Online health hub launched by doctor and pharmacist from UEA
PUBLISHED: 06:00 06 September 2018 | UPDATED: 17:56 06 September 2018
Two University of East Anglia (UEA) graduates have teamed up to launch an online health hub, where patients can talk to a pharmacist or order medication from their phone.
Oskar Wendowski and Thuria Abduljhbar, a pharmacist and doctor respectively, were inspired to create their start-up, e-Surgery, while working on the frontline of the NHS.
Dr Wendowski, who graduated with a PhD from UEA this year, said: “Working in community pharmacy for the last five years I have seen the effect of continuous NHS funding cuts first-hand. Many pharmacies are closing their doors and the workload is ever increasing. I’ve lost count of the number of times when I simply did not have the time to help patients referred to us. It’s simply not good enough and the patients deserve better.
“We saw more and more than we did not have the time to speak to people and give them advice, and at the same time the NHS is saying to people go see your pharmacist.”
After the pair, who both live in Norwich, had the idea, they approached the Enterprise Centre at UEA, which helps students get businesses off the ground.
And they were lucky enough to win two grants to help them start their business.
Either through a mobile app or on their website, patients are able to speak directly to a pharmacist either on the phone or through a live chat service, who can give advice on minor ailments. Photos can be sent to help with diagnoses too.
But the couple said the set up was not a step towards NHS privatisation, as the pharmacist consultation was free.
Dr Abduljhbar, who also works at the James Paget Hospital in Gorleston, said it could mean fewer people are sent to A&E either by the NHS 111 service or because they feel their wait for a GP appointment was too long.
She said: “I’ve had a lot of experience with, for example, NHS 111 when I’ve been working in A&E and honestly I think it’s a poor service. If you say any trigger words they don’t distinguish between say chest pain for a panic attack or a heart attack and send you to A&E.”
She said she had seen a patient in A&E who had a false nail lodged in her finger, and wanted it looked at, but was told it would be a six-week wait to see her GP.
Dr Abduljhbar, 24, said having professionals medics on board at e-Surgery meant they would be able to assess whether symptoms were serious and a pharmacist could have helped the patient with the injured finger.
To make the business viable, they would also offer a private medication service where drugs could be shipped to patients.
Dr Abduljhbar said this would help women, for example, who suffered with recurrent urinary tract infections and wanted to have antibiotics on hand.
Or patients who wanted to order medications to cure a sexually transmitted infection, but did not want to go to a clinic.
She stressed all medication would be checked for patient safety by an experienced GP, at the moment this was Dr Abduljhbar’s mother Athra Mahdi, a GP of 20 years.
And the start-up was a truly family affair to begin with, as Dr Abduljhbar’s sister Heba, 18, was currently helping out before starting at UEA this month.
Dr Abduljhbar added: “In a desperate bid to avoid the six-week wait to see your GP or a night wasted in A&E, a soaring number of patients are turning to Dr Google for medical advice. But the internet can be wildly inaccurate and dangerous.
“E-Surgery will give patients free access to a registered pharmacist who can give quality advice and make recommendations for treatments that are proven safe.”
Dr Wendowski, 31, said: “We want to show people that online healthcare is quite helpful from the pharmacist side and it’s quite a beneficial service for people.”
E-surgery launches on September 10.