New GK & onefourzero report shows huge rise in online and app based health services

This week GK Strategy and onefourzero published a joint report that outlines a surge in demand for health tech related apps and technology. The research focused specifically on the rise of online GP services and mental health and medicines management apps, and findings show patient demand for such technologies is burgeoning.

We found a 99% rise in the number of patients searching for online GP and prescription services since 2014, with a 34% increase since last year alone. It is understandable that the patients of the 21st century want quicker, easier and more flexible access to GP services, but the seismic shift in patients registering for online GP services risks destabilising local health economies and increasing costs for cash-strapped CCGs.

For policy-makers and regulators, it is a question of whether the benefits of technology outweigh the pitfalls. By diverting people away from hospitals and encouraging people to take care of their own health in their own home, there is no doubt that technology can help to alleviate the unprecedented levels of demand.

But at what risk? In January 2018 the CQC was granted new powers to inspect, rate and review private providers, and of the 35 independent online GP providers they had inspected by February, 43% were found not to be providing ‘safe’ care. The CQC is only just beginning to catch up with the tech sector, and they have recently consulted on plans to introduce quality ratings for online independent doctors and clinics. As regulation has failed to keep pace with the growth of technology – in health, as with other sectors – we are only just beginning to see the impact this is having on the regulatory landscape.

Of course, there are measures organisations can take to mitigate some of this risk, such as maintaining patient data in accordance with the latest data protection regulation, or only working with registered clinicians, but much of that goes without saying. The real challenge is remaining nimble in a fast-moving and unpredictable sector where patient safety is ultimately at stake.

For the benefits of technology in healthcare to be universalised, it is not just the regulators that must be grappled with, but providers and clinicians too.

Efficiency savings and one-off measures to balance budgets have forced providers to be short-sighted. When finances are so constrained, they can hardly be blamed. Many of today’s innovations that are revolutionising healthcare have the double benefit of improving patient outcomes whilst saving precious NHS resource. It is in articulating this value proposition to providers and the wider health system where many tech companies come unstuck.

As for clinicians, the health sector has traditionally been resistant to change and one of the greatest challenges can be overcoming the inertia from within. In the same way technology has outpaced regulation, it has challenged clinical opinion too. Attitudes are definitely changing, but the relationship between clinicians and technology remains one to be mindful of.

For more information on how GK can help you navigate the fast-changing health tech market, contact andy@gkstrategy.com

For more information on how onefourzero’s digital insights can help you evaluate a brand’s equity, contact fleur@onefourzerogroup.com

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