Digital Health Masterclass Challenge 2013: DrEd

DrEd recently came second place in the Digital Health Masterclass Challenge held by Janssen Healthcare Innovation and Johnson & Johnson Innovation. Here, Amit Khutti of DrEd shared details of its entry, an online doctor service and how it improves the patient experience.

(Continued from “Digital Health Masterclass Challenge 2013: PX healthcare“)

Janssen Healthcare Innovation and Johnson & Johnson Innovation held an inaugural Digital Health Masterclass Challenge at the end of last year to help nurture the rising stars of digital health.

Twenty leading digital health start-ups from nine European countries pitched to a panel of experts and investors, and offered an exciting preview of how the latest technology is being used to improve and manage our health. Each of the start-ups has developed an innovative product, service or proposition using the latest technologies such as mobile apps, cloud-based solutions and wireless sensing technologies to addresses a particular healthcare need.

Here, Amit Khutti of DrEd, which came second in the challenge, shares details of the entry – an online doctor service for patients – with pharmaphorum’s Managing Editor, Rebecca Aris.

Interview summary

RA: Your entry, which came runner up in this challenge is a new breed of online doctor that provides remote medical consultations for a range of conditions, can you tell me more about how it works and how long it has been under development?

Well, we started DrEd almost three years ago. Myself and my business partner had worked in healthcare for some time and saw that there was a broad range of medical conditions that a fully qualified doctor can treat safely over the internet. We also realised that for many people, finding the time to visit their GP to resolve their health issues is a problem. We wanted to offer those people a more convenient and easily accessible model of medical consultation. So at DrEd, we’ve created a doctor service that provides remote medical consultations and e-prescriptions for a broad range of health conditions. DrEd’s service is a safe, responsible and convenient way for people to look after certain aspects of their health without needing to visit a doctor in person.

Sometimes people come to us needing a repeat prescription for their medication, to manage their blood pressure or for their contraceptive pill, for example. Then again, many of our patients come to us with conditions that they feel embarrassed to discuss. We treat a whole range of conditions from Chlamydia to Asthma, Erectile Dysfunction to Hair Loss. Most of the time, patients who approach us know that they need prescription treatment, but we also offer information and advice, test kits to check for sexually transmitted infections and a photo assessment service for people who aren’t sure if they need treatment or not. Our doctors talk to patients online, using our secure patient messaging and video conferencing platform.

“…many of our patients come to us with conditions that they feel embarrassed to discuss.”

Most patients come to us via our websites or via one of our corporate partners’ websites; additionally some people prefer to phone us up and talk it through. Each patient registers with a short form and completes a medical questionnaire to order the medicine or test that they need. This information goes directly to our doctors, who assess whether the patient is suitable for treatment and, if they are, issue an electronic prescription. One of our registered pharmacies dispense this and either send it through the post to the patient or offer it to them to walk in and collect.

RA: What challenges have you faced in developing this platform and how have you overcome them?

AK: Tough question! Like any new company, we’re always learning, and challenges along the way are an important part of that. We’re really fortunate to have a strong and supportive team in place to help us through these times.

I think that the early days of DrEd were the toughest. Just the other day, we were casting our minds back to when we first set up the company. Myself and my business partner worked long hours, in a tiny office, with just two doctors. It took us months to get the right, clinically-rigorous processes in place, and even longer to then embed these processes into a secure IT system. We took a number of wrong turns and had to keep going back to our IT provider and asking them to change the code. It wasn’t exactly easy, but we had to have a robust system in place before we felt comfortable treating our first patient.

Because we put the time in at that stage, creating the right infrastructure, and designing our business model around what our patients needed and wanted, we now offer a service that works for people and that we can continue to improve, so it was definitely worth the effort.

RA: How will this improve the experience for the patient?

AK: Online banking is a helpful comparison for what we want to achieve with DrEd.

Until quite recently, for most people, managing money involved a bank visit, waiting in queues, and scheduling a meeting with your bank manager for specific financial arrangements like a loan.

“Online banking is a helpful comparison for what we want to achieve with DrEd.”

Online banking has changed a lot of that for most people now. It’s possible to check your balance, make payments, and even arrange loans and mortgages via desktops and mobiles, without having to go into the bank and see someone face to face. It’s much more convenient and much less hassle than traditional banking, and it also allows us to manage our finances better because we can check our accounts more regularly, and use online tools that help us to track our spending, for example.

DrEd does the same for healthcare. Patients who use our online service manage their health more actively, in a way that is more convenient and much less hassle. Patients can order from us at any time of night or day without needing to make an appointment. Patients can access their health record anytime from anywhere. Patients can choose to have their medication posted to them, pick it up from a nearby pharmacy or have it delivered by sameday courier. Our service puts patients in charge and does this in a fast, efficient way.

RA: What does it mean to you and your team to come second in the Digital Health Masterclass Challenge?

AK: We really didn’t expect to win a prize in the Digital Health Masterclass Challenge hosted by Janssen Healthcare Innovation and Johnson & Johnson Innovation – just attending the Masterclasses themselves was really helpful in developing our thinking as a business.

Winning second place has been great for the team. We’re really excited and have our prize in pride of place in the office! Within the company it’s given everyone a boost – it’s always nice to have external recognition that we’re on the right track. We also gave the team a Christmas bonus with some of the prize money, because this has all been about team effort.

Our existing external partners and suppliers have given us some great feedback since we told them about the award. I think it’s nice to show our partners and suppliers that they’re working with a company that’s going somewhere, and I hope that this will contribute to strengthening our future relations. We’re also planning on emphasizing the award when we go to meet new partners and suppliers!

Overall achieving second place has allowed us to pause for just a moment as a team, to take encouragement that we’re doing the right things, and to set our ambitions even higher for future work.

RA: What is your hope for your platform – what do you see on the horizon and how do you hope it will grow?

AK: Well, in the short term we’re expanding our click and collect service in the UK, which allows people to order their medications online and collect them from a Superdrug pharmacy just a few hours later. We’re also expanding ‘Shutl’ courier delivery as an option on more of our services so that people can have medications delivered to them by bicycle or motorbike within hours.

In the medium term we are looking to extend our platform into new partnerships and new countries. We are looking to partner with a growing network of pharmacies in the countries in which we already operate, and we are looking to introduce our service into new countries, both in continental Europe but also farther afield.

RA: Thank you for your time.

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About the interviewee:

Amit co-founded DrEd with David Meinertz in 2011. Prior to this Amit worked in the NHS as the Director of Strategy for Chelsea & Westminster Hospital NHS FT, after spending a number of years working on health issues in the civil service as part of the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit. He started his working life as a management consultant.

DrEd currently operates in the UK, Germany, Austria and Switzerland under the DrEd brand (www.dred.com/uk, www.dred.com/de, www.dred.com/at, www.dred.com/ch).

They also offer a white label solution for corporate partners:

Superdrug

TheHealthcounter

Polypill

Closing thought: How can technology facilitate the patient / physician relationship?