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Adapting Doc Abode to respond to COVID-19

Posted: 10th September 2020

We are continuing with our series of profiles about innovators who we’ve been working with and who have developed tried and tested solutions to support healthcare providers in our region with their response to COVID-19. In this edition we hear from Dr Taz Aldawoud who is the founder of Doc Abode and also a GP.

Doc Abode is a multi-award-winning software platform, which improves workforce capacity and resilience in out-of-hours and primary care settings. The Doc Abode platform enables real-time clinician deployment, safely connecting a multi-disciplinary clinical workforce to NHS patient needs based on availability, proximity and expertise. It provides clinicians with an alternative to shift-based work which leads to the delivery of better care, improved patient experience and reduced costs to the NHS.

As the impact of COVID-19 became increasingly clear the designers of Doc Abode moved swiftly to adapt their product.

As Doc Abode integrates with the electronic patient record (EPR), the platform is able to match individual patients to assured clinicians who can see which jobs are COVID-19 related, where they can access crucial PPE, and where it is possible to make phone or video calls instead of face to face appointments. All of these actions can be performed securely through the one platform, which saves time for NHS providers and frontline clinicians.

Doc Abode’s aim is to help reduce health inequalities which has been much more widely exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Conscious of the sensitivities of working in the BAME communities, Doc Abode has enabled nurses, doctors and allied healthcare professionals to say if they can consult in various languages such as Urdu, or have a specific interest or specialism, such as diabetes. This removes a potentially large communication barrier.

The creative spark for Doc Abode came when GP and founder Dr Taz Aldawoud, found the inefficiencies he encountered in urgent care just too frustrating. The challenges back then were fundamentally the same issues we have today, with workforce being the common denominator in realising any operational or strategic objectives. Challenges of recruitment of the workforce, operational efficiency and cross-organisational working are all areas which Doc Abode addresses through years of real-world testing and evaluation in the NHS.

The platform manages all of the logistics in deploying a workforce across organisational boundaries by providing Health Care Professionals (HCPs) with a secure app installed on their smartphone so when needed, the healthcare provider can escalate requests for direct advice, guidance or assessment through secure telephone/video triage or in person visits. If the job request is accepted, HCPs are securely provided with further information so they can consult with the patient. This provides an additional flexible workforce in areas which have previously struggled to fulfil patient needs for NHS services.

One of the key differentiators about Doc Abode is the concept of breaking down the standard ‘shift’ or session which all GPs and nurses will be familiar with. By breaking down components of work into patient level tasks and interactions, Doc Abode can offer a paradigm shift in how it engages with clinicians to ensure they have a flexible work/life balance. Doc Abode have proven that additional workforce capacity can be realised from the current workforce without increasing the burden on them.

Clinicians find the proposition of being able to state personal preferences and availability very attractive. Clinicians want to make the NHS work better and Doc Abode gives them an option to provide extra capacity when it is most needed.

By widening the total available workforce and driving more efficient operations, Doc Abode helps to reduce pressures elsewhere in the system including the ambulance service and A&E.

Dr Aldawoud says that

“Although Doc Abode is not patient facing, we have the patient experience and improving their health outcomes at the centre of our mission and values.

“Being a practicing GP myself, with a young family, juggling many responsibilities, I want to create the best possible working environment for colleagues like me. We want to contribute more to support our NHS and our patients, but existing ways of working are too fixed and archaic leaving us with an ‘all or nothing’ offer of engagement.

“Being able to work seamlessly for different organisations, from GP practices, Primary Care Networks, or GP out-of-hours, and either remotely through picking up best matched telephone and video consultations or if appropriate, face to face, Doc Abode supports clinicians to work on their own terms.”

Of the support Doc Abode has received from Yorkshire & Humber AHSN, Taz says:

“They believed in me right from the start and guided me in putting my vision into reality. They put me in a strong position with £5,000 funding from their ‘Proof of Concept programme’ in 2016.”

In addition to the £5,000 development fund, the Proof of Concept programme provided business support from links to NIHR Devices for Dignity, Medipex and Medilink and help with regulatory compliance, intellectual property and commercialisation respectively.

“Once we got that funding, we ran surveys and focus groups covering over 70 GPs and launched a feasibility pilot. This proved that we could attract a new workforce who didn’t want to work entirely in the rigid traditional ‘shift’ patterns, and in 2016 we initially won £100,000 from the Small Business Research Initiative Innovation (SBRI) phase 1 competition to develop a prototype. We then went on to win phase 2 SBRI funding in 2017 which unlocked an additional £900,000 to progress with building a robust product and grow the business.”

Taz believes a lot of the success of the system is down to its radically different approach. It attracts a more flexible workforce which leads to the delivery of better care and improved patient experience. Many of the appointments are carried out remotely, which made the COVID-related changes immediately possible.

Taz goes onto say:

“It has been transformational. Many healthcare professionals do shifts but choose to work with Doc Abode as well. It gives them immense opportunities. Many choose to work using Doc Abode because we can give them more appointments in their field of expertise and build up their experience which they really enjoy.

“We need to help those who need it most. I want to see Doc Abode being utilised across the NHS – we are just at the beginning of that journey.”

So, to the future. Doc Abode is rapidly expanding into new regions across the North, and over the next five years, Taz intends to build Doc Abode’s national profile as a leading provider of integrated digital solutions for the NHS. By harnessing artificial intelligence, delivering superior efficiency for organisations, Doc Abode will ultimately bring more benefits to NHS patients.