Derry tech to be used in remote Australian townships through Deal with $A3.5 billion nib Group

  • Derry-based Access Elemental, and its technology developed in Northern Ireland, will play a key role in supporting the community in one of Australia’s remote townships in a deal signed with nib Group.

    nib Group, a health, wellness, and global travel insurance company, is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange, and has a market capitalisation of more than $A3.5 billion.

    It has signed Access Elemental to provide a digital social prescribing platform, which will be used in nib’s Bourke Pathways programme. The programme aims to improve long-term health outcomes for Bourke’s community, and reduce pressure on public health and allied services.

    Bourke is 760 kilometres north-west of Sydney in western New South Wales and has a population of about 2400. About one-third are Aboriginal. The township, which in the 1880s was the largest inland port in the world, shipping wool along the Darling-Baaka River, is also home to significant Aboriginal history. Aboriginal fish traps, at nearby Brewarrina, are the oldest man-made structures on earth. Bourke is synonymous with Australia’s ‘outback’; it is a gateway town, before Australia’s remote, vast interior. Many people who need access to major hospital or health services travel either 400 kilometres to Dubbo, or 550 kilometres to Orange, the next nearest large towns.

    Access Elemental’s social prescribing model leverages existing networks within a community to refer people to sources of support to help improve wellbeing. This can include activities like debt advice, social welfare legal support, befriending services, community-based fitness classes, gardening clubs, and healthy cooking programmes. The Access Elemental software is designed for general practitioners, and other frontline healthcare professionals such as social workers and mental health practitioners, to co create safe and trusted referral routes into and from social prescribing services and demonstrate the difference a non-medical, person centred approach has on the person, the community and the wider health and social care sector.

    “We know that social determinants, like access to housing, good health services and community connections dictate better health outcomes,” said Access Elemental co-founder and managing director Jennifer Neff. “We developed the technology to leverage existing networks, make it easier to refer people to the right services in their communities, and track their progress,” Ms Neff said.

    “We have a decade behind us; we can see the savings to the healthcare system, and more importantly, significant improvements in health outcomes for people from a wide range of communities.” Access Elemental is used by local authorities, voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations, GP practices, mental health trusts, housing associations and further and higher education institutions since 2017, helping over 20 million people connect into their local community assets and resources.

    nib, which also has health and travel insurance operations in New Zealand, Ireland and the United States, in 2018 began working at the request of New Zealand Māori iwi (tribes), on population health management programmes. The programmes that now cover five Māori groups, aim to manage and reduce long-term health problems, and cut hospital admissions, using managed health methods.

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    nib’s programme in Bourke will be launched in 2024. It is the first of its kind in Australia, focused on the health and wellbeing of the community, which is around 30 per cent Aboriginal, compared with about 3 per cent for Australia’s general population.

    The Bourke Pathways programme, which includes the appointment of a local organisation to provide the care navigators, will help nib gain insight into health issues in the region and address health inequity. nib intends to use Access Elemental to deliver measurable outcomes and impacts. The Access Elemental technology will also help nib understand health trends, impacts from social determinate support models, which could be deployed in other discrete communities.

    “In a world where health services are stretched thin, our focus is clear: to bring innovative support to the communities that need it most,” said Roslyn Toms, nib Group Head of Sustainability, Group Executive Legal and Chief Risk Officer.

    “We are blending Access Elemental’s global expertise with the invaluable insights of our local partners,” Ms Toms said. “Bourke Shire residents, like many people living in smaller townships, have particular health issues endemic to remote locations in Australia. Sometimes, those health issues can be solved with greater access or better coordination to existing services.”

    nib’s Chief Medical Officer, Rob McGrath said together, nib and Access Elemental are developing a place-based approach, tailored to the needs of the community. Our ongoing discussions with both public and private health stakeholders are crucial in shaping a model that enhances existing health systems.

    “We are committed to driving change in healthcare, fostering a future where innovation and community well-being go hand in hand," Dr McGrath said.

    Invest Northern Ireland has supported Access Elemental since it was founded in 2013. Congratulating the company, Grainne McVeigh, Invest NI’s Director of Advanced Manufacturing & Engineering said: “This breakthrough into the Australian market is a testament to the innovation being developed by Access Elemental and more widely throughout the North West. We are proud to have supported the company over the last 10 years with a variety of support from R&D to develop its social prescribing platform to expert advice and guidance to grow its exports in new markets. This support is reaping tangible benefits culminating in this new deal. On behalf of Invest Northern Ireland, I wish the entire Access Elemental team well as they work to deliver this significant contract for a highly important and influential programme.”

    Established in 2013 in Derry, Access Elemental, previously known as Elemental Software - is an important component of the Access Health, Support and Care division. Its purpose is to empower people, their families and carers, and those around them, address the social determinants of health through community-based programmes, services, and interventions that have a positive impact.

    In 2021, Elemental Software became part of the Access Group and has experienced strong growth across the United Kingdom and the island of Ireland, and now has global reach. In Northern Ireland, its technology has been adopted by Alpha Housing NI; Clanmil Housing; Apex Housing Association; Northern Health and Social Care Trust; Foyle Food Bank; Northwest Regional College; Queens University Belfast and South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust; among others. Access Elemental has also established a collaboration with Age, NI.

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    “Our team is passionate about community health and well-being and halting avoidable health inequity,” Ms Neff said. “To see our work reach into communities in Australia is a huge step. We are immensely proud, particularly as it comes as we mark a significant milestone - ten years since Leeann and I first came up with the idea for Access Elemental.”

    Ms Neff said Access Elemental’s customer base has grown exponentially. Access Elemental is the digital social prescribing partner for regions such Greater Manchester; Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, Lancashire and South Cumbria, Wales, Cheshire and Merseyside, Greater London and the North East of England. “Patients and citizens are seeing improvements in their health and wellbeing and cost savings are being made across primary care, unscheduled care and secondary care because of investing in social prescribing. More than 1.2 million contacts have been recorded between citizens and social prescribing link workers and community navigators through our software and we look forward to seeing the continued impact of Access Elemental in the next decade,” Ms Neff said.

    Leeann Monk-Ozgul, Operations Director and Co-Founder of Access Elemental, said of the new project: “Using Access Elemental’s digital social prescribing technology, nib will deliver a care navigation service. nib Group will capture individual client data through a range of assessments, generate client care plans based on care path templates, and interact with other systems used by local providers to facilitate data uptake for client referrals into and out of the service.”

    Access Elemental’s ‘marketplace’ – a directory of relevant services and supports that are available to local residents which then inform care plans, are based on identified client needs, Ms Monk-Ozgul said. “It is an honour to have our software used in such an important programme, which is a real landmark as we mark our tenth anniversary.”

    Source: Written from press release 

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