Private practice is lagging somewhat behind when it comes to innovation by means of digital health, and this remains true whether we’re talking about practice management or patient engagement. How can we encourage private practitioners to take a step forwards like their public-sector colleagues?
I think the biggest influence is that in the public sector we see policy driving digital health innovations. This is really supporting change.
On the other hand, what we need to be clearer on is the value proposition, i.e. “What’s in it for me?” for the GP, practice, system and patients. The second thing to consider is how to do it. Really practically, it’s about how this will be used. In other words, it’s the heart first and then the mind – why would I do this and then how would I practically do it?
The provision of healthcare as it relates to digital health is being transformed in the public and private sectors, so how do you see its role changing over the next 5-10 years?
If you imagine at the moment, we have system vendors that hold clinical data and we have people who are holding their own personal healthcare data that’s been generated via wearables or an app. They hold more rich data than the clinical datasets, and the biggest challenge is about sharing this information between apps and these clinical datasets.
It’s a real challenge to pull the two areas together. It would be amazing for the clinician to be able to see a dashboard of real-time data that could risk-stratify their long-term condition patient groups. They would be able to
I think that will be the biggest revolution as it will become a proactive approach towards supporting patients and populations.
It’s about addressing risks rather than having the same revolving door of patients who are asking the same questions. You would be able to provide that information to the patient so that they’ve got it in their phone at home. You’ll only need to see those patients who really need to be seen.
There’ll be a lot more remote monitoring – people will receive telemedicine, getting appointments where and when they really need them. Data sharing to drive a proactive approach will be the biggest shift.
Which professional media outlets and associations besides your own do you believe to be most useful to private GPs and practice managers interested in digital health?
It goes back to some of the points I was making earlier on. As clinicians, we want an evidence base that’s robust. We don’t just want to read it in a magazine; we want to read it in a real peer-reviewed publication.
You can see adverts and thought pieces that are interesting, but from an evidence-based perspective, peer-reviewed publications in the BMJ are where the focus needs to be.
That’s something we’ve heard from doctors and we’re now feeding that back into what we do. When doctors and clinicians can leave a named or anonymised review, their colleagues are interested in hearing what they have to say.
You have engaged with medical practices of varying kinds. What do the most successful clinics have in common when it comes to attracting and retaining their patients?
They make it so the journey for that customer is easy and the system is easy to navigate and without many hand-off points.
You need to consider your methodology, process mapping, pathway management and think about what the value proposition is to a patient on your list.
Have you seen any mistakes made by GPs and practice managers that stand out in terms of how they relate to their patients?
If private practice can show that they really value their patients as consumers of their own health and are there to support them to stay healthy and well, it’s a unique selling point they can use –healthcare, not ill healthcare.
Given the level of competition, prospective private doctors and practice managers who want to open a practice face a real challenge. What should they be thinking about in terms of digital health before they make the jump?
The key factor has to do with who you’re trying to target and what your population demographic is. If you think about your patients as customers, you’ll be reminded that businesses are very clear about who their target audience is. Think about who you want to target – is it families, older people, well people, ill people or a whole range of them?
You need to be really clear about what your practice or clinic is offering to that demographic. For example, I’ve got two children, a husband, older parents, and I’m diabetic. What I want from my GP is completely different from what my 73-year-old dad wants. I need to know that the value proposition is to me.
Let’s talk about treating patients as customers, keeping them healthy and well. People think of the NHS as being all about ill people and that isn’t very marketable, but
People subscribe to being healthy and well. Let’s look at it from a person’s point of view – I’m diabetic and managing a long-term condition, but I don’t want to be an ill person; I want to be a well person.
That message will help you stand out.
Do you have a favourite quote you would like to share with our readers?
This is something I say to my team all the time.