When this father couldn’t get a GP appointment for his son he took matters in to his own hands…
When concerned father Lee Dentith couldn’t get a GP appointment for his sick son three years ago, he took drastic action.
Having led the successful Media Agency Group for a decade he had a track record of growing a business through digital media buying.
Now realising that healthcare needed to be brought into the digital age, the 43-year-old from Macclesfield set about creating an app to connect patients with GPs.
Creating the concept
Speaking at the Now Healthcare headquarters, in Salford Quays, he said: “Thinking like an entrepreneur I tried to understand what the GP needed to do and whether they could just prescribe from sight.
“I thought to myself why don’t I go and build the technology to allow me to see a doctor so that the doctor could effectively write a prescription.
“We had an app team here already and I came in and asked whether it could be done.”
Digging a bit deeper he discovered that in the UK people wait on average one week for an appointment.
He also found out that there are around 15-million people living with chronic care conditions who need regular repeat prescriptions.
Dentith decided to invest his own money to create the platform which allowed patients to essentially video call GPs through the app and bought a fully NHS-accredited pharmacy to dispense and dispatch prescriptions.
He said: “Everything we did 20 years ago, in life, has dramatically changed because of technology and for me one thing that hadn’t really changed was healthcare.
“To take on the challenge of doing something that can really benefit peoples’ lives was so exciting.”
Now Healthcare Group launched its free Now Patient app in October 2017, receiving 60,000 downloads and hitting the top spot on the app store in a matter of weeks. It came after a further £4m investment from MediCash.
“What the public don’t realise is that every single GP practice in the UK is a private business, they are not owned by the NHS.”
He also believes that telehealth can prevent patients from being exposed to other illnesses while seeking treatment.
“The lunacy that we have in this country is that when you are ill you go and sit in a room which could potentially expose you to 20 different germs.
“Telehealth puts a stop to that and it is much more convenient. You can book an appointment within two minutes, see a doctor within an hour and have your medicines dispatched the same day or pick them up if you choose to.”
The father-of-four now has three digital health apps in the global marketplace, including a corporate and private model, and aims to have 25-million users on his platforms.
How does it work?
Based in the Digital World Centre, opposite the Lowry theatre, he has a team of 45 and a GP base of more than 1,000.
They pay doctors an hourly rate to carry out consultations and patients can use NowGP for an introductory rate of £20.
The app has access to medical records and has been inspected by the Quality Care Commission who report that ‘the provider employs an appropriate number of GPs who are on the General Medical Council register and also work within the NHS.’
GPs undertake ten hours of training before using the platform and are rated by the public after each consultation, like Uber or AirBnB.
Speaking of the uptake by doctors, Dentith said: “We were astonished by how many people wanted to use this technology, we saw a lot of GPs coming out of retirement because it gave them that much more flexibility.”
He also believes GPs are finding a renewed sense of respect from patients using the app.
“We have this societal problem of when people walk in to a GP practice now they already believe they know what is wrong with them thanks to Dr Google and they demand a prescription.
“What we have found is that the GPs who work on our platform are rated as having a higher knowledge base because they are engaging with digital technology.
“I think the public respect doctors using technology and the GPs love it because they feel respected again.”
Now Healthcare provides support via its corporate model for companies such as Cigna and IBM. They are also looking at a partnership with one of the UK’s largest insurers who have 16m people that could potentially use the app.
How will this have a knock on effect for the public?
“We are very aware of how this could take some of the burden off the NHS” says Dentith.
“The Now Patient app could help in terms of pressure and it could save hundreds of millions of pounds for the NHS.”
The GPs currently speak 22 different languages but Dentith aims for his artificially intelligent app to be completely up and running with 250 different languages and dialects in the future.
And there are big plans for the North West as they are about to open a pharmacy distribution network in Liverpool after investing £1m into the site. This will be followed by a super pharmacy hub in the next 12 months which could be built in Manchester and will create 250 new jobs.
“We are currently going out to funders for an investment into the business for that, and we have had a lot of interest.”
Speaking to Dentith you get a real sense of his passion for telehealth and even he is amazed by what he has created, from the simple frustrating experience with his son.
“This is true disruption, it is the gamechanger when it comes to primary care” he enthuses.
“To walk away from a very successful and growing business, well my wife thought I was a bit of a lunatic really.
“But we invested a couple of million pounds of our personal money into Now Healthcare because I was so passionate that I knew the public wanted a better and easier way.”