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GPDQ: Rethinking face-to-face healthcare

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Health Tech World caught up with Paul Roberts, CEO of on-demand GP service GPDQ. He spoke about GPDQ’s aim to keep patients out of hospital, how scheduling software has boosted the company’s efficiency and the impact of COVID-19 on face-to-face healthcare

 

GPDQ was founded in 2016 with the aim of disrupting the way care is delivered.

The company offers healthcare services across the UK for patients, businesses and the NHS. It started off providing face-to-face GP appointments but since then, it has broadened out and offers a multi-channel service that allows patients to book face-to-face appointments, either at home or in the clinic, and remote appointments via telephone or video.

“We offer all of those methods of connecting clinicians with patients and aim to do so in a way that joins up and is integrated,” Paul Roberts, CEO of GPDQ told Health Tech World.

“With medicine […] certain channels will be more or less appropriate depending on what you’re treating, so having the ability to operate across all four channels, means that we’re able to deliver a clinician in the right way that’s appropriate for the patient’s needs as well as what the patient wants.”

Although the services are anchored around GPs, GPDQ also works with advanced nurse practitioners, pharmacists, healthcare assistants and paramedics.

Its main aim is to keep patients out of secondary care and out of hospital by making community-based care more accessible, thereby reducing costs and boosting patient outcomes and satisfaction.

As GPDQ has expanded over the past several years, scheduling field visits for hundreds of GPs with busy and varied schedules came to become one of the company’s biggest challenges.

“As we’ve developed, and as we’ve got more complicated, adding more channels, more services and more clients, we needed to overhaul our platform,” Roberts said. “As we surveyed the landscape, it was clear that there were third party products out there that could do a lot of the heavy lifting.”

In 2018, the company enlisted the help of Skedulo, a San Francisco-based tech company that provides mobile workforce management software across a range of industries, including healthcare, utilities, solar, non-profits, public sector and construction. According to Roberts, it was the only solution that was flexible enough to incorporate the variety of work that GPDQ carried out.

The majority of healthcare-specific software at the time was built around clinics, Roberts said, and few had the capability of incorporating remote and visiting appointments.

“Most systems pointed at healthcare were embedded in a clinic-based appointment world and that just didn’t work for us because we were trying to do things differently,” Roberts said.

“I think it helps that although Skedulo has a clear vertical into healthcare, they’ve sprung up across sectors. So, they’ve taken a broader take on requirements around being a remote worker needing to connect with an individual customer, and how you can go about managing that process.”

According to Matt Fairhurst, CEO of Skedulo, the platform can improve scheduling time by 48 per cent and improve patient satisfaction by 68 per cent by eliminating the time that is “wasted” on the administrative burden of manual scheduling.

“Patient care should focus on just that, the patient.  But all too often time and energy are wasted on the administrative sides that surround care delivery. Instead of manual matchmaking being done by human schedulers, Skedulo automatically matches qualified or specialised doctors with the right patients in seconds.”

“When [GPDQ] approached us several years ago, we recognized the benefit they’d enjoy through a partnership with Skedulo as their mobile general practitioners needed to be scheduled and matched to the right patients quickly and accurately across a wide-ranging geographic area.”

The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of remote healthcare, however Roberts believes the extent of this has been overstated.

“Are GPs working in a very different way? Are they really taking advantage of the technology? Or are they just having a telephone consultation where they can see the person?

“I think there’s still a way to go and interoperability, I think, is going to continue to be a challenge. Interoperability is, as much as anything else, about the people rather than it being about spending three years trying to get systems to talk to each other.”

Roberts hopes that the pandemic has demonstrated that technology is not a complete solution or a replacement for in-person consultations. Rather, he sees the past 15 months as an opportunity to rethink how face-to-face care is delivered.

“We discovered at the beginning of the pandemic how damaging it is not to have face-to-face. It’s very difficult to be doing a smear remotely, it’s very difficult to be delivering testing if you don’t have face-to-face capability, but technology can still play a really big part in making that efficient. I think there’s definitely been a greater appreciation for what technology can do.

“I would hope that looking at different ways of delivering face-to-face is one of the things that come out of this. I hope that we can move away from this default model where everyone has to traipse to the clinic. There are much smarter ways of doing this.”

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