The Isabel Story

Today Isabel Healthcare is a global company providing professional clinical reasoning tools for doctors and the acclaimed Isabel Symptom Checker for patients. But the company actually started out as a small charity. And the inspiration behind that charity, and indeed the company’s name, was a 3 year-old girl called Isabel.

Why the name Isabel?

Isabel is not an acronym but the name of the little girl whose illness inspired a medical tool.

In 1999, 3 year old Isabel Maude was nearly fatally misdiagnosed by her family doctor and hospital when her Chickenpox developed, undetected, into Necrotizing Fasciitis and Toxic Shock Syndrome. The result of this error was two months in hospital including a month in PICU struggling to survive from multiple organ failure and cardiac arrest. Against all odds, she survived her ordeal and, despite undergoing reconstructive surgery nearly two decades later, she is now an ambitious first class honors graduate pursuing a career in London. Surviving this life-threatening illness has given her a determination to live life to the full - conquering Mount Kilimanjaro is just the beginning!

The inspiration behind the tool

But her suffering could have been avoided had just one of the many doctors asked, “What else could this be?”. Her Chickenpox led her doctors to miss the clear signs of a secondary infection until it was too late.

The idea for a tool to aid clinical reasoning came to Isabel’s parents, Jason and Charlotte Maude when, weeks after Isabel’s discharge, they visited the hospital responsible for her misdiagnosis. They were told ‘clinical ignorance’ was to blame. If the junior doctors who saw Isabel were lacking the knowledge and experience that Necrotizing Fasciitis was a well-documented complication of Chickenpox, then perhaps technology could give them a helping hand?

Rather than take legal action, Jason Maude then devoted his career to establishing an organization and team to design and build a practical, easy-to-use tool to help clinicians match clinical features to diseases.

Initially designed for childhood illnesses, the tool was expanded in 2006 to handle both adult and pediatric conditions and then, in 2012, a modified version was released as a free-to-use Symptom Checker for patients.

Company with a strong ethical mission

Originating from a near tragedy, Isabel Healthcare started life in 1999 as the Isabel Medical Charity and the charity remains one of the company’s largest shareholders. True to our roots and original goals, we constantly strive to make Isabel as widely available as possible. Isabel is an outstandingly efficient tool for disseminating medical knowledge to countries and regions where medical resources are limited. As part of our core mission:

Isabel in Developing Countries

One of our key missions is to provide Isabel at heavily discounted rates to clinicians and hospitals in over 130 EEN (Emerging Economic Nations) countries where medical resources might be more limited. With just a phone and Wi-Fi, clinicians working in the most remote environments can access first world medical knowledge and make a massive difference to their patients’ outcome. Isabel is currently being used in countries ranging from Guatemala to Swaziland. Here’s just one example:

David Flood, a US staff physician who spends 3 months every year working at the Maya Health Alliance in the remoter regions of Guatemala has found Isabel particularly useful when seeing very young children who have been referred to him with unusual developmental difficulties which have occurred as a result of the lack of any early screening programmes. “I use Isabel to refine my thinking” he says. David also uses Isabel regularly back in the US as a learning tool to help him improve his clinical reasoning skills.

If you think you would be eligible for an EEN discount, please click here to find out if you qualify.

We were heartbroken to learn of the death of Dr Michael Mosley while on holiday in Greece. We spent a wonderful few hours with him while making this film for the BBC One Show and saw him and his wife in February on their new theatre tour “Eat (Well), Sleep (Better), Live (Longer)”. He was a national treasure who has left a lasting positive impact on thousands of people. We will continue to do daily squats in his honour. (11 June 2024)