DrDoctor: Transforming hospitals with digital healthcare

Tom Whicher, CEO of DrDoctor, has seen the abuse of healthcare professionals rise post-COVID-19. To protect staff, hospitals must digitally transform

According to a survey by DrDoctor, 75% of non-medical, patient facing health workers  said that rising hospital wait times have led to an increase in abuse from patients. Tom Whicher, founder and CEO of DrDoctor, discussed the results exclusively with Healthcare Digital and explained how technology can help. 

“Enabling patients to take more control will ease their frustration while also reducing the pressure that frontline workers face,” he said. Here, he tells us more. 


Hi Tom! What led you to this industry?

“It’s a weird story. I started out my career as a Yacht Navigator in 2006 and left in 2011 with the longer-term ambition of founding my own business. What I didn’t know at the time, was that my business idea would come to me during my time serving as a Senior Consultant at Newton Europe Limited. I was working on a healthcare project, sitting in the outpatient’s department, and basically watching patients rock up with pieces of paper. These were appointment letters. But the amount of times that I saw patients turned away because their letter had the wrong date or time printed on it, or had been rescheduled, and the infrastructure was not able to move fast enough to re-issue appointment letters in time, was probably just one too many for my liking. Using my product knowledge, I came up with the idea of DrDoctor. On the Friday I left my job and on Monday, DrDoctor was in the works.”


What is DrDoctor?

“DrDoctor started as a passion project and is now the UK’s leading patient engagement platform in the NHS. Our mission is simple: Put patients first, and use technology to create transformational change in healthcare. We support secondary care, community and mental health sites across more than 40 NHS trusts and health boards. DrDoctor now has more than 150 employees and has booked more than 100m appointments across NHS organisations, working to reduce DNA rates by up to 35%.

“Our mission is to understand the challenges facing staff and deliver technology that automates routine tasks and common blockers, whilst improving the quality of patient care. Simply put, we work to provide the best in digital health.”


The abuse of healthcare professionals has risen post-pandemic. Why do you think this is?

“It would be an understatement to say that increasing wait list times - which have reached a record high of 7.75m - are putting an immense amount of strain and stress on hospital administrators and patients. The challenge is that healthcare administrators are often the first point of contact for a patient with their local hospital, meaning it’s these individuals bearing the brunt of this fear and frustration.

“Our data reveals that 46% of non-medical, patient-facing healthcare workers are abused on a weekly basis, with 43% having been brought to tears at work as a result. 

“Capacity challenges continue to haunt healthcare workers and with that, we’re seeing frontline staff bear the brunt of patients' fears, frustrations and stresses associated with not being able to be seen, quickly. But we have to remember that hospital administrators are here to help, so it’s important we help and respect them too.”


What is the impact of this abuse on healthcare staff?

“In spite of the empathy that non-medical, patient facing staff reported feeling towards patients understandably, 41% said that they feel more anxious about going to work than they did before the pandemic - and 35% are considering leaving to escape the hostile working environment. This is hugely concerning when we think about the future of the healthcare sector.”


What can prevent the abuse of healthcare staff?

“If we’re to support patients in getting the treatment they need, when they need it - whilst protecting all healthcare staff at work, then we need to start again, and look at the infrastructure that supports our system. 

“Digitally transforming the healthcare sector - properly investing to ensure that each practice and hospital has equal access to digital tools and learning - is the only way to see changes that are resilient against pandemics, industrial action and other inevitable external challenges.

“We need to build a hybrid healthcare system. One that enables patients to take more control over their own care and routes them to the right form of care, more quickly. To do this, we need real investment into the digitisation of the healthcare infrastructure. Whilst there’s no golden envelope answer, digitising the appointment booking and management system is certainly a good place to start. If we can put the power of appointment and healthcare management directly into the hands of patients, it’ll create a much more seamless pathway for the patient and relieve the pressure on our frontline workers.”


What do the next 12 months hold for you and the company?

“We founded DrDoctor with a clear vision. To design a system that works for everyone - patients, clinicians and providers. Over the next 12 months, we’ll be continuing to focus on deepening our integration within the NHS, with our partners, to showcase the value of a hybrid healthcare system. 

“Over the next year, we will also be extending our focus to community and mental health care, as we look to support in freeing up appointment slots within NHS trusts, supporting patients to get care from the right place, at the right time.”


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