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Our innovation and intellectual property support helped the Safer Prescribing of Opioids Tool (SPOT) platform develop a life-saving solution to reduce medical error.

Led and validated by clinicians, the Safer Prescribing of Opioids Tool (SPOT) platform is a new medical device designed to reduce opioid prescribing error.

It's something of a breakthrough for the industry - allowing users to access up-to-date prescription information and calculate drug dosages through their smartphones.

Spun out of a partnership between the University of Dundee, NHS Tayside, Digital Health Institute and Scottish Enterprise, it’ll be the first clinically-validated opioid converter in clinical practice.

With all prescriptions in the SPOT system recorded, the system can be used for clinical governance purposes – improving accountability for prescribing and providing evidence for re-validation.

We met Dr Roger Flint, founder and medical doctor, to discuss how our innovation and intellectual property support helped SPOT grow from a bright idea into a viable business. 

Where did the idea of SPOT come from?

As a doctor, I quickly came to recognise the potential of electronic aids to healthcare - particularly in improving the safety of healthcare provision.

A number of strong painkillers, morphine derivatives, are used in the management of patients with advanced illness or cancer. Converting from one painkiller to another requires care and presently, is performed using paper tables of approximate equivalence.

There was no suitably qualified health professional to double check my calculation, and no other method check. As a result, I felt unable to prescribe the pain relief. It was a sobering lesson and I was determined that no other junior doctor or patient should be put in the same position.

What was your vision for the product?

SPOT double checks such drug conversions. These are high-risk medicines, and incorrect dosing may lead to harm. A National Patient Safety Agency report identified 4,200 dose-related patient safety incidents concerning opioids in the NHS, five of which caused death. If SPOT can stop the avoidable harm to one of these patients, it will have achieved its aim.

SPOT has the support of the University of Dundee, NHS Tayside, the Digital Health and Care Institute and Scottish Enterprise. 

How has our support helped your business to grow?

Support from Scottish Enterprise and the Digital Health and Care Institute was transformative in the development of SPOT.

Without this support, we wouldn’t be in the position to provide a tool to improve the safety of opioid prescribing. 

The faith shown by PATCH, run by medical experts in palliative care, validated the need for SPOT, whilst other palliative care and end of life charities donated substantial funds to the development of SPOT, including Lippen care, and the Tayside Oncology Research Fund.

Would you say innovation gives you a competitive edge and if so – how?

Innovation is fundamental to our strategy. Healthcare provision must be robust, evidence-based and personalised. The development of innovative new medical device software tools such as SPOT gives healthcare professionals such as nurses, pharmacists and doctors access to up-to-date guidelines and support at their fingertips, without the requirements of referencing paper manuals.

Most importantly, we are able to provide tools to empower prescribers to validate their own decisions, at the patient’s bedside, ensuring the patient remains at the centre of care.

What’s been the turning point on your business journey?

Support from the wider innovation team and intellectual assets support at Scottish Enterprise and Business Gateway has been pivotal to the success of the business, enabling execution of the business idea with confidence and speed.

The intellectual property audit set the framework for the company, clarified the IP position, and provided the necessary reassurance to pursue the innovation.

What would be your message to other businesses looking to start developing new products and services?

Research your idea, your competition, the legal and policy aspects and the end goal.

Secondly, money spent on legal advice, particularly at an early stage, seems expensive but is critical.

What’s next for your company?

The roll-out of SPOT and its adoption in Europe. We also have a number of other products in development.

Next steps

Discover how our By Design grant can support your company to develop products, shape branding and grow your business overseas. 

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