From cardboard box to Blue Box
Updated: Feb 2
The evolution of Whzan
Whzan founder Keith Chessell recently sat down with our friends at MVMNT to discuss how Whzan has evolved over time – shifting from industrial software to digital health.
Speaking to Keith Chessell, one of the most striking things is his modesty when it comes to Whzan’s growth and achievement over the last decade. You almost have to coax the highlights out of him to begin with but once you get him telling the tale in all its glory, it really is a fascinating one.
When you look at the role that Whzan has carved themselves within the digital health world, as they continue to transform the way that remote monitoring supports elderly care, it’s fascinating to hear about their beginnings.
Whzan, or Solcom (Whzan’s parent company) began their life as an industrial systems developer. Having built automation systems for large companies, Keith recognised the need for systems that served smaller organisations that weren’t capable of investing hundreds of thousands of pounds. “We went about adapting the systems into a toolkit that would provide a solution for these smaller companies – which quickly proved to be a big success.” Keith tells us.
Having provided this much-needed solution for smaller companies who would likely have struggled to keep up in a changing industry, it sparked a curiosity in Keith as to what other good could be done. This led him to the discovery of an NHS grant and the emerging use of automation in the field of telehealth. Innovative systems were beginning to be used to make to streamline processes and enhance care in certain areas but there was a potential gap…
Keith identified an area in which a well-designed system could be used to support patient assessments and automate data collection and recording. “I saw a potential to deliver significant savings in both time and money – reducing admin hours and gifting staff time to actually spend with patients delivering much-needed care”.
Upon winning the NHS grant, the first prototype of the Whzan Blue Box was created. While Keith knew he was onto something, he hadn’t necessarily prepared himself for what was to come.
The early adopters of the first iteration of the Blue Box included NHS Isle of Wight and Sunderland Council. The initial results they were seeing created a significant buzz and the user base began to build. Keith said “its initial use was in individual patient’s homes, focusing on those requiring regular ambulance call outs. It was in 2013 that we found what has undoubtedly become the key application for the kits – care homes.”
Whilst orders for the kits, originally sent out in cardboard boxes rather than the now-signature Blue Box, continued to grow, it was only when Keith started attending conferences and similar events that he really saw the difference that they were making. “The Blue Box was like nothing else that existed on the market and it was revolutionising the way that elderly care was being delivered”. Not only that but the savings being made were projected to be in the hundreds of thousands per care home and the initial figures were showing significant drops in ambulance call-outs, A&E admissions and bed days patients were spending in hospital.
Patient numbers being monitored on Whzan technology has doubled every year since 2014 and Keith is currently projecting that this will reach 100,000 in 2021.
It has also, inevitably, transformed his business. Up until 2018, Solcom’s ongoing industrial projects were funding all Whzan development and Whzan sales were making up just about a quarter of Solcom’s income. As they entered 2019, Whzan could stand on its own. At the end of the last financial year, Whzan was accounting for 2/3 of Solcom’s income. The forecast for next year is that it will hit 90%.
But that’s not what brings Keith most pride when it comes to Whzan’s rise. “I think the biggest thing for me is the identity that Whzan has found as a different kind of company. It isn’t about a purely commercial focus, it’s about the genuinely positive outcomes we’ve been able to bring about. We have the best interests of the NHS Trusts, CCGs, AHSNs and local authorities we work with at heart. The positive feedback we get regarding the difference the Blue Box has made in improving the quality of life for some of the most vulnerable people just fills me with joy.”
The Blue Box has also emerged as a key tool in the brutal fight that care homes found themselves in during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Never before has the ability to make assessments quickly and accurately been more crucial – especially when it came to keeping residents out of hospital. “We obviously could never have predicted this but we’re so happy that the Blue Box has been able to play its part. This isn’t just about protecting the residents but also minimising the strain on the NHS”. The Blue Box’s effectiveness in this context has since resulted in a grant from Innovate UK to launch a pilot scheme that would give care homes across the UK access to the kits for a free year-long trial. The scheme is now set to launch its second phase in early 2021.
Despite having already changed the face of UK digital health and elderly care, Keith isn’t anywhere near done yet. Whzan’s other key product, the Guardian Kit, is beginning to make similar waves in home remote monitoring and the brand-new Whzan app is set to be made available across the UK – completely free.
Needless to say, there’s plenty to come from Whzan in 2021 and beyond.