The British system of public healthcare is buckling under the strain of enormous and growing demand. Increasing budgets and international recruitment drives only go so far and experts are turning to technology for a remedy. Below, Lee Dentith, founder and CEO of healthcare technology business Dr Now explains how his and other innovations could increase efficiency and provide a just-in-time solution for the embattled National Health Service (NHS), potentially saving it billions of pounds a year.
Dr Now is an app, accessible via a smartphone that connects users directly with a GP in a Skype-style video chat. The user can explain their symptoms, get a diagnosis and have medicines couriered to them for fast, efficient treatment. Dr Now is a product designed to make diagnosis and treatment more convenient for people while drastically reducing the burden of time and cost of GP or A&E visits through the NHS.
The inspiration for the service is busy people like me. I’m in my early forties, I’m married with four children and I have a handful of businesses so I’m very busy.
I fell ill 18 months ago and I phoned the GP surgery. They couldn’t see me for a week and they promised to call me back. I was in meetings all day so I missed the call. I thought to myself that there had to be a better way to do things.
So I came up with the ultimate scenario: you wake up at 6am feeling poorly; you log-on to a service and speak to a doctor immediately; they prescribe your medicine and have it couriered to your workplace for your arrival at 8am.
That is the central premise of Dr Now. It’s based on the fact that the vast majority of doctor’s appointments don’t require physical human contact, nor access to medical records.
We have partnered with a top delivery company and we can get medicines to patients much quicker than if they had to make the journeys themselves – in fact we can get medicines to patients in Central London in between one and four hours.
We own two licensed pharmacies in London and Manchester and under EU law we can supply medicines across Europe.
Medicine on the move for busy people
Dr Now has more than a million members via deals with medical and travel insurers and we think the service offers a great benefit to people in today’s on-the-go society.
Services across the board are being streamlined and it’s vital that this applies to the NHS too. The world is so ‘on-demand’ that people are prepared to spend £2 on a bottle of water instead of finding a tap for free. They get their coffee in drive-throughs – the examples are endless.
Combine this development with the staggering fact that there are 400 million GP appointments made in the UK every year and you have a situation in which change is a no-brainer.
But there are related issues too that make the case even stronger. For example, a major burden on A&E is people in the 18-to-35 age bracket who go to A&E to get signed off work because they can’t get a GP visit within the required timeframe.
Either they put unnecessary extra strain on medical service just for a sick note or they bite the bullet and go to work, potentially spreading whatever is wrong with them around the office.
Predictably, technological solutions to the crisis in Britain’s health system are very popular with younger people under the age of 45 who are used to on-demand services like Uber and Airbnb. But older people benefit too.
Young people visit their GP about four times a year on average, but in the 70-to-80 age bracket this rises to 14 appointments every year. That’s more than once a month.
Ambulances are regularly used to transport elderly care home patients to their GPs, pushing the cost from £126 per visit to more like £600 or £700 just to see your doctor.
We have supplied nursing homes with iPad-sized terminals that allow patients to alert the home’s staff, a Dr Now doctor or an ambulance based on their need. It’s this kind of solution that will save billions in unnecessary expense.
But we are going further. Within two years we will create a system that fits into wearable devices and measures sleep patterns, core temperature and pulse. If these change, healthcare professionals are alerted and they can contact you with treatment advice before you even realise you are ill.
Predictive medicine like this will help reduce the time it takes people to get better, further reducing the cost and inconvenience of illness.
Innovations like Dr Now sound like science fiction, but increasingly sophisticated devices and software are available today. The market for connected health is about to grow substantially; a fact that will go a long way in saving the NHS from future threats.
To learn more about Dr Now visit their site here.