A pioneering website which helps private patients find the right clinician and improves transparency within private healthcare has been launched by two senior Birmingham doctors.
Paid-for healthcare is often confusing and finding the right practitioner can be a real challenge for patients. To change this, Birmingham-based Medstars – set up by Dr Mahnaz Hashmi and Dr Barry Lambert - has developed an innovative, online service that puts patients in control of their own healthcare.
Medstars is one of the start-ups supported by WMAHSN in the Digital Health Quarter of Innovation Birmingham’s Serendip® Smart Cities Incubator programme. The Digital Health Quarter seeks out proven digital innovations with the potential to save lives, improve health and create wealth. Tenants are supported to develop products, tools and services designed in response to genuine needs of the healthcare sector, enabling the digital health start-ups to maximise their chance of success.
As senior doctors, Mahnaz and Barry understand that choosing healthcare isn’t like booking a train ticket or hotel online. They are the only company of this type that the NHS has invested in. Their free patient service therefore helps people find screened, regulated practitioners – from GPs to podiatrists, dermatologists to surgeons - quickly and more confidently. Medstars helps patients find, book and connect with an approved, regulated practitioner instantly.
Instead of endless Google searches and trawling websites, the service offers access to a single curated community of trusted health professionals who share values of openness and transparency. 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 Medstars values of openness and transparency around fees and expertise. Anyone who doesn’t meet the criteria is turned away.
As well as an online service, Medstars offers 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 with the chosen doctor. 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.
Co-founder Mahnaz said, “As experienced doctors, we had become concerned about 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.”
Since the pilot website was launched in 2015, Medstars have grown their community of practitioners across the UK – in their home region of the West Midlands and also London practitioners who want to be part of the quality online community.
Barry 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.”
If you are a private healthcare provider and would like to apply to join the Medstars network, please visit www.medstars.co.uk for more information or call 0330 088 9279.