Can you tell us more about Beautiful Voice?
Beautiful Voice is a digital health platform which enables people to engage with speech and voice therapy from home.
One of the big challenges in speech rehabilitation is that the recommended national clinical guidelines following a stroke are 45 minutes of appropriate therapy each day for as long as needed. However, most stroke survivors after discharge receive 6 sessions or less through the NHS due to significant resource constraints, which are not even close to what is needed.
So what we aim to bring to these people is a digital personal coach at home that can vastly increase the amount of therapy for them each day.
Who have you created Beautiful Voice for?
We’ve co-designed Beautiful Voice with people who have speech difficulties (following a stroke or because they have Parkinson’s), and speech and language therapists. We’ve learnt from them that loss of speech and voice can be highly stigmatising, and they have lost independence and confidence in everyday social life and activities.
The platform records and analyses speech and voice patterns so that training exercises can be provided tailored to individual needs. People with speech difficulties are empowered in their own speech therapy. With the information of their speech and voice patterns, users can track their own progress over time and relate this to their daily lives. Additionally the interactive feedback from the platform guides the users in their training performance, helping them to maximise therapy outcomes.
Our platform also responds to challenges that speech and language therapists (SLTs) experience. SLTs have very few tools for assessing speech – about 1% have access to resources for objective assessments. Therefore, it is hard for them to assess or demonstrate improvements to patients. In many cases, they have to use more subjective and time intensive methods, such as counting the number of words per minute to calculate the rate of speech.
SLTs are also limited to work with a patient once or twice a week. For the rest of the week, patients are left with training exercises to complete on their own– so their challenge is creating training content that is fun and supports that individual to achieve their goals. If training exercises are repetitive or not engaging there is a risk of not completing the amount of therapy required each week, and consequently the therapy outcomes will not be as good. However, to create non repetitive and engaging exercises for each patient every day, SLTs need to put a lot of time and effort into it, which is overly demanding for their workload.
Beautiful Voice can create training content personalised to the individuals which also updates on a daily basis to enrich their therapy, helping SLTs easily develop and deliver personal training programs for enhanced therapy outcomes.
What would you say are your successes on your Beautiful Voice journey?
I’d say the main success has been supporting over 200 users with speech therapy who would probably not have had that support without Beautiful Voice. And it is just an early stage prototype now, we believe we can support and help more people in need with further development.
As a start-up, we’ve had tremendous support through grant funding (NIHR i4i Fast) and investment (Bethnal Green Ventures and three angel investors) by demonstrating commercial significance as well as clinical need.
We have partnered with two private speech therapy clinics and we are currently growing our team. We’re really excited to have speech and language therapists joining us from Leeds and Oxford. And we are pleased to announce we have Dr Kate Allatt joining us as Beautiful Voice Ambassador.
What connections / partnerships are you seeking to make for the next stage of your business growth?
We’d like to demonstrate our platform and engage with more SLTs, private speech rehab clinics and NHS trusts providing speech therapy to stroke survivors and people with Parkinson’s .
We’ve made some great connections nationally with Parkinson’s UK local branches and would like to talk more with national Stroke Association branches and other charity groups to build collaborations.
We are also seeking to collaborate with clinical and academic partners to validate the clinical efficacy of our platform through joint grant applications and we will be seeking to raise funding again in 2023.
And finally, can you tell us about your experience of participating in the P4SY Accelerator Programme?
It’s been a great journey. It’s opened up many different opportunities rather than helping us with just one aspect of our growth. Pippa and Tamara have been connecting us to various contacts and resources throughout the journey. For example, we’ve built a great relationship with Lab 4 Living at Sheffield Hallam University and we are looking to collaborate with them, and we have also been connected with experts in communication and stroke rehabilitation through discussions with Sheffield Teaching Hospitals and the University of Sheffield.
We’ve enjoyed the online sessions with guest speakers on topics such as grants and regulation – everything adds to our knowledge on our scale-up journey.
We are particularly grateful to P4SY for introducing us to Dr Kate Allatt who has joined as our Beautiful Voice Ambassador. We’ve worked extensively with stroke survivors and it’s incredibly special for us to work with Kate who uses her voice and her experience to speak for others. She understands what it’s like to regain speech following a stroke and how technology can help people to achieve their goals and that’s very important to us.