A SCOTTISH start-up that has developed an app to help people with dementia has secured the NHS as its first paying customer.

MindMate, set up by four graduates from the University of Glasgow and Strathclyde University, won the business with NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde after a two month trial with the trust’s post-diagnosis dementia support group.

The interactive app – which comes in three versions for patients, carers or family members, and care homes – includes brain training games, reminder tools, advice on nutrition and exercise, music, patient information and a reminiscence timeline called ‘My Story’.

“Our aim is to help people especially in the early stages of dementia to be more independent, and in the later stages to improve communication between family members, carers and the patient,” explained MindMate’s German-born co-founder and chief executive Susanne Mitschke, who studied business and economics in Vienna before completing a Master of Science in international management and leadership at the University of Glasgow.

“We find in the early stages that our users especially use the reminders, to do list, notes section and also the brain games to stimulate cognitive abilities. And in the later stages to trigger communication we have sections on nutrition, physical exercise and music. Also very importantly we have a reminiscence section with a photobook and a getting to know me section where carers can insert information about the patient and their family members. That’s particularly important if someone is moving from home to a care home or between care homes and hospital, because this is the information that a carer or nurse needs.”

NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde has bought the care home version of the app to run on 60 iPads.

“They will be used in support groups, care homes, day-care centres, link workers, sheltered housing schemes, but also with individual family-carers at home. So, it's being used across the whole spectrum,” Ms Mitschke said.

MindMate also has pilots running with Anchor Group, England’s largest not-for-profit housing association; Scottish Care, which represents 400 independent health and social care providers and Sheffield City Council. The company, which was set up in March 2015, hopes its app will be actively used in 50 care homes by the end of this year and is aiming to sell 10,000 subscriptions of the app for family members over the same period.

More than 850,000 people in the UK have dementia, around 90,000 of them in Scotland. Worldwide there are 47m dementia sufferers and the figure is growing.

“We started the business because one of our co-founders, Rogelio Arellano, cared for his grandfather with Alzheimer’s for seven years,” Ms Mitschke explained. “Another of our founders, Patrick Renner, was also a professional carer in Germany.”

Along with fourth co-founder Gabriela Matic, an international management and marketing graduate, the team worked in consultation with the University of Glasgow’s geriatric medicine department to create the app.

“Our long-term ambition is not only to do something for people with dementia, but also for people with mental health issues, for example as a result of a brain injury or stroke,” Ms Mitschke said. “Our big ambition is to become a ‘grey tech’ provider so that we provide technology for elderly people in general, because independent living is a very big issue for a lot of elderly people. So we won’t just have software, but also some hardware, for example safety devices such as fall alarms and in-house sensors.”