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.
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.
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.”
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.
In his latest blog, our Founder & CEO Lee Dentith looks at the growing costs of private medical plans and how Now GP can act as a second point of call – which could save businesses and insurers substantial amounts of time and money.
New data compiled by Aon Hewitt has revealed some rather bleak predictions for the world of traditional employer-funded medical cover. Costs are expected to increase by 9.3% in the UK in 2016, and after a 7.8% rise last year, these figures are becoming more and more unmanageable.
As employer’s costs rise, it’s going to become increasingly important for insurers to discover and develop new ways of reducing the number of patient referrals to consultants and hospitals. However, this isn’t easy – medical costs would appear to be escalating globally due to our population ageing and our overall declining health.
Through the Now GP mobile health app and its innovative business integration, we’ve worked tirelessly to help reduce the costs associated with employee healthcare and to transform the world of private medical cover.
Recently, Now Healthcare Group conducted an anonymous survey of over 250 NHS GPs. We found that they are 60% more likely to refer patients to hospitals and “private” consultants knowing that the client is covered by a private medical insurance scheme – and that the NHS isn’t going to be held responsible when it comes to paying for any treatment, tests or examinations.
Our concern at Now GP is that a significant number of these issues are primary care concerns that can be diagnosed without the need for a private referral – we want to ensure that only patients who actually require treatment are referred, for the benefit of themselves, their insurance and healthcare providers, and their employer.
The Now GP platform can be used by businesses to help stop such unnecessary referrals and save a significant amount of money and time. We can act as a second point of call for those patients who have been referred by a GP – in a large number of cases, our video consultations with MRCGP-certified doctors can provide patients with the diagnosis they need without the need for further referral to a hospital, clinic or surgery.
These second examinations are invaluable when it comes to saving insurance companies money, with premiums at an all time high for patients who are referred. Even if the second consultation with a Now GP GP reveals that treatment or tests are needed, in a large number of cases we can help with this, too – we offer the delivery of medicines from our sister company Now Pharmacy and can even offer remote based blood testing to patients. With the results then delivered to them face to face via our app, we can often give patients the treatment and test results they need without them setting foot in their private hospital or clinic.
This helps to keep costs down for insurers, and also saves productivity time for the employer – the patient doesn’t need to take time off work to have tests, and is even able to have a consultation directly from their office via smartphone. We’ve made it our aim to plug the gap left by traditional private healthcare policies, helping employees to get better quickly whilst providing their employer with a convenient, practical solution to staff sickness – something which currently costs our nation’s businesses a staggering £29 billion each year. For more information on what we could do for your business and to learn more about Now GP as an employee benefit, get in touch with us today.
You can read more of Lee’s thoughts on LinkedIn and Twitter.
London’s Accident and Emergency units were put under unnecessary pressure last year, with more than 150,000 patients who turned up not GP-registered at the time.
With the majority not requiring emergency care, this put incredible strain on the capital’s A&E departments and staff, further highlighting how big an issue access to primary care has become in the United Kingdom. A&E departments continue to spiral into further trouble, slipping further from its 4 hour waiting time target.
A leading GP has stated that if the entire population of London were to register with their local clinic, the health service would struggle to cope. Figures obtained by the BBC through a Freedom of Information request show that 153,564 patients who turned up to A&E in London last year were not registered with a doctor, but realistically, this number is undoubtedly higher due to some NHS Trusts not recording their attendance figures.
These remarkable findings from the BBC further justify the claims that we at Now GP have been making for some time: that a lack of access to primary care services has direct negative impact on the levels of pressure felt by our country’s A&E departments. It is only through providing patients with a suitable alternative to primary healthcare, such as our telehealth platform, that will begin to alleviate some of this pressure.
Our on-the-go society, and particularly those in London, require a more flexible and accessible solution to healthcare – young professionals and those with busy lifestyles simply don’t have the time to register at a local clinic and wait a week to be seen by a doctor. London’s fluid population sees many people come and go at a quick rate as they move in and around the city for work, with many either choosing not to register with a GP or finding themselves unable to do so due to a lack of availability.
“Lack of access to primary care services has a direct negative impact on the levels of pressure felt by our country’s A&E departments.”
When people fall ill, many will invariably head straight to A&E, and often their arrival at the hospital is the first point of contact they will have had with their local health service since arriving in the area. The average waiting time to see a GP is as high as two weeks in certain areas of the capital – people are unwilling to wait this long with a primary care concern, which is why we are seeing the nation’s A&E units begin to crack under pressure.
A story broken by Sky News this morning said that senior medics have warned that A&E units are facing a “perfect storm” this winter, with a junior doctor’s strike coupled with a lack of staff meaning that the nation’s Accident and Emergency departments could be in crisis during the height of the winter flu season. Hospitals are already reporting a rise in patients needing emergency care much earlier in the autumn than would be normal.
A London-based GP and author, Dr Youssef El-Gingihy, has long spoken publicly about some of the NHS’s major flaws. He claims that the proportion of the NHS budget going to general practice is continuing to drop alarmingly, at a time when demand for services continues to rise. Over a quarter of walk-in centres in the capital have closed since 2010, with patients forced to head to A&E units for lack of a better alternative.
Through Now GP, we are attempting to provide those in London and beyond with access to primary care with no waiting times and no hassle. We connect those in need to a MRCGP-certified doctor via live video call, and deliver medicines to their door in as little as two hours in central London. Telehealth solutions such as ours offer the NHS a much-needed lifeline, and patient by patient we are determined to ease pressure on our nation’s A&E departments and make waiting times and doctor unavailability a thing of the past.
This week is all about launching our Occupational health product. In March 2006, there was less than 1m people in the UK waiting more than 48 hrs to see their GP. Currently, there are 105m routine GP appointments that require 3 days or more waiting time. An incredible 50m have to wait 7 days or more to see their GPs. At the same time economists say productivity has stalled.
Back in July 2015, the head of the government’s fiscal watchdog, Robert Chote, says Britain’s low rate of output per worker is the “biggest risk” to the UK’s long-term economic stability and if we fail to improve it, living standards and pay will remain frustratingly stubborn. Productivity in the UK as measured by economic output per worker per hour is lagging embarrassingly behind countries such as France, Germany and the United States. Is there a correlation between access to primary care and workforce productivity? We believe so. And we believe we have invented tools to help us improve access to primary care. When we started developing the innovative Now GP platform, our motivation was not restricted to providing convenience alone.
There is already plenty of evidence on the benefits to fast access to primary care. Get treated early, get back to health sooner! And employers are noticing too as the nation struggles to improve levels of productivity. This week we are at Employee benefits live expo at London’s Olympia (www.employeebenefitslive.co.uk) to launch our occupational health products.
Now GP estimates there are 37,700 corporates in the UK with 50 or more employees. In total these businesses employ some 13.1m people in the UK. The total potential savings on man-days lost amount to 23.5m, potentially >£2.8bn in cost savings to the UK economy.
We have structured a product that is tax efficient both for employee and employer, whilst providing the services required to improve productivity. Now GP provides your staff with medical care that, unlike other private medical insurance plans, doesn’t count as benefit-in-kind.
The P11D is a statutory form required by HMRC from employers based in the UK. It details the cash equivalents of benefits and expenses that they have provided during the tax year to their directors and employees earning more than £8,500 per year.
Come and see us at Olympia to talk through our bespoke products to suit your organisation. We can’t wait to get started!