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At the start of 2020, the UK along with the rest of the world came to grips with a public health crisis like no other. Over the course of the first and second waves, over 4.5 million UK patients were diagnosed with COVID-19. The public health infrastructure and NHS frontline professionals were overburdened as patient numbers began to exceed available resources.
Doctaly emerged as an innovative Healthtech solution to ease the demand on healthcare workers. Through an advanced Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) system, Doctaly has helped thousands of patients receive quality medical attention - from the comfort of their own homes. We spoke to Phil Tyler, COO at Doctaly, to understand how their platform uses Freshworks’ Freshchat to provide medical assistance that’s consistently timely, reliable, and convenient.
With the huge number of patients testing positive for COVID-19 last year, frontline workers needed to prioritize high-risk cases. At the same time, however, patients who were experiencing COVID symptoms needed reliable guidance on how to manage their symptoms and access medical help if their condition became more serious. To solve this dual challenge, Doctaly developed a solution, Doctaly Assist, that relied on Freshchat to enable remote consultation with patients. Speaking about the origins of Doctaly Assist, Phil says, “The idea was that moderately ill COVID patients could use our platform to have a clinical assessment at home. That information is passed on to the clinicians in what we’ve branded a ‘virtual ward’. Clinicians can then interact with patients, check they are okay, and direct them to extra help if necessary.”
Doctaly began to search for the perfect messaging solution to support their aims. As an organization, it had used Intercom and Twilio in the past, but when it came to Doctaly Assist, these solutions did not offer the breadth of capabilities needed. After a comprehensive evaluation of messaging solutions, Doctaly landed on Freshchat as their preferred supplier. “At the top of our shopping list were WhatsApp integration and chatbot capabilities, which automatically narrowed the field” recalls Phil. “The fact that Freshchat offered these features and had a customizable interface made it a clear winner. We were able to take Freshchat’s seamless interface and fit it into our use case. This was not possible with other solutions we evaluated.”
Integration with WhatsApp would soon play a key role in the success of Doctaly Assist. “The biggest challenge that we foresaw was patient adoption. You can have a fantastic product but that doesn’t mean anything if patients aren’t using it,” says Phil. Solving this challenge would mean steering away from the usual app-based approach. The way the team saw it, apps were part of the problem. There are about 400k healthcare apps available and app fatigue is becoming an increasingly common phenomenon. Rather than asking patients to install yet another app, Doctaly decided to leverage an app that was already on most users' home screens: WhatsApp.
“WhatsApp integration has been a pivotal part of lowering the technology adoption hurdle. Today, around 85-90% of our consultations take place through WhatsApp!”
The second challenge Doctaly faced was adoption from the clinical side. To really make the platform worthwhile for healthcare workers, Doctaly needed to demonstrate high levels of efficiency. Freshchat’s ease of use, advanced features and integration capabilities have been integral in helping bring down overall consultation times through a three-pronged approach:
“The increase in efficiency using this approach has been dramatic!. With minimal clinician intervention required, consultation time has gone down from 25 minutes to just 4 minutes”
Unsurprisingly, patient feedback on Doctaly Assist has been overwhelmingly positive. “If I had to select one word to encapsulate patient feedback, it would be: ‘reassuring’” notes Phil. “Patients are aware of how busy healthcare professionals are and therefore, they often decide to braven it out, and only call A&E if things get really bad. So, to offer them a convenient service where they’ve got a doctor checking on them everyday has been immensely valuable. Patients enter their vitals with the reassurance that if something is wrong it will be spotted.”
Clinicians and doctors have also really enjoyed this different approach to consulting. As Phil explains, “Doctaly Assist gives doctors a degree of flexibility - something that those of us in other sectors have enjoyed for a while. Now, doctors can work at home, out of office hours, and fit it in around other commitments.” The popularity of Doctaly among healthcare professionals is self-evident. Clinical time in the UK is very hard to come by and the NHS often has multiple open positions for sessions or events. But Doctaly has, in fact, been oversubscribed! “Clinicians actually come in and volunteer to do more sessions!” says Phil.
Doctaly’s role in optimising use of NHS resources at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic has been remarkable. Over the course of over 15,000 consultations, Doctaly has been able to successfully prevent countless unnecessary ambulance calls and trips to A&E. At the other end of the spectrum, timely interventions have also ensured that high-risk patients get to hospital quicker than they otherwise might have.
Doctaly Assist was originally developed to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. With the number of COVID cases in the UK on the decline, what does the future now look like for Doctaly? “The model that we’ve worked on translates really well to the monitoring of chronic illnesses,” says Phil. “Doctors in the UK have to run annual programs to check in on patients with long-term conditions like diabetes, asthma, and COPD, which totals around 12-15 million patients. Because of COVID, doctors were only able to do half that number last year. Using Doctaly’s efficient approach, doctors can now conduct faster checkups on these patients and clear their backlogs much sooner.”
Doctaly’s mission to revolutionize the future of patient consultations is only just beginning. As the platform expands its capabilities, it will continue to be supported by Freshchat to deliver an unmatched consultation experience for doctors and patients alike.
“The asynchronous messaging and automation made possible by Freshchat have helped us significantly improve clinician efficiency. During the pandemic, with thousands of patients and doctors incredibly overstretched, you can imagine how valuable that’s been.”
Doctaly used bots to support their customer service
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