Buddi – Written evidence (INQ0084)

 

 

The Buddi system for helping older people to maintain independence

 

Buddi was founded in 2005 and is one of the fastest growing UK technology companies.

 

Established by its CEO, Sara Murray OBE, specifically to develop the use of location monitoring in the protection and safeguarding of vulnerable and older people, one of our core values is to help older people maintain their independence.

 

We have developed extremely precise and reliable location technology that is portable and enables a person’s family and friends, and/or Responsible Authorities to know where the person is and if they need assistance.

 

Buddi produces discreet wearable technology to avoid the stigmatisation of users, and to encourage use, which encompasses a push-button emergency alarm and an automatic fall alert. Buddi is stylish and unobtrusive, using indoor and outdoor location technologies to provide a service at the wearer’s home, as well as when they are outside in the community. All our products are designed to be simple to use and intuitive, without the need for complex installations.

 

When a wearer feels safe and confident, and people who care for them have the peace of mind and reassurance of knowing that they are protected, they are able to maintain longer term independence in their own homes and outdoors, which can in turn significantly improve their mental well-being and quality of life.

 

 

The process of developing the product, including how the perspectives of older people were used

 

Buddi’s personal alarm and automatic fall detection system was developed to address an unmet need. The Research and Development work for our original product followed consultation through focus groups and other market research. The development of the product was conducted by our in-house team and, as a result, we have been able to offer a highly differentiated product from the start, with exceptional capability in a small device.

 

Based on customer feedback, Buddi recognised that barriers to growth in the wider field of personal emergency response rested in the functionality, aesthetics, image and associations of the currently available products. Potential customers sought an unobtrusive, wearable product that operates inside and outdoors. As a result, the next generation Buddi was designed to meet the functionality requirements discreetly and stylishly, adapting all the successful elements of the existing product to meet the changing and newly identified needs of customers.

 

In the UK, Buddi serves its customers directly – selling its solutions either face-to-face or through its webshop at buddi.co.uk. This enables the Company to hear the views of its customers directly, which leads to continuous innovation in solution design.

 

Over time, we have further developed and re-worked our offering, based on changing needs and wearer feedback; developing a variant to harness the opportunity for smartphone users, and to offer technology to enable larger commissioners to deploy multiple devices yet retain a simple user interface. Hence, several generations of products have been introduced to the market over the past ten years, including two new products in 2018, both offering radical improvements in performance.

 

These are full-service systems incorporating both proprietary hardware, software and the service provision (technical support).

 

 

The experience of bringing the Buddi system to market in the UK

 

Buddi has been very successful in securing continual investment and also specific funding for product development and innovation. However, the route to bring innovative new solutions to market in the UK is convoluted and intangible in the field of Social Healthcare.

 

We have established, working relationships with more than 100 Adult Public Health Departments, and this business continues to grow. Our products are recognised as high quality, reliable and effective. It is through our existing customers that we are able to trial new solutions and respond to changing needs.

 

Successive Governments have far-reaching ambition in terms of continuity of care and reduced hospital admissions, the achievement of service transformation and integrated care. However, in Buddi’s experience, the barriers to expansion at scale and to extension into new fields are multi layered. Some examples are:

 

Financial – commissioners in the field of Public Health have no un-allocated money. They simply cannot pay for something, which does not bring immediate financial benefits. As a result, they only use technologies at the point that an individual is about to be admitted to residential care – much too late.

 

Year on year Public Health budget cuts have led to a commissioning drive towards cut-price offerings delivering “sufficiency” as opposed to innovation, excellence and future savings (next year’s budget as opposed to this year’s).

 

Fragmentation – the divide between NHS “in hospital” services and Adult Social Care “in community” services is too great to cross. Neither will fund something because it saves the other money.

 

Constriction – as budgets have shrunk, the emphasis has been increasingly focussed on the “critical few’; the people who are the most ill and the least capable of independent living. Preventative services are a target for cuts as they are less visible.

 

Scale – Commissioners seek large “framework” providers; undifferentiated service companies with offerings to address all needs across the whole of the UK or large regions. There is no room for smaller providers, and the price of offerings is pushed down by big players who are desperate to win business at a low price.

 

Governance – Public Health governance structures are complex and multi-layered, with seemingly unclear ownership and decision-making routes.

 

 

Buddi Family Testimonials

 

“Well what can I say......buddi has changed our lives, my husband has severe uncontrolled epilepsy and couldn't go anywhere on his own until we had 'buddi' he now has more confidence and I am not so fearful for something to go wrong and not know about it. He can take his children to the park and know that he can be found if a seizure happens. Thank you buddi for changing our lives.

 

“Having a Buddi has changed mine and my mum's life! She has a condition which makes her unbalanced and constantly dizzy. Before she got a Buddi, she only went out of her house once per week, and I was constantly worried she'd had a fall. She's only 62. Now she has a Buddi she goes out every single day for walks (with a walking aid) and her two little dogs or just mooching around the shops. She says her Buddi has given her (and me) a huge confidence boost knowing that whatever happens, wherever she is, she will be able to get help - and she's lost weight!

 

London Local Authority Case Study

 

D was a gentleman who had always worked as a postman. Consequently, he was in the habit of going out for a daily walk. His wife was unable to walk far due to having arthritis and was starting to worry when D went out alone as he was often out longer than she expected. On one occasion he returned home with unexplained bruises and could only say that he might have fallen. His wife’s attempts to stop him going out had led D becoming aggressive at times.

 

When referred to the OT D’s wife was thinking that it was time to consider residential care. Provision of the Buddi meant that D’s wife no longer worried when he went out alone. As she did not use the internet, she had an arrangement that she would contact family if he had not returned home by an agreed time.

 

Following being given a Buddi, D continued to live at home for a further 18 months.

 

3 February 2020