The Role of Digital Healthcare in the NHS

In his latest blog, CEO & Founder of Now GP’s parent company Now Healthcare Group, Lee Dentith, discusses our status as the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator’s only telehealth provider and our ambitions to integrate our technology into the National Health Service.

lee dentith nhs digital

 

NHS Digital: It’s been a pleasure to be involved with NHS Digital at recent events, where I’ve enjoyed a number of exciting discussions with some of our fellow Accelerator partners.


I was delighted to recently come across news of a new “Accelerated Access Review” report, which recognises the role of DigitalHealth.London in accelerating the adoption of digital innovation in healthcare. This positive report is testament to the incredible work being done through the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator scheme, which Now Healthcare Group (Now GP/Dr Now) is so proud to be a part of.

The report, commissioned by the government and led by an independent chair, championed the new Accelerator scheme and its ambitions to allow the NHS to embrace new technologies by linking health and care organisations with digital health innovators such as ourselves. It makes several clear recommendations on reforms to help speed up patients’ access to healthcare technologies. It’s encouraging to see that those behind the review share our ambitions to ensure that the UK becomes a world-leader in healthcare innovation through an NHS which embraces the technology that patients in today’s on-the-go society need.

businessman touching digital health screens

“This government has a strong commitment to the life sciences and to building a long-term partnership with the life sciences industry. We are determined to make the UK the best place in the world to develop new drugs and other products that can transform the health of patients.

“The report provides us with a strong basis to make the right decisions about how the health system can be adapted to meet the challenges of the future, attract inward investment, grow the thriving life science industry and use innovation to improve patient outcomes and tackle the financial pressures on the NHS.”

Health Minister Lord Prior


A recent change in circumstances have seen a similar company withdraw from the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator programme as it focuses its efforts on markets elsewhere. This leaves Now Healthcare Group in the luxurious position of being the singular telehealth provider to be a part of this potentially revolutionary Accelerator scheme, which is of course incredibly exciting for us as a business.

As a company we firmly believe that we are the clear market leader in this exciting telehealth industry, and I remain more confident than ever that we are truly ready and able to input our technology into the NHS to help combat many of the issues being faced by our nation’s healthcare service. Better access to technology for the NHS means better access to healthcare for its patients, and our ultimate ambition is to provide the nation with a convenient care and a more accessible health system.


You can read more of my thoughts on LinkedIn (Mr Lee Dentith), and you can also follow me on Twitter.


The First Digital Health App to be Declared Safe by the CQC

We’ve been selected to establish best practice for digital healthcare and health apps in the UK under Jeremy Hunt’s new plans to bring health tech into the NHS.


Now Healthcare Group is delighted to announce that it is the first and only digital healthcare provider to meet all regulations set by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) following a recent investigation.

This makes the Now Healthcare Group (NHG) the first mobile health app service to be declared “safe” by the CQC. Several other health apps have entered the marketplace recently, all of which have either not yet been inspected, are not registered or have not yet applied to register with the CQC.

As the first mobile health company to be visited by the regulatory body, Now Healthcare Group was exclusively selected for an Independent Health Pilot in order to assist the CQC in implementing best practice for health tech in the UK and laying the foundations for all future digital healthcare quality control.

NHG has received a Quality Report from the CQC, which recognises the tech company’s innovation, doctors, commitment to patient safety and service provision. The results of this investigation see NHG now setting the high standards which the rest of the digital health industry must adhere to going forwards.

now gp app

 

Now Healthcare Group is the company behind the revolutionary Now GP and Dr Now mobile health apps, which are the world’s first health apps to both diagnose and deliver medicines, connecting patients to NHS GPs via smartphone video call. The services currently serve over one million users, with insurers such as Thomas Cook and Cigna using the platform to provide their customers with convenient, flexible healthcare.

At a time when online pharmacies are under increasing scrutiny due to recent undercover investigations which revealed instances of over-diagnosis, the CQC has found that NHG is treating patients in line with best practice guidelines, maintaining appropriate medical records and constantly monitoring prescriptions and consultations. All GPs working for NHG are NHS GPs in their own right, and hold a minimum qualification of MRCGP.

This CQC approval demonstrates why NHG has recently been selected to work directly with the NHS as part of the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator programme, which will see the health tech company assist the health service through technology and continued innovation.

This exciting development follows Jeremy Hunt’s recent announcement at the Health and Care Innovation Expo in Manchester, in which he stated that the NHS is to look towards mobile health technologies and apps in a bid to reduce the pressures on the current health system. Now GP/Dr Now is currently looking to provide white-labelled health apps to CCGs, surgeries and 111/out of hours services to help the NHS meet its seven day access targets.

example of a white-labelled now gp to be used by the nhs
The Now GP app can be white-labelled by CCGs and NHS surgeries to provide patients with a convenient primary care solution. PLEASE NOTE: These screenshots are for example purposes only.

Founder and CEO of Now Healthcare Group, Lee Dentith, made the following comment:

“Becoming the first mobile health service to meet CQC regulations demonstrates the positive steps Now Healthcare Group is making as a healthcare provider, and it’s an honour to be selected to set the high standards which the rest of the industry must now follow.

“This CQC Quality Report, coupled with our involvement with the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator, reaffirms my belief that our service will be fully implemented cross the whole of the NHS in the coming years. We are aiming to be able to provide 100 million consultations in the next 3-5 years and also want to capitalise on technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence to help patients take better control of their healthcare and reduce pressures on the NHS.”


Example quotes from the CQC Quality Report:

“GPs told us that they received excellent support if there were any technical issues or clinical queries.”

“Patients were treated in line with best practice guidance and appropriate medical records were maintained.”

“There were clinical governance systems and processes in place to ensure the quality of service provision.”

“Prescribing was constantly monitored and all consultations were monitored for any risks.”

“We reviewed a sample of anonymised consultation records that demonstrated appropriate record keeping and patient treatment.”

“[The service] identified the need for patients who may be unable to get an appointment with their NHS GP or who prefer a more flexible service.”

“We reviewed three recruitment files which showed the necessary documentation was available.”

“We reviewed six anonymised medical records which demonstrated notes had been adequately completed. GPs had access to all previous notes within the Now GP / Dr Now system.”

“The doctors providing the service were aware of both the strengths (speed, convenience, choice of time), and the limitations (inability to perform physical examination) of working remotely from patients. They worked carefully to maximise the benefits and minimise the risk for patients.”

“The provider told us that they had a clear vision to work together to provide a high quality responsive service that put caring and patient safety at its heart.”

“There was a range of service specific policies and process flow charts which were available to all staff.”

“There were a variety of daily, weekly and monthly checks in place to monitor the performance of the service.”

“A comprehensive understanding of the performance of the service was maintained.”

“Care and treatment records were complete, legible and accurate, and securely kept.”

“The service consistently sought ways to improve. All staff were involved in discussions about how to run and develop the service, and were encouraged to identify opportunities to improve the service delivered.”

“As the management team and IT teams worked together at the HQ there was ongoing discussions at all times about service provision.”


For the latest news and updates on digital healthcare, follow @NowGP on Twitter.


2 in 3 US Smartphone Users Turn to Mobile Health Services

The potential offered by mobile healthcare services has long been championed by those in the digital health industry, and we’re now starting to see significant uptake of the technology across the pond. Over in the United States, a new piece of research points to a significant rise in the number of Americans taking up smartphone-based healthcare, suggesting that US citizens are becoming more and more comfortable when it comes to using mobile devices to manage their care.

Almost two thirds (58%) of respondents stated that they use their mobile device to communicate with a medical professional. On top of this, 50% of those surveyed said that they have a health, fitness or medication tracking app on their phone.

You can read the full story in this article on the Dr Now website.


“mHealth Will Save the NHS”

Now Healthcare Group has been chosen to be part of the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator Programme


About the programme

Mobile healthcare (mHealth) organisation Now Healthcare Group is one step closer to easing the burden on the NHS after being chosen to be part of the new “DigitalHealth.London Accelerator” programme.

The company behind the innovative Dr Now and Now GP smartphone apps joins an elite list of businesses looking to benefit from better engagement with the NHS and the wider health sector.

The year-long Accelerator scheme accepts only the highest potential digital health startups and businesses onto the programme. It provides tailored support to the specific needs of each business to allow them to develop their products and create real solutions to some of the most pressing challenges faced by the NHS.

You can read the full story in this article on the Now Healthcare Group website.

https://www.nowhealthcaregroup.com/2016/09/13/mhealth-will-save-nhs-digital-health-accelerator/

 

 


NHS Expo 2016: Hunt Announces mHealth Integration

The Now GP/Dr Now team are at today’s annual NHS Health and Care Innovation Expo in Manchester, where Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is set to announce the arrival of mHealth and app-based online health services into the NHS.

This marks a significant breakthrough for mHealth companies such as ourselves, who have long since championed the benefits that embracing technology can bring to the health service and to its patients.

Hunt will announce later today “a multi-million pound package” to expand digital services across the NHS, which will including a new online triage service to enhance the current 111 service and out of hours care.

Hunt said:

“We live in the age of the smartphone, and we want the NHS to reflect that. Our new plans will make it easier for patients to get the medical support and information they need, and should encourage more of us to use the growing range of online NHS services.”

Services such as our Now GP/Dr Now mHealth can be white-labelled and custom-built for NHS CCGs and surgeries, helping them to combat the problem of waiting times and reduce the strain on the healthcare system and out of hours services. By embracing mHealth apps, the NHS will also be more able to deliver its goal of seven day access by pooling qualified GPs, nurses and specialists into a convenient and accessible healthcare app.

Our app connects patients with independent NHS doctors who deliver advice and diagnosis via remote video consultations. We also have an NHS-registered pharmacy which is able to deliver medicines directly to a patient’s home and serve repeat NHS prescriptions.

As the mHealth industry continues to expand, we’re turning our attention to the power of artificial intelligence, wearable technology and “big data” analytics to direct patients to the care and treatment they need. Early intervention is a key aspect of delivering effective primary care, and we want to allow patients to get the care they need at the earliest opportunity – in some cases, before they even realise they are ill themselves.

We’re delighted with the direction that the NHS is heading and its desire to utilise such innovative technology is very pleasing to see. Look out for more exciting news from Now GP/Dr Now in the near future.

If you would like a white-labelled mobile health app for your surgery or CCG, contact us at partnerships@nowhealthcaregroup.com


For the latest in healthcare and innovation, follow @NowGP and @DrNow on Twitter. 

 


Private referrals are on the rise as NHS attempts to cut costs

CEO & Founder of Now GP’s parent company Now Healthcare Group, Lee Dentith, discusses the latest healthcare news in his regular blog. Today’s piece concerns a notable rise in private referrals as doctors are encouraged to ask patients about insurance.

lee-headshot

Something that myself and my colleagues at Now Healthcare Group have spoken about profusely in recent months is the clear correlation between the NHS’ continued financial difficulties and a rise in referrals from GPs to the private sector. Yesterday, in a news article from Pulse, it was confirmed that some CCGs in England are actively encouraging patients to consider using their private health insurance in a bid to cut costs for the NHS, and that referrals are on the rise as a result.

NHS Mid Essex CCG has seen a 6% year-on-year increase in referrals to private healthcare services since practices were contacted and asked to discuss their private insurance options with patients. NHS Basildon and Brentwood CCG, meanwhile, has also introduced a new “Private healthcare; another patient choice” scheme in what is an openly-admitted bid to cut costs.

I found the Readers’ Comments section of this article particularly interesting, with an anonymous GP partner admitting that they are more likely to refer patients privately when they know insurers are picking up the bill:

“When I have a patient with a hernia, or varicose vein I’m not going to refer them on the NHS but as soon as they say they have insurance I’m no longer the gate-keeper.”

We now have tangible evidence that certain GPs and practices will refer patients privately to save money for the NHS, which of course, is bad news for private medical insurance companies who will see premiums rise.

I spoke to my colleague Dr. Andrew Thornber (who is our Clinical Director here at NHG) about the news, and he admitted that this kind of behaviour is commonplace across NHS practices. He said:

“Actively encouraging patients to use their private medical insurance and placing financial considerations above the clinical needs of patients is, in my opinion, setting a very dangerous precedent. Patients should be seen and assessed purely on clinical grounds and subsequent decisions, regarding investigation and treatment pathways, should be based on best medical practice and in accordance with local and national guidelines.”

woman having doctor consultation with a female GP

The aforementioned CCGs have attempted to justify these actions by emphasising that they are only posing such questions “simply to highlight the option for the patient to make a considered choice but by no way impeding on their ability to choose.” However, the figures speak for themselves, and this increase in often unnecessary referrals will undoubtedly not sit well with private medical insurance companies.

We’re currently working with select insurers to help eradicate this kind of unnecessary expense, and yesterday’s news shows exactly why more and more private medical insurance companies are turning to mHealth platforms such as our Dr Now / Now GP mobile app.

Although our doctors are all qualified NHS GPs in their own right, whilst they are working for Now Healthcare Group they are treated as independent – they are not pressured by the NHS or CCGs to cut costs or adhere to budgets and are able to treat the patient’s wellbeing and healthcare as their top priority. By utilising our mobile healthcare services, PMIs are able to provide patients with convenient, accessible care and also avoid paying out for often unnecessary referrals.


You can read more of my thoughts on LinkedIn (Mr Lee Dentith), and you can also follow me on Twitter.

 


Artificial Intelligence, Speech and Mental Health

Speech can play an integral role when judging a person’s mental health. When examining their patients, psychiatrists and psychologists will often look for certain signals present in a person’s speech – such as their delivery of certain words and phrases – to make judgement about their wellbeing.

Factors such as tone, choices of words and phrase length have all been proven to have a correlation with mental health issues and are all crucial cues to understanding what is happening in someone’s mind.

For example, those examining patients with potential psychosis, which is a major feature of schizophrenia, will always look for a series of verbal clues when determining the status of a patient. Short sentences and muddled, frequent use of worlds such as “this”, “that” and “a” with little correlation between one sentence to the next can all be clear tell-tale verbal tics.

As artificial intelligence becomes more sophisticated, reliable and commonplace in the healthcare industry, researchers are now applying the aforementioned approach, with assistance from machine learning, to accurately diagnose patients with mental disorders.

man having a psychiatrist consultation

 

Back in August last year, a research team were able to develop a workable AI model that predicted – with 100% accuracy – which members of an “at-risk” group of young people would go on to develop psychosis in the next 30 months and which would not.

This was seen as a major breakthrough for medical AI and a significant victory for those championing the benefits of utilising such technology in a mental health setting. Statistics show that doctors have around a 79% accuracy rating when predicting the development of psychosis based on a person’s speech patterns in interviews. AI, it seems, is able to use an automated speech analysis program to go one step further.


“In our study, we found that minimal semantic coherence – the flow of meaning from one sentence to the next – was characteristic of those young people at risk who later developed psychosis. It was not the average. What this means is that over 45 minutes of interviewing, these young people had at least one occasion of a jarring disruption in meaning from one sentence to the next. As an interviewer, if my mind wandered briefly, I might miss it, but a computer would pick it up.”

Guillermo Cecchi, biometaphorical-computing researcher at IBM Research


We’re now a year on from this impressive study, and US diagnostic platform company NeuroLex Diagnostics is looking to build on this work to create a tool for primary care doctors to screen their patients for schizophrenia. Recordings of a patient’s appointment will be taken, with smart device-hosted AI able to analyse a patient’s speech transcript for relevant linguistic clues. The AI will present its finding as a number (like you’d expect with a blood pressure reading, for example) to assist the psychiatrist in making the diagnosis.

NeuroLex’s work will also extend to a post-diagnosis study, aiming to identify which medicines and treatments have been the most effective by determining how speech patterns change during a psychotic stay in hospital.

It would appear that we’ve only just started to scratch the surface when it comes to AI and mental health, but the potential that machine learning offers is undoubtedly exciting for those in the industry – as machines learn more and more, so do our doctors and psychologists. Speech analysis can also be used to track signs of other issues such as depression or bipolar disorder, so further developments in this field have the potential to be incredibly beneficial.


For more thoughts on healthcare, follow us on Twitter @NowGP.


US Employers Turn to Telehealth

CEO & Founder of Now GP’s parent company Now Healthcare Group, Lee Dentith, discusses encouraging findings concerning telehealth as an employee benefit in the United States.

lee-headshot

As the UK’s National Health Service continues to creak under ever-increasing pressure and strain, across the pond in the United States there are encouraging signs that the long-awaited telehealth revolution is beginning to gather significant pace.

A new study compiled by the National Business Group on Health (NBG) surveyed 133 large American businesses, who between them employ over 15 million Americans. The results were incredibly encouraging for our industry, indicating that nine out of ten large employers are intending to make telehealth services available to their employees next year.

This is up 20% on last year’s figures, and is a significant indication that telehealth availability is well and truly on the rise as a high priority employee benefit.


“Employers’ focus in 2017 is shifting away from plan design to optimising how healthcare is accessed and delivered. That translates into expanded telehealth services, more Centers of Excellence options and optional selective network choices that focus on providing higher quality healthcare.”

Brian Marcotte, President & CEO of National Business Group on Health


I’ve recently been based in the States on business, and I can confirm that telehealth and mHealth solutions are very much high on the agenda for a number of major organisations. This shift is undoubtedly motivated by an attempt to offset a rise in overall healthcare costs for employers, and provide workers with cost-effective, convenient and accessible care.

NBG states that, should this current trend continue, over 97% of large employers will offer telehealth and remote healthcare services to their employees by 2019. Bear in mind that in 2014 this figure was at just 22%, it shows just how beneficial this technology is proving for both employers and employees.

In the UK employee sickness absence continues to be an ongoing problem. It’s something that collectively costs UK businesses £29 billion each year, with over 130 million working days lost to sickness annually. Poor access to services and lengthy waiting times are of course significant contributing factors to these alarming figures.

We’re starting to see companies begin to embrace mobile healthcare solutions on a similar level to that in the United States, allowing organisations such as ours to provide employers with a cost-effective employee benefit service, and employees with convenient and reliable healthcare access. Now Healthcare Group‘s aim is to eliminate sickness days through early intervention, giving people access to a professional medical opinion when they need one and preventing illness from getting worse by tackling it in its earliest stages.

We’ve already teamed up with a number of businesses to provide our services to their staff, with great results. It’s an exciting time to be involved in this ever-growing industry, and we’re confident that mHealth is well on its way to becoming the must-have employee benefit right here in the UK.


You can read more of my thoughts on LinkedIn, and you can also follow me on Twitter.


50m Won’t Get Appointments by 2020, 100m Will Wait Over a Week

CEO & Founder of our parent company Now Healthcare Group, Lee Dentith, discusses the RCGP’s new warnings on waiting times for doctor appointments over the coming years.

lee-headshot

Pulse Today has reported yet more worrying news for the NHS this week, and it’ll come as little surprise to many of you that it involves a rise in GP appointment waiting times.

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has warned that, should current trends continue, there will be almost one hundred million instances where patients are forced to wait for over a week to see a GP at an NHS surgery by 2020.

The estimated rise of waiting times is nothing new, and unfortunately has become a spiralling problem for the NHS. What is particularly concerning, though, is that this new analysis also reveals that on 50 million occasions patients will not be able to get a GP appointment at all in four years’ time. That’s 50 million patients who will simply not have access to healthcare when they need it. This is unacceptable and simply cannot be allowed to become a reality.

To put the severity of this predicted rise into context – last year there were 9.4m occasions when patients could not get a GP appointment and didn’t seek healthcare elsewhere; by 2020/21 it could be approximately 47m.

Chair of the RCGP, Dr Maureen Baker, described the new figures as evidence that general practice in the UK is “in crisis.”


“The fact that, if current trends continue, patients will have to wait to see their GP for more than a week on almost 100 million occasions by 2020 is shocking – and poses a clear risk to the health of thousands and patients.

“We now need a guarantee from the new Prime Minister, the new Chancellor and the health secretary that the GP Forward View will be delivered in full.”

Dr Maureen Baker, RCGP Chair


The aforementioned General Practice Forward View sets out a plan, backed by a multi-billion pound investment, to stabilise and transform general practice in the UK. It commits an extra £2.4 billion per year to support GP services by 2021.

For me, it’s absolutely imperative that the funds being promised in this forward view are not just delivered, but used wisely on actions that will visibly improve the situation for the NHS.

We remain committed to doing out part to ease pressures and strains on the NHS by embracing mHealth technologies and helping patients gain convenient and affordable access to primary healthcare. As these new RCGP figures sure, mHealth is exactly what the health service needs right now and we’re excited to help make a real difference through this innovative and effective technology.

 


You can read more of my thoughts on LinkedIn, and you can also follow me on Twitter.


Choice is Important: 10% of Patients ‘Never’ See Their Preferred GP

CEO and Founder of Now Healthcare Group, Lee Dentith, discusses the importance of doctor choice and being able to see your preferred GP, one of the many benefits available through our Now GP mHealth app.

lee-headshot

At Now Healthcare Group, we’re incredibly proud to be able to give our mHealth app patients a flexible service which offers convenience and – crucially – choice.

The satisfaction of our patients is something we take extremely seriously, and in the early stages of developing our smartphone apps we spent a long time conducting extensive market research and analysing feedback from our beta-testing stages to ensure we were giving customers exactly what they wanted.

One thing which came to light at this stage was just how much patients value the option to select from a large pool of doctors and make a conscious decision about who they wish to have a consultation with. When it comes to discussing sensitive issues such as your personal health and wellbeing, it’s imperative to feel comfortable with who you’re speaking to – rather than it being an automatic decision made by the app, Now GP gives users the chance to choose exactly who they speak to.

doctor choice now gp screenshot

The main benefits of this are obvious when you think about it. Many patients feel more comfortable about discussing particular health concerns with a doctor of their own gender, for example – Now GP allows you to choose between male and female GPs, which is also a popular feature for patients of certain religious beliefs and traditions.

It also brings added convenience and practically for any follow-up consultations that a patient may have – being able to see a doctor which they’ve already had a consultation is beneficial for both the doctor and the patient.


“One in ten patients never or almost never get to see their preferred doctor.”


Sadly, the convenience and doctor choice offered by our mHealth service isn’t mirrored in the National Health Service, with the latest GP Patient Survey revealing that the number of patients who regularly get to see their preferred GP continues to decline. It found that one in ten patients “never or almost never” get to see their preferred doctor.

Other notable findings from the new survey include over a quarter of patients (26%) claiming that they had difficulty getting through to someone at their preferred GP surgery on the phone and that the number of patients who “always” get to see their preferred doctor choice has fallen by over 6% in the last four years.

As healthcare access and flexibility continues to diminish in the NHS, we’re very proud to be offering our patients an alternative that matches their expectations and brings choice and convenience back to the industry.


You can read more of my thoughts on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter.