• Digital primary care provider Livi records 107 per cent rise in consultations 
  • Coronavirus could be “catalyst” for mass adoption of healthcare tech, according to one consultant 

Digital healthcare appointments have surged during the coronavirus outbreak, prompting the health tech industry to predict a “black swan moment” for the adoption of digital across the NHS.

Digital healthcare provider Livi — which provides remote consultations to the NHS and across Europe through an app — has recorded a 107 per cent increase in consultations from 1 February to 13 March comapred with the six weeks before. Consultations with people who have “viral symptoms” were up 240 per cent, while new registrations also increased by 64 per cent.

Primary care tech company Nye Health has had rapid uptake of its new platform that allows all GPs in the NHS to carry out appointments remotely, designed specifically to respond to the current pandemic. The company has expanded its offering and told HSJ it is now receiving contact from “dozens of practices and trusts” across the country each day.

Livi’s UK managing director Juliet Bauer said the surge in appointments is mostly for “normal primary care needs”, although there has been a 41 per cent increase week-on-week in patients seeking care for “cold related symptoms”.

She said the centre is doing “a relatively good job” of informing the public on how they should access healthcare services during the current pandemic to make sure care is delivered efficiently, adding one of the key barriers to encouraging the general public to access digital healthcare is “communication and simplicity”. 

She said: “It’s really key that people know where to come for what and I think that’s the thing the centre is doing a relatively good job of doing —communicating how people should be using 111 and when they might actually need to stay at home and when they might need to go into GP surgeries.

“I think half the challenge is technology but as ever half the challenge is communication and simplicity.”

Enquiries every hour

Meanwhile, GP Alexander Finlayson — who is leading the Nye Health team — told HSJ the company’s original plan was to carry out “steady measured growth” from Oxford, but coronavirus sparked a more rapid expansion.

He said: “We were deployed across the city of Oxford, so we were in about 75 per cent of GP practices in the city of Oxford. We were basically going to grow from that base — we were anticipating doing a very steady measured growth, and in the last seven days we are signing up dozens of practices, trusts, hospices every day.

“We are getting enquiries from people every hour and we have started getting enquiries from the USA, South Africa, New Zealand.”

The centre has also pushed for more tech to aid the response to coronavirus. Earlier this week, NHSX announced £500,000 of funding for new technology that can be scaled across the health system within weeks to support people who are self-isolating.

‘Black swan’ moment 

Joe Stringer, health tech consultant and investor at health tech company TenX Health, told HSJ coronavirus could be the “catalyst” for the mass adoption of tech across the health system.

He said: “This could be the black swan moment for health tech. There seems to be consensus that this situation, where care has to be delivered differently for lots of people, could be the catalyst for mass adoption to finally take off, which is going to benefit patients later on.”

He pointed out while the hit to the economy would be tough for some start-ups, investors burnt by the fall in other stocks are already starting to back digital health.

“Some of the really big venture capital funds and family offices are now moving in this direction, because health is traditionally one of the safe havens for investors during a global recession, along with government bonds and gold,” he said. 

“Combined with the growth potential in technology and the positive social impact of the sector, digital health has swung sharply into the spotlight”.