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Business Showcase with Ulster Bank: Tuzzl – creating a real-time health care environment

Medical start-up firm Tuzzl is helping to improve the way in which patients and doctors connect with one another, share information and ensure the best possible treatment. And Dr Mark Mitchelson, its chief executive, says the rapid rise and journey has been helped along the way thanks to its relationship with Ulster Bank

An increased focus on digitisation utilising remote solutions within healthcare was a trend already emerging here before the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis.

But start-up Tuzzl is among those companies pushing that digital interactivity further forward - a health and wellbeing software company which aims to harness digital technology to deliver proactive care through a virtual hospital environment.

“We believed that technology could be used to improve healthcare, so we created Tuzzl,” Dr Mark Mitchelson, its chief executive says.

“Even before Covid0-19 there were significant changes and challenges effecting global healthcare – you had an ageing population, people were suffering from multiple medical conditions, and unsustainable rising health care costs.”

Mark is a consultant in emergency medicine, and was previously clinical lead for emergency medicine at the Mater Hospital.

“There was also this desire from patients and users for a greater understanding of what was happening to them, and a greater choice,” Mark says. “One big trend we see is this concept of the democratisation of healthcare.”

“People are demanding to be active participants in their health and wellbeing. They are no longer prepared to be just passive receivers.

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While video consultations or by telephone was already part and parcel of remote health care, that has been ramped up considerably.

“(Covid-19) really changed the landscape,” Mark says. “Patients and staff couldn’t, or didn’t want to come to hospital, if they didn't have to.

“When Covid occurred, patients and clinicians were fairly adaptable and did embrace the use of telephones and video for appropriate consultations.

“What Tuzzl does is take that to a new level where patients and clinicians can share information about how their conditions are actually progressing, how they respond to treatment and can deliver a real-time picture of the health and wellbeing of individuals.

“This allows us to respond to changes in the health of individuals and to deliver more patient-centred care. Hopefully that improves the patient experience, and the outcome as well.”

“Patients have access to a web-based application on device which allows them enter data, linking in to wearable devices, to give us passive information. Clinicians can then view that info to see how their conditions are progressing, send out alerts, trigger video consultations. It becomes a much more shared experience between patients and clinicians.”

And according to Mark, the assistance and guidance the company has received from Ulster Bank has been “invaluable”.

“The Entrepreneur Accelerator Programme has been great,” he says. “With the help we have been able to shape our go-to-market strategy and have the opportunity to network with like-minded entrepreneurs in an expanding Northern Irish IT scene, which has been fantastic.

“Ulster Bank has also been great in putting us in contact with its huge network of partners in Northern Ireland, Scotland and across the UK, but also moving in to North America as well, which has been great in terms of developing our business plan – giving us some challenge – in a construction way about how develop the business, moving forward.

“Ulster Bank has been invaluable in moving us forward. Ulster Bank and the Accelerator team in particular have so many contacts that they are able to access parts of the market and expertise that we could never hope to access.”

Our commitment to helping entrepreneurs is unwavering

By John Ferris, regional ecosystem manager

Since launching our Entrepreneur Accelerator programme in 2016, Ulster Bank has made a significant contribution to Northern Ireland’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. We have welcomed 600 businesses through our doors who have gone on to secure over £20m worth of investment. A lot has changed in those five years but our drive and commitment to helping entrepreneurs unlock their true potential has been unwavering.

Ulster Bank has relaunched its enterprise programme to ensure we continue to offer the right level of support to those businesses who need it most. In particular, we want to attract companies with high-growth opportunities and introduce them to new markets and potential investors.

Working with our parent group, NatWest, across the UK, we recently carried out some research into SME recovery. This process involved speaking directly to over 1,000 SMEs whose insight and first-hand experiences revealed some startling facts.

The Springboard to Recovery Report highlighted that boosting SME productivity and growth could deliver an additional £140bn to the UK economy by 2030; that increasing the number of female-led business would create an extra £50bn and that by encouraging more black, Asian and ethnic minority entrepreneurs to start their own business would lead to 310,000 new SME workers.

While we know creating more businesses will be crucial to economic recovery in here in Northern Ireland, our report has also shown that boosting the productivity of existing businesses can have an equally positive impact. Now that we know the monetary value of reaching into this untapped potential, we are recommitting ourselves to addressing this issue for Northern Ireland businesses who could be enjoying even more success with additional help and support.

Another priority for our team going forward is to increase our support for climate-focused businesses. These are companies whose main objective relates to being environmentally sustainable and aligns not only with our overall purpose-led approach, but also with the bank’s sponsorship of the forthcoming UN COP26 climate summit to be held in Glasgow later this year.

Our Belfast Hub is committed to dedicating 25% of available spaces to these types of businesses. Not only will this shift in focus help reduce the UK’s carbon footprint, but it will also lead to an increase in our overall GVA.

The report also identified some concerning findings in terms of ethnic minorities and female-led businesses. Our team has been supporting a diverse range of entrepreneurs for some time through a range of initiatives, but we have more work to do to increase the visibility of these groups. We want to see more applications from females and ethnic minorities and are currently engaging with a number of stakeholders within this area to attract those from what are traditionally under-represented sectors.

Applications to join the next cohort of entrepreneurs are now live and we are excited to be welcoming the next generation of business success stories in Northern Ireland on board. While much of the programme was delivered virtually during the pandemic, our hope is that this year’s participants will be supported using a more blended model; resuming use of our newly refurbished Belfast Hub whenever it is safe to do so, but also holding on to some of the virtual elements our entrepreneurs found to be the most useful.

We’ll also be continuing with some of our other Enterprise offerings; our Business Builder programme, a digital qualification offered to early-stage start-ups; and Dream Bigger, an education programme aimed at 16-18 year olds, encouraging them to consider entrepreneurship as a career choice.

So whatever stage of the growth journey your business is at or if you simply wish to find out more information about what we can offer, visit ulsterbank.co.uk/accelerator to apply today.