Tech startups are gaining ground in the NHS following the coronavirus crisis, in what some describe as a “revolution” in healthcare.
Entrepreneurs say bureaucratic prudence has been swept aside to allow them to introduce digital products into the health and social protection system.
“It looks like someone pulled the hand brake from the NHS,” said Tom Wicher, managing director of reservation software provider DrDoctor, who has acquired three major hospitals as customers since the start of the epidemic.
“It’s like he’s been given permission to go fast.” “
Startups working remotely are among them.
Pando, which allows healthcare workers to share medical messages and sensitive photos, says it has seen a 700% increase in its daily download rate since the start of the epidemic, with new users coming from the set from the NHS.
“There is something of a revolution happening,” says Dr. Rhyddian Harris, a former clinician who works as a product manager for Pando.
“The telemedicine program has been accelerated by about 10 years, simply because it is not safe or practical to do much of the traditional medical model. “
In early February, the remote healthcare startup accuRx built a video consultation tool for GPs and NHS trusts to support its existing text messaging product.
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Two months later, accuRx co-founder Jacob Haddad says it has been used more than a million times.
“There has been tremendous pressure to change the way primary care is delivered and the way general practitioners see patients,” he told Sky News.
“A year of change has just happened in a few weeks. This is why we have witnessed such wide adoption. “
GPs using the system say it is unlikely that they will revert to the old method.
“We went from four to five weeks ago, maybe doing only 20 or 30 online consultations per day, to make more than 100 online per day,” said Dr. Simon Brownleader, president of Tower Hamlets GP Care Group.
“It was revealing. “
Physicians using the Pando app, which is free for initial users and all NHS staff, although it has a paid level for heavy users, share the enthusiasm.
“Otherwise, we would be hard pressed because there is no easy way to pass information between teams,” said Dr. Richard Muswell, an ambulance physician at Bart’s Hospital in London.
Activists warn that going too fast will jeopardize the long-term future of the NHS.
“Bureaucracy has a very important role to play in terms of security, and security is paramount,” said Cat Hobbs, founder of We Own It, which advocates for public ownership of public services.
“This crisis will take some time to resolve and we need to build the capacity of the NHS while we do it, without having to award contracts to private companies without an appropriate process.” “
In recent months, prestigious NHS contracts have been awarded to companies such as Google, Amazon and the controversial Silicon Valley start-up Palantir, which won the contract without tenders and works for £ 1.
Yet while these deals have been the focus of media attention, a leading investor in public sector startups warned that the successes of tech companies were not the big picture.
“The crisis has proven to be a double-edged sword for startups that support public services,” said Daniel Korski, co-founder of Public.
“On the one hand, there is more appetite than ever to deploy new technologies and startups have had many opportunities, especially in the NHS.
“On the other hand, the government has turned in many cases – and for much larger contract amounts – to existing incumbents, expanding relationships that should have ended as of right. “
On April 16, outsourcing giant Capita extended a contract with the Department of Justice to provide electronic labeling, worth £ 114 million over three years.
In February, a Capita security guard who accepted bribes from criminals to remove their electronic tags was jailed for seven years.