DigitalHealth.London Spotlight: Hero Health

Every week, we shine a spotlight on one of our DigitalHealth.London companies, founders, or NHS fellows. Today, we are excited to feature our current DigitalHealth.London Accelerator company Hero Health.

What is the problem you are trying to solve and why is it important?

Every year, a General Practice (GP) Patient Survey asks patients “If you didn’t get an appointment, why was that?”

In 2023, 25% of patients cited the inability to book ahead at their practice, while 32% reported difficulty getting appointments at their preferred day or time. With these figures steadily rising, alongside the overwhelming reliance on phone call bookings over online appointments (82% vs. 15%), patients struggle to access appointments that suit them, as phone lines prioritise a first-come, first-served approach due to lengthy wait times.

Offering a service that provides streamlined access to care by allowing patients to book appointments according to their needs and schedules, could alleviate pressure on phone lines and encourage greater uptake of online self-service options. This would enhance flexibility for patients and reduce demand for traditional booking methods.

What is the solution you have developed and how can it help with the problem?

Hero Health has a suite of three main offerings that are used together to build a mechanism to create the visibility and the means to distribute a self-service solution to patients that is versatile to Primary Care Networks (PCNs) and practices across England. All our features are deeply integrated into EMIS and SystmOne, the core record systems used in primary care in the UK.

  1. Our care navigation offers a route for patients to access and request the care they require online instead of by phone.
  2. Practices can communicate directly with patients using our messaging features. This also works effectively at scale, offering the means to communicate to many patients simultaneously, inviting them to routine appointments or offering free health checks. This provides huge time-saving benefits to admin staff.
  3. Our booking functionality, with built-in demographic restrictions and cross-organisational capabilities, surfaces appointment availability to patients; empowering them to book at a time and date that suits them.
What is the history of your company?

Hero Health was developed in response to existing technology limitations identified by primary care providers and patients.

Primary care providers found existing clinical record systems like EMIS Web and TPP’s SystmOne proficient in clinical record management and reporting, yet lacking in patient engagement functionalities such as provider-patient communication and online booking. These were often treated as secondary features.

On the patient side, accessing general practice felt disconnected and challenging to engage with. Communication remained sporadic and often analogue. Why was it simple to book a taxi, but booking a healthcare appointment felt complex?

What successes have you had so far from successful pilots/trials/contracts?

Together First is a Federation that serves over 200,000 patients in the North East London Area.

In August 2023, Together First needed to fill their Extended Access services and allow patients to book appointments across multiple practices in their network. Before acquiring Hero Health, their administrative teams would send messages to patients, inviting them to call the practice and book appointments with the Hubsite. Adminstrative staff had to manually book these patients into various GP systems after the patient called the practice. Using our batch messaging tool, they could contact over 26,000 patients within 1 hour of setup to book available slots. By doing so, they received 581 confirmed bookings into various locations and GP systems across their network.

Since this pilot, there has been reduced demand on the administrative team, a reduction of long phone queues and less stress around managing multiple inbound channels. The team now uses a simple, efficient workflow that allows them to invite patients to book an appointment and lets patients proactively choose and manage the times they want to book.

What are your future goals? What does success look like?

We aim to expand our presence throughout the UK and operate on a larger scale at Integrated Care Board (ICB) levels. This means providing technology to GP practices, PCN sites and community providers like pharmacies. Recognising that the ‘front door’ for healthcare is no longer simply a face-to-face GP appointment, we understand that for different patients, access may take the form of a community pharmacy visit, interaction with a social prescriber, or a midweek enhanced access slot.

All our functionality – from scheduling, communication and care navigation – are designed to empower patients to manage their health more independently and facilitate better engagement with practice team members when needed. To achieve this, we are working towards deeper integration within NHS structures, including procurement frameworks like the new Digital Pathways framework and technological integration with platforms like the NHS App.

How has your time on the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator helped you in achieving these?

Through the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator we have had the opportunity to work alongside like-minded innovators to extend our tools and capabilities to other solutions. Being a part of the programme has opened up opportunities for our technology to be used in different use cases – such as social prescribing or recall management. We have also been introduced to relevant individuals within key positions within the NHS (for example within the South West London ICB), and have received mentoring from expert innovators who are invested in our success.

Do you have any advice for aspiring digital health companies?

Start small. Pick one small problem you are aware of and work closely with providers to find a resolution for it. Encourage providers to commit and invest early, ideally providing funds before the technology is developed. For integrations, double your estimated integration timelines to ensure a realistic integration window.

Any asks for the audience?

Find out more about Hero Health here.

Hero Health is currently in Cohort 7 of the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator programme.

The DigitalHealth.London Accelerator programme is funded by the UK Government via the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF). It is delivered by the Health Innovation Network (HIN) South London in partnership with the Office of Life Sciences, CW+, Medicity, NHS England, the Mayor of London and the Levelling Up Fund.

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