As the NHS continues to augment its digital portfolio, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has recently given a provisional stamp of approval to Dr Now – the first digital GP service to ever face an independent inspection. In a draft report released by the Manchester-based healthcare provider, Dr Now has been deemed “safe care in accordance with the relevant regulations.”
Along with London-based consultants Babylon Health, Dr Now underwent a CQC inspection as part of an “independent health” pilot that could soon become a new regulatory regime for the now quickly expanding digital GP market. This market is seeing a profound operational shift, one that is taking it closer to private healthcare rather than public. Dr Now forms part of the Now Healthcare Group and will give users greater flexibility when it comes to healthcare support through a mobile device, including the ability to order prescriptions and have medical consultations.
Dr Now will offer both a subscription-based service and a pay-per-appointment model, making outreach as convenient as possible. With the advances in machine learning, big data and cloud computing, many services are now also developing triage applications that will manage and divert traffic, ensuring those with more critical concerns can get the support they need. Now Healthcare Group CEO Lee Denrith said that passing the inspection would lead to Dr Now being “fully implemented cross the whole of the NHS in the coming years.” It should be noted that the CQC’s findings remain at draft stage – a final report is expected in October.
With private companies making headway in the digital healthcare space, the government continues its attempts to set-up an NHS application library to help improve services across the board. This comes after a recent pilot program was cancelled amid data privacy concerns, however focus remains strong as the NHS evolves to provide more digital patient services. Whilst the NHS’s application library will be run by Public Health England, the CQC inspection remains unique in its use for the wider healthcare sector. There are suggestions that future app library assessments could include CQC inspections, however at this stage neither Dr Now or any other application has been endorsed on the NHS application library.
Whilst the NHS is making its own strides towards digital excellence, it’s clear to see that the private healthcare sector is too. As both sides of the fence continue to grow and adapt, could we soon see a multi-faceted health service with emergency care provided on a national level and acute care provided privately?