Meet Caroline Gadd, UK Managing Director for Holmusk and NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA) fellow for MaST, a decision support tool which uses data from electronic health records to improve health and care decisions. Read what Caroline has to say about the support received from AHSNs, building an effective and efficient product delivery team and benefitting both those who use mental health services and those who work in them.

Tell us about your innovation – what and why?

So MaST stands for management and supervision tool. It’s a decision support tool which helps community mental health teams understand information about their service users by using data from their electronic health records to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the decisions made about their care.

MaST was developed because we saw some real challenges in community mental health teams. Workers had big caseloads and were looking after people experiencing mental health crises, which meant that they had limited time to look after people that needed a supported recovery. It’s used daily by nurses, doctors, psychologists, occupational therapists and other mental health workers so that they can save time and use the information they have to make better decisions.

Our parent company Holmusk is a company that is globally focused on mental health and acquired MaST back in April 2021. They specialise in bringing data solutions to improve the lives of people with mental ill health and I’ve never come across another organization that is so focused on mental health and data. They’re a really good fit for us.

What was the ‘lightbulb’ moment?

When I first started working on this concept, we spent huge amounts of time listening to people who worked in mental health teams and watching how they work to see whether there was something we could improve. They were using homegrown spreadsheets to try and understand the risk and complexity of a caseload and I felt sure that we could do something to extract the data already in the electronic health record and translate it into a clinical insight that could save time and administrative effort in making those decisions.

What AHSNs are you supported by?

My local AHSN is Wessex and I started seeking advice and guidance from them very early on in my journey. They have been a trusted friend and I know I can pick up the phone or send an email and get support, general encouragement and reassurance, as well as their expertise.

The Innovation Agency is really important to us because Mersey Care Foundation Trust is on their patch, and that is our reference site where we’ve done most of our development work. The Innovation Agency have supported us by commissioning a health economic impact report of our work in Mersey Care and demonstrates the outcomes we have delivered collaboratively.

The third one is UCLPartners as they are the host for the NIA programme. So they’re important to us anyway, but they have also helped us to deploy MaST in almost all of the mental health trusts on their patch.

What’s been your toughest obstacle to date?

Probably the toughest obstacle is the one we’re facing right now: moving from this small team of entrepreneurs into a really effective and efficient product delivery team. This year the size of my team more than doubled, which means that we’ve got more of the right people who are buying into the vision. They’re absolutely brilliant. But we need to become much more process driven in how we deliver MaST and become really efficient at doing that.

Our customers tell us they love the level of service that they get from the MaST team, the fact that they know us all personally and that we are available at the end of our phones. So how do we make sure that we deliver that really great customer service whilst also delivering to more trusts and keeping MaST affordable for our NHS colleagues?

What are your hopes for the future?

To grow the team and the team resource. I would love to reach all NHS mental health trusts in the country so that you get the same resources allocated to your care whether you live in Bolton or in Plymouth.

I would also love to broaden the scope of the services. At the moment we deliver MaST to community mental health teams, early intervention in psychosis teams and older adults teams. But there’s a real demand within children and adolescent mental health services, learning disability services and even across inpatient services for this kind of resource, so being able to adapt it so that it’s bespoke for different services is within the vision.

Also, thinking about where else might benefit from MaST and if there are markets beyond the UK where we could take it.

What’s the best part of your job?

The best bit is seeing the impact and watching how people are using MaST and seeing the results for service users. I also love to hear stories from staff – there was one community mental health nurse who shared that she hadn’t been able to sleep on a Sunday night because she was worried about her caseload. She said that MaST helped her to sleep because she knew all the information was there and she didn’t worry about something that she’d missed. It made me think, actually this is equally beneficial for people who use mental health services and those who work in them, as something like MaST can be a simple way of just helping staff to do their job.

Three pieces of advice for budding innovators?

  1. It’s quite a tough journey sometimes, particularly when you’re trying to convince other people that your idea is a good one and bring people on board. Keeping the self belief and creating a support network around you is really important when you’re developing a new business from scratch.
  2. Being a little bit cautious with investment has really positively paid off. We’ve built this business slowly in a very incremental way and that worked for us in times of financial trouble as well as when times are good.
  3. Maintain the focus on the patients. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the world of talking to investors and getting legal and regulatory support to drive your business forward. I started this because I wanted to make a difference to people who need to use healthcare services. Make sure that is still the focus.
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