While working together as General Practitioners in New Zealand, Paul Baker and Amanda Porch experienced first hand how lifestyle medicine could transform patient outcomes. Now, as the husband-and-wife duo behind healthtech start-up, Diabetes Lifestyle Doctors. Paul and Amanda are working with Durham Ambitious Business Start-ups (DABS) to grow their digital platform and help more patients turn the tide on diabetes.
Diabetes is responsible for a whole range of medical complications that can put a strain on both the healthcare system and people’s lives.
Those suffering from the condition are much more likely to need lengthy stays in hospital and can develop life-threatening illnesses like cancer, dementia, heart attacks, and strokes.
Husband-and-wife team Dr Paul Baker and Dr Amanda Porch want to show that it doesn’t have to be this way and have set up Diabetes Lifestyle Doctors to help those with Type 2 diabetes take control of their lives.
www.diabeteslifestyle.com is a new digital platform designed in partnership with experienced health coaches and registered dietitians to give patients everything they need to manage their diabetes through evidence-based lifestyle changes.
This proactive and preventative approach to medicine is informed by the time Paul and Amanda spent providing healthcare to rural communities in New Zealand.
Paul explains: “Whilst working as GPs in New Zealand we needed to take a more proactive and creative (non-pharmaceutical) approach with our patients as there were less drug options available.
“We have more drug options to prescribe in the UK, whereas in New Zealand, there aren’t as many options between being diagnosed with diabetes and needing to start insulin injections.
“That’s when we discovered and refined our lifestyle medicine approach.”
“Most people with Type 2 diabetes don’t want to start medications or insulin,” explains Paul.
“And because we had limited options for treatment in New Zealand, people were further motivated to address their condition through lifestyle.
“We started looking into that and putting into practice our own programmes and soon realised we were getting great results.
“We were able to reverse blood sugar levels and help people lose weight and manage their condition over the long term.”
Because Type 2 diabetes is predominantly linked with obesity and inactivity, it has long been understood that one of the best ways to tackle it is through lifestyle changes.
These include starting a new exercise routine to making sure you’re getting enough sleep at night.
But the most important change to make is around diet and nutrition, which is the focus of the Diabetes Lifestyle Doctors programme.
Paul explains: “Nutrition and diet are central to our programme and the reason for that is because they make the most impact in diabetes patients.
“We layer in other lifestyle aspects such as exercise, sleep, recovery, intermittent fasting and psychology as well because we want people to build healthy habits and be able to put them into action over the long term.”
As well as powering better outcomes for patients, Paul and Amanda also want Diabetes Lifestyle Doctors to be part of the solution to some of the challenges facing the NHS.
When the couple came back to the UK in 2019, they quickly realised that the UK healthcare system has many of its own problems and limitations.
Paul explains: “People are living longer and have much more complicated medical needs these days, and the funding and training of staff has not kept pace with the increase in demand.
“And, although doctors and nurses understand the value of preventative medicine and getting to the root cause of the problem rather than just treating symptoms, we are in reality limited with the time we have available.
“The standard within UK general practice is a 10-minute appointment, which is not long enough and doesn’t really do most problems justice.”
Given the resource and time pressures facing services across the NHS, the merits of a digital platform where medical advice is available online to groups of people comes right to the fore.
Which is why Paul and Amanda have been working with Durham Ambitious Start-ups (DABS) to try and realise the potential of Diabetes Lifestyle Doctors (Pro Healthology Limited).
Paul says: “We got in contact with DABS about a year ago and have been to quite a few workshops and had a lot of support from (Business Advisor) Tony Grainger.
“It’s all really well done and Tony has challenged us on things that we hadn’t thought of, which has saved us a lot of time and money and potential mistakes that we probably would have made.”
He continues: “I think when you’re starting a business, while you might have a clear idea of what you want to do, there are a lot of things you don’t know because it’s all new to you.
“DABS makes you aware of all these things and shows you how to address potential issues before they arise.”
Looking ahead to the future, both Paul and Amanda will be keeping one foot in general practice so they can help those suffering with diabetes from both within and outside the NHS.
The GPs will also continue to engage with Tony and the team at DABS on how to best grow Diabetes Lifestyle Doctors into a thriving healthtech company that, much like the programme itself, delivers results over the long term.