Recently there’s been a lot to celebrate at PEP Health. The Department of International Trade listed PEP on its ’25 to watch’ list and PEP was accepted into the London & Partners Mayor’s International Business Programme, which helps London-based scale-ups expand internationally. In celebration of International Women’s Day, we decided to reach out to Meghan Leaver, the co-founder of PEP Health. As it happened, it also was her first day working full time at PEP.
Remind us again please, how did PEP originate?
That’s a funny one, it all started back home, on my couch actually, the first week into my maternity leave. I had been very busy, but this situation gave me time to reflect on things. One evening, my friend Alex came over, a skilled data scientist, and colleague from LSE (London School of Economics). We were talking about how essential it is to generate a contemporaneous and representative patient voice to inform and improve the quality of care. We knew there was a lot of patient feedback out there, although it is highly fragmented with multiple barriers to access such as complexity of analysis, nuance of healthcare specific language and data gathering techniques. We were sure we knew what was missing; that there was no effective ‘real-time’ feedback loop in place, in which the feedback of patients would reach the hospital in a structured way to provide the insights needed to inform quality improvement programmes. As a result, hospitals were losing out on the insight-rich text feedback of patients and instead made to rely on outdated and traditional forms of survey data to gauge patient experiences of care. Alex had a good understanding of how new tech and NLP principles could help us approach this problem systematically from a tech / data perspective. So that day, you could say, PEP was born.
Note: PEP stands for Patient Experience Platform (PEP), which is a system that reads and combines multiple sources of patient feedback (incl. social media) to form a near real-time collective judgement on the quality of individual hospitals and departments at any given date.
Did you immediately feel you were part of a potential successful venture?
Yes we did, although at the beginning we obviously knew it was just two people having an idea. But from a venture perspective it was promising from the start. Soon we were able to scrape lots of feedback from the internet and specifically from social media. The algorithm we built proved to be a trustworthy predictor of the outcomes of quality inspections of hospitals and that bolstered our evidence. Hospital managers showed interest right away as they welcomed this ‘live’ source of information to effectively prioritize what to improve at their hospitals. We brought Dr Mark Lomax on board as CEO in 2019 and he drove the commercialisation plan and really brought the idea to life. We also had the support of real NHS champions such as Barbara Hakin (ex Deputy CEO of NHS England) who believes in the solution and helps open up otherwise difficult to reach connections. Also, we definitely knew we were on to something, when Simon Stevens (CEO of the NHS) retweeted our key findings!
What’s the next step in this journey going to be?
From a commercial point of view, we are investigating which new markets to enter for purposes of further scaling our business. Luckily enough, there are several stakeholders who value what we do, also in terms of the commercial potential, like large insurance companies, pharmaceuticals and clinical institutions. We are currently exploring the feasibility and complexity of entering the US market.
Looking back, what is it you’re most proud of?
Having spent years in academia, I have to say it feels really good to take an idea through from ideation and roll it out into the real world. The creation of our real time dashboard has also been a significant achievement. Now our clients can see how they are improving in real time and benchmark against their peers. It’s a real pleasure to generate positive change on such a scale. For example, The Royal Surrey are now rolling out the insights from our dashboard across their Trust to recognise good practise, enact quality improvement and improve staff engagement after an early pilot with us in 2020. We have also been able to highlight the challenges in access to care that some people face, highlighting national and regional variations in care across different services such as cancer, maternity or emergency care. Alongside the constructive feedback that works to identify gaps and variation in care, are also some really motivating and encouraging stories of emotional support and high quality care. It’s a huge privilege to be able to identify these stories and share them with the hospitals, providing recognition for the staff, particularly during COVID, where access to care has been constrained and overall patient experience has fallen.
PEP co-founders and friends Meghan Leaver and Alex Griffiths
celebrating their incorporation as a company
What kind of advice would you give to inventors who struggle to get started?
Never stop networking! Join panels and discussion groups and be brave enough to seek advice when you’re unsure. Also, listen – to peer advice, to the market needs and fluctuations, and be flexible to the changing healthtech ecosystem. We are genuinely passionate about advocating for the patient voice and this continues to drive what we do and we wouldn’t be where we are today without our passion, champions and determination. It’s just the difference between two people having an idea and building a venture in a profound and structured way.
Visit PEP Health to find out more…