Nesta Impact Investments recently led a £1.5 million investment into Q doctor, a platform that allows video consultations between patients and their healthcare providers. Below, Manish Miglani explains why now more than ever these digital technologies are helping the NHS to keep seeing patients across the UK.
Due to COVID-19, video calling or conferencing has become an essential part of our day to day lives. Many healthcare providers have also had to shift to remote working, seeing more patients across video calls or via the telephone.
Historically, the NHS has struggled with digitisation, however, COVID-19 has brought with it the need to rapidly digitise like no one could’ve imagined. The recent fast track approval of 11 online video tools as part of the emergency framework (Dynamic Purchase framework) alongside the GP IT Futures framework exemplifies this well. As the chair of the Royal College of GPs Martin Marshall noted to the Times, it has taken “two and a bit weeks to achieve more than we have achieved in 20 years” in adopting new technology into the healthcare system.
That’s why it comes at an opportune time that Nesta Impact Investments has led a £1.5 million investment into Q doctor, a platform that enables those in the NHS ecosystem to deliver health services directly to patients via video consultation. Q doctor is rapidly expanding at pace to meet the demand caused by COVID-19 and is currently available to 25 million patients across the UK. The platform not only enables patients to continue to have access to their healthcare professionals but it also allows workers to stay safe at home, delivering consultations without needing to be physically in a GP practice.
When we were evaluating investing in Q doctor last year, we were struck by the impact they were already having across care pathways including specialist and outpatient care, such as enabling Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust (LGT) to offer specialist cardiology consultations through video. They had managed to put into practice what the NHS Long Term Plan set out a few years ago - using technology to make it easier for patients to access healthcare and reducing long wait times. Furthermore, unlike many other virtual healthcare platforms that work to replace healthcare infrastructure, Q doctor works alongside existing NHS systems so that patients can stick with their doctor who knows their healthcare needs and also benefit from video consultations.
Our investment is already helping support Q doctor in their response to COVID-19. As the platform is now NHS Digital and NHS England approved and centrally funded, NHS services can now access the platform for free. This has allowed Q doctor to help clinicians securely access their clinical system without any additional hardware and in working with one of the largest providers of NHS urgent care services to support setup of London’s first COVID-19 isolation centre at Heathrow airport. The largest urgent care providers nationally are now working over the Q doctor platform to deliver care to care homes, hospitals and patients in their own homes. It is heartening to see the platform help deliver the softer emotional aspect too, with isolated patients in hospitals and care homes being able to use it to speak to their families and loved ones.
Beyond the current health crisis, we believe Q doctor's platform will make a truly positive difference for clinicians and patients alike, influencing healthcare in the long term whether it’s improving access to healthcare or simply freeing up clinician time to be used more effectively for those who need it the most. In having to innovate during a time of crisis, this may just be the push the NHS and wider care system needed to fully embrace digital technologies.