Last November, we reported on some of the British startups that were using tech to help transform the way healthcare is delivered in the UK. One of those companies, babylon, was head and shoulders above the rest in terms of development, having completed a $60m equity fundraising just over a year ago, propelling it to growth stage. At the start of 2017, their developers were working on an AI chatbot that could assess the severity of a patient’s symptoms via an app-based questionnaire. This was trialled by the NHS as a potential replacement for the non-emergency 111 number. However, it was dropped in November when focus groups revealed they were “gaming” the app to access GP services.
This didn’t deter the NHS. In the same month they launched another partnership with babylon, in the form of GP at Hand. (This app allows users to hold remote GP appointments through their smartphone). Since its launch, the partnership has come under fire from various medical groups. An attempted roll-out of the service beyond London was blocked by NHS England in January. Further attempts to expand within London are also being blocked.
Whilst the rise of online consultations is clearly a contentious issue, it’s good to see the NHS looking to partner with innovative UK companies to test potential new technologies/services.
However, remote healthcare is much like remote working – generally handy, rarely ideal. Those struggling to pencil in a GP appointment in the capital would do well to look up the services of other startups, which are providing similarly exciting ways of coping with healthcare demand. Namely, DocTap and the London Doctors Clinic.
Both these companies operate on a similar business model – set up GP clinics in commuter hotspots, and charge patients a small sum for a quick consultation. (In DocTap’s case, the clinics are set up in pharmacies). DocTap’s consultations start at £29 for a 15 minute slot, whilst for the same duration LDC charge £55.
LDC is older and further along the startup cycle than DocTap, having raised £3.91m in equity as opposed to DocTap’s £324k, and with a larger permanent workforce. The company also provides a wider suite of medical services, such as blood and STI testing.
DocTap was founded by an ex-British Army captain and a Cambridge natural scientist in 2015. Recently, they were awarded a Real Business Future 50 award.
DocTap in particular offers very reasonable prices. Plus, the addition of more competitors to this niche could potentially send the cost further down. It’s a shame that the remote, tech-enabled GP services seem to be taking up much of the media (and investor) focus.
Ironically, the biggest threat to these companies could be increased government funding for London’s NHS GP clinics. That would be something of a double-edged sword – these enterprises are providing an important service to Londoners. If one could grow to become a sort of GP version of Specsavers, we would have cheap, easy-to-access GP services available, that would operate independently of any future austerity measures.
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