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.

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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.”

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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.

 


The Role of mHealth in Out of Hours Healthcare

In his latest blog, CEO & Founder of Now Healthcare Group Lee Dentith discusses the role mHealth can play in helping the government to fulfill its seven-day service promise. 

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The government’s proposed seven-day service has been much discussed in the healthcare industry, and of course, there is much uncertainty surrounding its feasibility and how the goal of providing patients with a more convenient service can ultimately be achieved.

I do feel very passionate about the importance of people in our country being able to access healthcare whenever they should need it. You can never predict when you’re going to fall ill, and it’s imperative that we as a nation are in a position to provide people with an efficient and reliable healthcare service, regardless of what time of day it is or whether it’s a Monday or Sunday.

I was very intrigued to read the thoughts of GPC Chair, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, in this recent article by Pulse. I couldn’t agree more that it’s imperative that we are using our resources wisely in order to help those who are in need of healthcare the most.

For me, as the founder and CEO of Europe’s leading mHealth company Now Healthcare Group, the challenge to fulfil the seven-day service promise is essentially the premise of our business model; we’ve made it perfectly clear that our intention has always been to ensure that people in the UK, and indeed globally, will have access to healthcare when and where they need it.

The mHealth industry continues to go from strength to strength, and it’s incredibly encouraging that businesses and the general consumer are starting to sit up and take note of the potential that the innovative technology carries. This is exemplified by our exciting new partnership with Thomas Cook, which will see us provide our service to UK residents whilst they are abroad on holiday.

It’s clear to me that mHealth simply must be considered by the National Health Service in order to make the dream of a seven-day primary healthcare service a reality. As Dr Nagpaul says, the service is severely underfunded and it’s imperative that any resources it does have are not wasted in areas which will see doctors sat in empty surgeries on a Sunday whilst patients elsewhere continue to struggle to see their GP urgently.

mHealth services such as Now GP provide patients with the opportunity to see an NHS-qualified GP as and when they need. Our aforementioned partnership with Thomas Cook, plus some of our other agreements with the likes of Schools Advisory Service, are concrete proof that people in this country are actively seeking an mHealth solution to make healthcare more convenient and accessible for them.

The coming months will undoubtedly see more big questions asked of the government and its intentions; I for one remain hopeful that, through the adoption of such fantastic and beneficial technology, the seven-day promise can be fulfilled in a smarter, more convenient and cost-effective way.


 

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

 


Average GP Appointment Waiting Times Hit 2 Weeks

In his latest blog, CEO & Founder of Now Healthcare Group looks at more worrying statistics concerning NHS appointment waiting times and how mHealth services such as Now GP can be used to alleviate strain on the nation’s healthcare system.

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As the strain and pressures on the National Health Service continue to mount, patients continue to suffer from an inefficient and increasingly unreliable service. Pulse Today revealed last week that another survey has been conducted which makes for bleak reading for those in the healthcare sector.

Many of you won’t be surprised to hear that this worrying news is related to GP appointment waiting times which have, of course, once again increased. The survey, answered by over 830 respondents, reveals that the average waiting time to see a doctor in this country is now 13 days. This is up from 10 days on the same period for last year, meaning that the average GP appointment waiting time has increased by 30% annually.


It’s estimated that a 17 day wait for a GP appointment could be the norm by 2017


To make matters worse, it is anticipated that this figure will increase next year – many are already suggesting a 17 day wait could be the norm by June 2017.

Earlier this month it was revealed that some GP practices had been forced to stop providing bookable appointments and only accepting patients seeking emergency consultations due to continued workload pressures. As these kind of drastic measures become more and more commonplace across the UK, it’s obvious that the general practice crisis is having a real effect on patients.


“Waiting two weeks for an appointment… is dangerous for patients and incredibly risky” – Lee Dentith


My concern is that waiting two weeks for an appointment is much more than just an inconvenience – it’s dangerous for patients and incredibly risky. At Now Healthcare Group we regularly champion the importance of early intervention when it comes to primary care issues; the quicker a GP can spot and diagnose a problem, the quicker you can be on your way back to full health. Waiting two weeks for health advice can see issues worsen, making them more difficult to cure and increasing the risk of it becoming more serious.

On top of this, it’s very impractical for those patients who work on a full-time basis; they’re forced to either take time off work to attend a clinic, or potentially spread their sickness around the office through what is known as the “presenteeism” problem.

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What’s frustrating from our point of view is that our service has been designed to combat this ongoing appointment crisis. Mobile health solutions such as Now GP are intended to alleviate pressures on the NHS by making appointments more accessible – the majority of our patients are able to speak to a qualified GP within ten minutes of requesting an appointment.

Simply put, the NHS needs to embrace services such as Now GP in order to ensure that the quality and reliability of healthcare that people in the UK receive does not fall. By offering patients access to mHealth platforms, the NHS will be able to significantly reduce appointment waiting times, demand in general and make healthcare generally more accessible and convenient for people. We’re not looking to compete with the NHS in the primary care market – we want to work together to put an end to this rapidly spiraling accessibility problem.


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

 


Now Healthcare Expands into Asia, Completing First Hong Kong Consultation

Now Healthcare Group is delighted to announce that it has successfully completed its first remote video consultation in Asia, connecting a patient in Hong Kong to a GP based in the UK through the Now GP mobile app.

This latest significant breakthrough for Now Healthcare Group sees it expand into the Asian market for the first time, meaning it is the world’s first mobile healthcare provider to conduct consultations in Europe, North America and Asia, as well as mid-air on board a Dubai-bound flight from London.

The Hong Kong-based patient was connected to a doctor through the Now GP smartphone app, which uses cloud-based technology to allow users to have a video consultation with a qualified doctor in the palm of their hand, whenever, wherever.

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The patient, a UK citizen based in Hong Kong, made the appointment as they were looking to discuss some minor health concerns, as well as seeking general health advice and tips on how they can improve their wellbeing. The patient enjoyed a clear and helpful consultation, with zero disruption and was extremely satisfied with the advice provided.

The patient, who wishes to remain unnamed, said:

“I had read about the service offered by Now GP online and knew it worked internationally, but I wasn’t expecting the technology to work so smoothly. I had a great chat with a doctor and I’m very grateful for the advice I was given. I’m often based in Hong Kong for business so it can be a real struggle getting access to healthcare but I’ll definitely be using it again. I couldn’t fault it.”

CEO and Founder of Now Healthcare Group, Lee Dentith, said:

“We were thrilled to hear about yet another successful international consultation, and this marks a very historic moment in Now Healthcare Group’s history as we move into Asia for the first time. Our tech team deserve great credit for ensuring our system works flawlessly on an international scale and we’re excited to be able to bring our service to people all over the world.”

This latest development comes at an exciting time for Now Healthcare Group, with further innovative projects and platforms in the pipeline. As the Group expands its service internationally, it edges ever closer to its long-term ambition of being able to provide as many people as possible with an effective and convenient healthcare solution.


For the latest healthcare discussion and Now Healthcare news, follow @NowGP on Twitter.