Beat the queue: here's how smartphone apps are replacing your trips to the GP

Katie Strick
Shutterstock / Africa Studio

Charlie Harington’s son suffered from three separate minor conditions when he was an infant. With his GP only seeing to one illness per nine-minute appointment, it took three weeks to have all his son’s needs seen to.

Harington, a finance director at Merrill Lynch the time, decided to do something about it. “There had to be a better alternative — for care at the patient’s convenience at a cost that is accessible to most people,” he explains.

Pairing up with his friend Alex Templeton, a finance director at Santander Global Banking, they founded the Qure. This is a hassle-free healthcare app that lets you order a doctor to come to your home or office 24/7 in less than two hours.

It’s private healthcare but it’s affordable: a 20-minute consultation starts at £70, or £90 at weekends. For a small additional cost you can get a prescription delivered within the hour.

With cold and flu season upon us (and threats of a deadly “super flu” heading over here), Qure could be a game-changer for busy families and time-poor professionals. You can now feel better within 20 minutes without having to leave your sickbed and sit in a germ-infested clinic or hospital waiting room.

The face-to-face nature is what makes Qure so special, say Harington and Templeton. Meeting a doctor in person “provides a unique sense of reassurance” that you don’t get from remote video appointments.

It works for GPs too: Qure currently has more than 200 practitioners registered from GP surgeries and hospitals across London, including Guy’s, St Thomas’, Chelsea and Westminster, and King’s College hospitals. And the founders say they hope it will also “lessen the pressure” on Britain’s healthcare system. Their aim? “To revolutionise the primary care experience in the UK.”

Since launching in Clapham in July, Qure now covers all of Zone 1 and south-west London and is looking to expand as the business grows.

Indeed, the country’s medical tech sector is thriving. According to consultancy PwC, the global “connected healthcare” market is expected to expand by a third every year, reaching £37 billion by 2020. The UK, it predicts, will grab five per cent — or nearly £2 billion — of this.

Scientists are currently working on Fitbit-style devices that will detect signs of dementia, while DNA mapping is letting patients predict their likelihood of developing cancer. Yet there remains a burgeoning market for simpler, more day-to-day things such as seeing a doctor.

GPDQ is a similar doctor-on-demand service to Qure, which launched in 2015 and covers central London. The main difference is cost: GPDQ prices start at £120 but appointments are five minutes longer. It also promises a 90-minute arrival time, slightly shorter than Qure’s — though this is just an average figure.

If you’re even more pressed for time, Push Doctor lets you discuss your illness with a GP over video. You’ll be “seen” within six minutes and it’s available every day of the year from 6am until 11pm. It’s cheaper too: a consultation costs £20, with referrals and sick notes costing an extra £15 on top. For an additional £8, a prescription will be delivered to your nearest pharmacist.

Push doctors are all NHS GPs: the app lets them fit video consultations seamlessly into their out-of-hours work. With the health service cash-strapped and struggling, Push is a vital means for many practitioners to earn some extra cash on the side.

If you’re fed up of trips to the doctor to get repeat prescriptions, you can now get these via an app too. Echo will even deliver it to your door. The app is free: simply add your medication by scanning the barcode or searching their database on your phone — once it’s been approved by an NHS GP it’ll be sent free of charge via Royal Mail (in plain, letterbox-friendly packaging). It’s so organised it’ll even organise automatic reminders telling you when to take and reorder your meds.

Elderly care isn’t forgotten in the technology world either. A new app, openPASS, launched in June, offering families the chance to stay better connected with their loved ones receiving homecare or in a care home. Verified family members can access information recorded by their relative’s carer, including when the carer has visited, any medical care they’ve received and how they are feeling that day.

What’s more, it’s the only care management system that is NICE compliant. The future of healthcare, it seems, is in your pocket.