UK healthtech firm Q doctor will use its phone and video consultation platforms to help the NHS cope with the influx of patients wanting a Covid-19 vaccine


Companies including Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca are attempting to roll out their Covid-19 vaccines before the end of 2020 (Credit: Supavadee butradee/Shutterstock)

UK healthtech firm Q doctor is poised to become the country’s biggest booking service for people wanting to receive a Covid-19 vaccine.

The company, which already provides video and phone consultations for 3,200 GP surgeries all over the UK, is currently working on rolling out a vaccine-ready booking platform to help ease the burden the NHS is likely to experience over the coming weeks and months.

Q doctor has claimed its “robust and highly-secure” technology will give healthcare providers the infrastructure they need to effectively manage patient appointments, leaving them to focus on getting the vaccination to those who urgently need it.

With a Covid-19 vaccine seemingly moving closer to being publicly available following positive data from US firms Pfizer and Moderna, and the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca’s own UK-based candidate also showing promise, many doctor’s surgeries across the country are already being “overwhelmed” with patient phone calls and enquiries.

Dr Anita Shah, who is a GP and clinical director at Enfield Unity Primary Care Network, said: “We’re already seeing an increase in patient interest in the vaccine and this is only going to grow in the coming weeks.

“Our current system isn’t prepared for this and won’t be able to cope – we need to prepare for this influx of patient enquiries and bookings, and we need a robust way to contact patients, send reminders and follow up that is integrated with our IT.

“The booking system is going to be crucial to making sure that our whole population is vaccinated.”

On the company’s imminent rollout of a Covid-19 vaccine booking service, Q doctor founder and CEO Chris Whittle said: “As we collectively aim to tackle coronavirus, we’re encouraged by the news of a 90% effective Covid-19 vaccination.

“However, understandably, this is a huge undertaking for primary care providers and it is already predicted that GPs across the country will have to drastically scale back their wider services to focus on the unprecedented demand they will likely face.

“Ultimately, planning ahead now for when the vaccine is available, which could be within a matter of weeks, will help ensure a clear, efficient and effective process that avoids errors and safety issues.”


What is Q doctor?

At its core, London-based start-up Q doctor says it “exists to make access to medical advice and treatment easier”.

Its Q health video consultation service – which is provided to primary care organisations free of charge – is the company’s main offering to GP surgeries across the UK.

This service also includes Q doctor’s Instant Video feature, which allows secure online video clinics to be set up via text or email without users needing to download a smartphone app, in an effort to make access easier for care homes and patients who don’t use mobile devices regularly.

Another key service Q doctor offers is a digital locum service that allows locum doctors – who often stand in for absent GPs on a temporary basis – to see patients in other parts of the country remotely.

Having been founded in 2015, the company received its first major investment earlier this year, securing £1.5m ($2m) as part of a Series A funding round in April.


Easing the Covid-19 burden

Having already undergone rapid growth throughout the Covid-19 pandemic in GP surgeries and hospitals alike – and receiving NHS Digital accreditations on scaling performance – CEO Whittle is “confident” in the scalability of the Q doctor system, and its ability to cope with the demands of vaccinating millions of UK patients moving forward.

“We have hundreds of practices live, and thousands under our partnership with eConsult [a triage solution used by the NHS] – and see no reason why we can’t scale this to all practices in the UK,” he added.

“Our video consultation platform is already live at scale, being used by thousands of clinicians across the country, and the appointment function is therefore tried and tested.

“Very small adaptations have been made for flu vaccinations and in preparation for Covid-19 vaccination clinics – we are prepared for this and are looking ahead to what might happen next that we can prepare for.

“We are also already working with NHS organisations to help resolve logistical issues around dissemination of the new vaccines, such as reaching out to the correct patients, and giving those patients an easy route through which to book their vaccinations using our tried and tested GP booking system.”

Whittle also said that GP surgeries’ ability to cope with added strain on ‘day-to-day’ operations will be tested as Covid-19 vaccination is introduced, but Q doctor will offer its digital locum service to assist with this as well, allowing extra GPs to come in and work from elsewhere in the UK.

When asked what other hurdles may face the country’s healthcare system as an approved Covid-19 vaccine moves ever closer, Whittle added that creating a steady flow of patients is critical in maintaining social distancing – and the logistics of vaccination storage is something practices will need to consider too.

Q doctor is currently working closely with the NHS on other ways its technology can be used to relieve the burden of the Covid-19 pandemic on the UK healthcare system more generally.