A pioneering website that helps UK private healthcare patients find the right clinician and improves transparency has been launched by two senior Birmingham doctors.
Provision of non-NHS, private medicine in the UK can be a rather confusing world for people who choose to go down that road. Finding the right practitioner can be a real challenge for patients.
Now a company called Medstars – set up by Birmingham-based doctors Mahnaz Hashmi and Barry Lambert – is offering an innovative, online service that aims to put patients in control of their own healthcare.
As senior doctors the pair understand that choosing healthcare isn’t like booking a train ticket or hotel online. Their free patient service claims to help people find screened, regulated practitioners – from GPs to podiatrists, dermatologists to surgeons – quickly and more confidently. Each clinician’s profile and charges are clearly set out along with their availability. Patients can also read reviews and compare before making a choice, booking treatment there and then.
All practitioners are hand-checked and patient satisfaction is closely monitored to ensure they are getting the standard of treatment they need. The lengthy vetting process includes online research, registration check and verification of their established clinical expertise. Recommendations and testimonials are also taken from other specialists and the clinician is interviewed to assess whether they share Medstar’s values of openness and transparency around fees and expertise. Anyone who doesn’t meet the criteria is turned away.
Medstars also offers what it calls a ‘concierge compass’ service. This is a bespoke, personal service where a doctor will listen to a person’s requirements, research the options and then arrange an appointment. It has had interest from people overseas, particularly British expats who are looking to visit home and see a private UK doctor for their health issues at the same time.
Since the pilot website was launched in 2015, the Medstars community of practitioners across the UK has grown from their home region of the West Midlands to encompass London-based practitioners who want to be part of this initiative.
Co-founder Dr Mahnaz Hashmi said, “As experienced doctors, we had become concerned about what we saw as the lack of transparency for patients in private practice. Poor regulation and confusing pricing structures were making it increasingly difficult for patients to find properly qualified independent healthcare practitioners whom they could trust. It wasn’t much better for the practitioners either, who have to spend time and large amounts of money to get their expertise recognised online. No one was getting a fair deal and something needed to change which is why Medstars was born.”
Dr Barry Lambert added: “We don’t want to take patients away from great NHS care – as NHS clinicians ourselves we have no doubt that for urgent or complex care there is no better place to be. But for those patients with a non-urgent problem who have already got health insurance or decided to see someone privately, such as for a second opinion, or because the treatment they want is not available on the NHS, Medstars can support them in finding the right health professional. This could bring very real benefits to help patients navigate the NHS in the future.”