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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.’