Healthtech startup Doctorlink picks up backing from Eight Roads for its digital triage and advice tool

Doctorlink, a U.K. startup that provides doctor surgeries with a clinically approved digital triage and advice tool, is disclosing that it has picked up significant backing from Eight Roads, the proprietary investment arm of Fidelity International.

I’m told that Eight Roads has invested £20 million in total, with £15 million of that via two rounds in the last 12 months. The news comes at a time when Doctorlink is launching its tech platform to NHS GP practices in the U.K. with the explicit aim of reducing doctor appointments by 20 percent.

Having already been piloted with 14 U.K. surgeries, covering 200,000 NHS patients, Doctorlink offers a tech platform that lets patients book appointments and access medical advice via the doctor surgery’s own website. The triage element is described as using decision tree protocols and an evidence based approach to help patients understand what might be wrong with them and to take the appropriate action, which isn’t always to see their doctor.

It plays into a wider trend where technology is being used to scale healthcare by augmenting human labour with machine learning or AI, as healthcare systems globally come under increasing pressure.

“Primary Care in the U.K. and across the world is in trouble; there is an increasing demand for appointments, because people are living longer, but then live with multiple long term conditions,” says Doctorlink co-founder Andrew Gardner. “At the same time there is no increase in GPs to meet this demand. GPs have identified that up to 40 per cent of appointments may be unnecessary, so we set out to produce a system that would deal with this demand without the need to see a GP”.

Gardner says that this is done by analysing patient symptoms and where appropriate giving advice so that the patient can self manage their condition. The Doctorlink system also enables appointments to be booked online and the management of prescriptions and sick notes. “All this helps manage demand and makes life easier for the patient,” says Gardner.

A typical customer for Doctorlink is a GP practice although increasingly GP Federations and other groupings are buying the product for more than one GP practice. Another type of customer is a Clincal Commissioning Group (CCG) that will buy the product to be used as a digital channel for the NHS111 telephone helpline service.

When asked about competitors, Gardner says that Doctorlink is often compared to Babylon or Push Doctor, but that the company is different in a number of ways.

“Firstly, we are the only digital triage solution specifically designed to alleviate the burden on NHS GP practices. Our tool has been built to integrate with NHS systems enabling a seamless experience for patients, while also removing administrative burdens for GP practices. Secondly, the robustness of our algorithms mean that patients are directed to the most appropriate care and if an appointment with a GP is appropriate our tool will provide the surgery with a suggested diagnosis ahead of that appointment”.

Instead, the Doctorlink founder says that primary competitors are E-consult and AskmyGP, but points out that these are passive systems that take information on symptoms and send that information to the GP for use in a follow up appointment. In other words, they aren’t designed to help reduce demand for doctor appointments.

Regards business model, the product is sold on a SaaS basis to GP practices with the price based on the number of patients the practice has on its list. “The GP practice is paid a fixed sum of money for each patient so it is in their interests to use a service like Doctorlink to better manage the demand from their patients,” says Gardner.