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Babylon and Push Doctor in discussions with GP superpractice over online services

Exclusive A GP super-partnership is in talks with companies including Babylon and Push Doctor to provide online consultations for its patients.

Birmingham-based Modality, which has 300,000 patients across five areas of England, said this comes as it abandoned an attempt to roll out its own digital offering due to its ‘very limited success’.

Instead, it hopes to launch the new online appointments system, alongside a private provider, by next year, after a six-to-12-month pilot period.

Pulse revealed earlier this year that Push Doctor was approaching Birmingham GP practices in a bid to provide its services to NHS patients. The company currently offers video GP consultations 'within minutes', at a cost of £20, to private patients.

Meanwhile, rival digital GP provider Babylon has been offering NHS services via a host GP practice in London since November last year, having already signed up some 30,000 patients to its GP at Hand app. A private online consultation with Babylon costs £25.

Vincent Sai, chief executive officer at Modality Partnership, told Pulse that the practice is in talks with several technology providers, including Push Doctor and Babylon to launch its new offering.

He said: 'We can’t confirm that we are working with Push Doctor exclusively but we are talking with many clients all along to adopt technology overall in the long term.'

Adding that Modality is 'always a front runner in adopting technologies', he said they were 'in the midst of discussions with many clients trying to figure that out.'

'I know Push Doctor well, I know Babylon [chief executive Ali Parsa] really well. We talk to them all the time as well.'

Mr Sai said: 'We in the long term would like an end-to-end solution for patients who want to use technology platforms, virtual consultations.

'We have a view that within the next six-to-12 months that we would complete pilots, where hopefully we can learn from patients [what they want].'

Dr Naresh Rati, former Modality chief executive, claimed in 2014 that '20% of our patients access Modality services digitally’.

But Mr Sai said: ‘We already had a virtual consulting platform and we had a very limited success with that and we had to stop it. We created our own Skype digital app. It just wasn’t right.

‘I don’t know if it’s because we weren’t good in our execution or we didn’t market it well with patients, so for us this isn’t new but we’re trying to get it more right.’

And he stressed that the new system would not replace face-to-face consultations.

He said: 'It’s not for everyone. I can see it being applicable to many people especially with younger patients but we have a lot of elderly patients who love our doctors and want to be seen in person and we don’t want to stop them from being able to do that.'

GP at Hand has faced accusations from GP leaders that it is 'cherry picking' young, fit and healthy patients by advising others the service may not be for them.

But Mr Sai said: 'I think sometimes, from what I’m reading in London, people are only given one option to be seen on the smartphone and we want to provide everything as much as we can afford to, to all patients.'

A Babylon spokesperson said: ‘We welcome discussions with any NHS practice, federation or other organisation about how we can support the provision of great care though our technology and clinical teams.

‘While we do not comment on specific discussions, we are very pleased by the large number of NHS organisations who have approached us.’

A Push Doctor spokesperson said: ‘As previously stated we are looking at multiple ways to bring the well evidenced benefits of our digital healthcare offering to NHS patients, free at the point of use.

'We continue to explore multiple positive collaborations with partners and look forward to making further updates in due course.’

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Readers' comments (6)

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  • Interesting point from Last Man Standing

    SAFE that's currently under debate?

    EFFECTIVE I wait to see cast iron evidence to show they are better at me(GP 25 years + with personal list)

    CARING Not much touchy feely stuff from an iPhone or and App?

    RESPONSIVE We're pretty good too and if urgent straight to GP and can interrupt i.e. advice straight from horse mouth not some on-line system checker

    WELL LED Fail here just seen it,done it and got the t-shirt for 25 years plus but no extra letters or honours to prove my worth as a human being!

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  • Can anyone explain the maths to me?
    Say, a GP gets paid £10 per online consultation [50% must go to the company], 30 consultations a day = £300, why would you do this?
    Is the model sustainable at these pay rates for GPs?

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  • The economics just do not stack up. Increased demand equals more costs. No one wants to pay for this via general taxation especially when it is a luxury and not a necessity. Can only be provided on a private basis. That is ok if people want to pay but the need vs want debate appears to be getting very confused as the current TV “debates” about the NHS for its 70th year show rather embarrassingly.

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  • AlanAlmond

    If your running a massive practice and you’ll get the same funding for providing online consults as you do for face to’s a no brainier. Same money, 1/5 of the cost.
    And apparently it’s ‘what people want’
    Who gives a crap if it’s a pale imitation of what its replacing. Since when did the government care about funding a decent primary care service?
    This model of care is currently getting a massive subsidy, like wind power. Will is survive when they finally wake up and fund it appropriately (i.e. with peanuts) , I suspect it will, but the service will be skimmed down, expect online ‘healthcare profession’ consults in future, rather than a bonefidie GP.
    It’s a slipper greasy slope and were sliding down it into the gutter. As always the financial incentives are to produce crap at the expense of quality.

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  • Exactly - I wouldn't worry as Super-practices like modality will likely explode in the unlimited and joint and several liability time-bomb that remains to be tested under partnership law

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