How Now Healthcare plans to introduce AI to the NHS

Healthcare patients in the UK frequently face delays and cancellations, leaving people unseen or unattended to. But one telehealth company – Now Healthcare Group – believes it can apply AI to its existing apps to relieve some of that strain.

Former founder of an advertising company Lee Dentith founded AI healthcare startup Now Healthcare in 2014. He came up with the idea when he wanted to get one of his children to see a GP but struggled to get through, something that many people will be familiar with.

Now Healthcare provides Europe’s largest remote digital GP consultation platform, NowGP, and a subscription service with the NHS, Now Patient.

Founder Dentith also had a background in technology, something that COO of the company Tim Ng regards as vital for its success.

“This was good for us because that was the key thing we needed to do in terms of providing digital health, for us quality and abiding by the right principals were the key things which we now have,” Tim Ng, COO of Now Healthcare Group tells Techworld.

How Now Healthcare works

Now Healthcare, which is a partner of the UK’s NHS, offers its Now Patient service to over 15 million chronic care patients in the UK so they can have prescriptions delivered to their door. It also provides GP consultations, and artificial intelligence symptom checks.

Health insurance provider Medicash invested £4 million into Now Healthcare Group in June 2017, and the company now has a team working on bringing artificial intelligence to its apps.

The AI research team applies algorithms to existing data to better understand the symptoms of patients, and if it’s advisable to refer patients to their GPs after they collect their prescriptions.

“We have Now GP and Now Patient which are both our NHS offerings, where we allow people with repeat prescriptions to utilise our services as long as we supply their medicines,” Ng says.

“So rather than going to a pharmacy, they can come to us and download our app. They can then order repeat prescriptions through us and we will provide and deliver the medication for free,” Ng says. “At that point, if we notice through our clinical team that they have certain conditions we are able to refer them to a GP.”

There are other healthcare apps on the market, for example apps that provide medical advice and others that might allow patients to see a GP via Skype or video conversations. But according to Ng, Now Healthcare offers a very different service.

“There are others out there that allow you to call GPs, but we’re the only one that actually provides the whole patient journey,” he says.

“The reason why we’ve done that is because we looked at the pressures of the whole thing and what was happening within the health space was clear, so we looked at a way to provide what we saw as a service that would help minimise the pressure without just trying to make money out of the whole thing.”

Therefore, Now Healthcare’s aim is to offer assistance to patients and medical professionals to alleviate some of those pressures.

“The initial starting point was for GPs and because we had a pharmacy it just made sense to provide the full service and an instant access when people need it,” he explains. “That’s why Now Patient is different because competitors don’t actually have a pharmacy, but we do, which allows us to provide a service in a way which they can’t.”

“With the app itself, we have a representation of different technologies, which include a lot that others don’t such as video consultation and our actual native apps, not workspace ones as they are connected to a system.

“They are all native and we utilise deep learning, AI and other types of technologies to ensure that what we’re offering is the right type of service, especially because it’s critical for health and we don’t want to get things wrong. So we looked at using AI to augment the health professional’s capabilities, we’re not looking at removing them but providing assistance in a normal way.”

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