Meet the innovator – Dr Carey McClellan


In the second of our Meet the Innovator blog series, we meet  Dr Carey McClellan, Founder/CEO of getUBetter – a digital self-management platform for all common musculoskeletal injuries and conditions.  Here, he talks about how the West of England AHSN helped him with early ownership of his idea and what our Health Innovation Programme (HIP) taught him about business strategy and planning.

The innovation

getUBetter is an evidence-based, CE marked, digital self-management platform for all common musculoskeletal (MSK) injuries and conditions.  Our aim is to provide true local self-management support, helping patients to trust their recovery and have the confidence to use less healthcare resource.

We help organisations, such as Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG’s), to provide a digital first approach for their MSK pathways.  Each element of the pathway is configured to the local health system and delivered to their population.

The early days / challenge

I’m a physiotherapist by trade and have worked as a clinician for 20 years. During my early clinical work, and PHD in health economics, I concluded that there was a way to develop solutions for patients that would enable them to self-manage their injuries and conditions – and which could create economic benefit to the NHS.

It became clear to me that digital health technology for musculoskeletal injuries and conditions focused on specific silos of care which did not solve the problem, created inefficiencies and was not in the patient’s best interest. I realised that there was a need for good effective self-management technology to support the health system and I could see where there was a gap. I could see that it was possible to develop a whole pathway solution, enabling organizations to deliver a digital first approach to MSK care whilst avoiding silos and preventing over treatment.

Working with the West of England AHSN

My initial entry into the Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) was about seven years ago in 2013, very early on in my innovation journey. I was supported locally by the West of England AHSN to get early ownership of the content and ideas I had – the intellectual property. Once I had that, I set about building the technology for the platform, and three years later, I had come up with a back pain version of it – Version 1.0.

It was at this point we applied for a place on the West of England’s Health Innovation Programme (HIP).  It provided a good introduction to business and operating in the NHS.  It supported us to improve ideas and our business case and provided insight to improve strategy. It started a thought process that ultimately lead us to pivot our business model to be more NHS focused and integrated.

First contract(s)

In 2017, we were approached by a clinician in Wandsworth, London, whose main challenge was a need to reduce the over treatment of patients at Physiotherapy. He had seen our app and could see how it could fit into their digital first solution for back pain.

We worked through how getUBetter could support and develop their pathway, including the stratification of patients to identify need – which enabled us to target the 30% of referrals that we knew should be self-managing.

We then worked with Battersea Healthcare, St Georges and Wandsworth CCG to integrate into primary care across the whole population of Wandsworth, into all 38 GP practises, and configure ourselves to the local pathway.

Now we are deploying more widely across the South West London area, where there are 200 GP Practices.

Now and next

Today, we have a platform that provides self-management for all MSK conditions – and we are 10 months into a 12-month contract with NHS England, to deliver integrated, digital self-management primary care. We can also provide interoperability of medical notes, so we can let GP’s know how their patients are.

We continue to work with the West of England AHSN, which has supported us throughout our innovation journey; connecting us with appropriate organisations, helping us to write bids for funding. It is with their support that we have now moved into a very different phase, working on deployment and scale rather than development, which is very exciting – we have developed digital solutions for deployment of integration via a digital portal.

We are now also working on a National Insitute of Health Research (NIHR) application, scaling significantly into new NHS regions, and we are one of five DHT companies outside of London (globally) to be accepted on the London Digital Health Acceleration Cohort 5.


Covid has created some interesting opportunities. The market has matured overnight, in the sense that the health services are turning to digital solutions. getUBetter has been very well placed: we’re one of the few companies that provides integrated digital self-management for common MSK conditions, that can be deployed quickly and scaled across large NHS organisations.

 What I love about my work

Seeing your idea and technology being used by organisations, clinicians and patients is incredibly rewarding.  Knowing you are making a difference whilst meeting amazing people.

Words of advice for budding innovators

Getting evidence-based technology adopted by the NHS is hard. Proving it in one geographical area does not mean it will automatically flow into the next – but the AHSN can help to connect you and provide regional exposure.

Your team is crucial to your success, and so let them do what they know best (they will often have better skills in areas than you). I’m part of a great team!

Finally, listen to others and never give up!


In the third of our Meet the Innovator blog series, we meet Brenda McHugh from the Anna Freud Centre for Children and Families and Harry Stevens from Rugged Interactive. In the blog, they they talk about their passion for helping young people build mental health resilience and their involvement in our Future Challenges programme. Read it here.

If you are a healthcare innovator looking for business development support and tools, do get in touch with us at the West of England AHSN. We can help. You can visit our Innovation Exchange for expert advice, information about funding opportunities and to make contact with our team to access support.

Posted on November 11, 2020

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