Last week I tried to book an appointment with a GP. I wasn’t dying (which, as a self-confessed hypochondriac, is a rare occurrence) and the problem wasn’t urgent. All the same, I wanted to see the GP fairly soon. This was not easy. First there was a telephone queue that lasted 20 minutes. Then, when I spoke to a human, I was told there were no appointments that week, unless the case was urgent — in which case I’d have to call back.
Gripes such as these are not rare. The NHS, marvellous institution and service that it is, is stretched, and booking a GP appointment is becoming increasingly complicated. The only apparent alternative — sitting in A&E for three hours — is much worse.
Fortunately, tech companies are seeking to change this. In the past two years a whole host of websites and apps have emerged to provide a faster route to healthcare. Here are some of the best.
Babylon (‘everyone’s personal health service’) provides video consultations with doctors and therapists registered in Britain. Its possibilities seem endless. Not only can the patient text a medical question, you can order tests and kits (for a multitude of ailments, including diabetes, or for checking cholesterol, liver and kidney function, sugar and hormone levels and more) and post samples to the Babylon lab. Results are then delivered back to the app. Babylon feels like a glimpse into the future of medical care. Subscriptions cost £4.99 per month.
Like Babylon, Push Doctor offers online video consultations, except with GPs only. Its doctors can access your medical records just as a normal GP would. Prices for an appointment (or ‘consultation’) start at £14.
The tagline is: ‘A Doctor. Delivered Quick.’ The app allows patients to order doctors to their home or workplace. It works just the same as ordering a taxi with Uber. Once you have confirmed your location, entered your payment details and requested a GP, you can then track their progress to your door with real-time updates. Consultations last 25 minutes and visits start at £120.
At its launch last year, GPDQ co-founder Dr Anshumen Bhagat said it provided ‘another option for patients who want to see a doctor when it suits them … It also enables all GPs in the UK to see patients on a private basis, work flexibly and earn extra.’
Doctify doesn’t offer video consultations or send a doctor to your door, but its website does make booking an appointment and choosing a doctor incredibly easy. Patients can search by speciality (of which there is an expansive portfolio) and scroll through a list of specialists, comparing reviews, prices, and availability. You can even get a referral letter from a GP using a function on the site (via doctorcareanywhere.com). There is something comforting about Doctify: it gives you control over your own medical treatment.
So why has this happened? Most people in Britain would not think of going private. The prices seem daunting (although not always as much as you think) and the options bewildering. Sites such as Push Doctor, GPDQ and Doctify are helping to give power back to the patient.