions a future where technology complements human expertise, leading to a more efficient and effective healthcare system for all.

What we think about UpHill

UpHill is currently a team of 35 with a unique blend of expertise. The company combines medical doctors with strong clinical research backgrounds with computer scientists who specialise in healthcare interoperability and process mining. To fuel their ambitious growth plans, UpHill aims to double its team size by year’s end. The focus will be on product development at their Lisbon headquarters, along with commercial roles for both sales and hospital implementation. These commercial roles will have a more localised focus, initially targeting Portugal, Iberia, and the UK, with plans to expand to the US data region later.

They are actively involved in research and development projects like AddPath, which focuses on establishing a framework for further streamlining and automating clinical pathways. Their long-term goal is to create a healthcare system that is efficient, predictable, and empowers both patients and healthcare professionals. The company’s approach to healthcare technology offers a promising glimpse into the future, where automation and human expertise work together to deliver better care for all.

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