Booking an appointment with your doctor is still mired in the 20th century.
Stuck at work with a case of the sniffles? Your GP can fit you in next Tuesday – but then you'll have to stay at home that day, because your doctor isn't anywhere near where you work.
That's where Zesty comes in; it's a web-based service that claims it can get you an appointment with a doctor, dentist or specialist in the same time it takes to order a pizza. Pop over to the website, enter your location and it'll deliver a list of practitioners – complete with ratings, available appointment times and prices.
The doctor will see you now
For the time being, Zesty's limited to private doctors, though NHS dentists are available. "We work with private doctors, physios, osteos, chiros and GPs, but also with the NHS," says Lloyd Price, co-founder of Zesty. "We've sponsored an NHS hack day, we work with NHS sexual health clinics, we're meeting with the NHS psychiatry services. Our vision is both; in five years, I want to pick up my smartphone and book my GP, order prescriptions, everything."
The holy grail, of course, is access to NHS GPs – but there are a lot of hurdles standing between Zesty and its goal. It's applied to become one of an NHS approved supplier for the Choose and Book service, but, Price explains, "The key with the NHS is security of data. There's a thing called N3, which is the secure server; you need to go through five steps of security, that takes around a year, and we've done the first step."
A bite of the Apple
Naturally, the reveal of Apple's HealthKit service on iOS 8 has sparked interest among healthcare services like Zesty. Unsurprisingly, Price would "love to explore a collaboration with Apple," suggesting that your iPhone could prompt you to book a doctor's appointment if it notices your blood pressure changing.
But that's a way off; for the time being, Zesty is concentrating on building up coverage. "We're only in London at the moment; you've got to geographically constrain yourself," says Price. "We're pretty close to delivering a good experience in London, then we'll roll it out across the rest of the UK; Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff."
Zesty is free for customers – practices pay out 15 per cent of their margin – but in a moment of future-gazing, Price does raise the thorny issue of whether, in time, we might find ourselves paying for better access to NHS services.
Appointments with GPs have historically always been free – to provide a safety net for the poorest members of society, we point out. "I totally agree with you," says Price, "but imagine if you could go seven days a week, between 9am and 9pm, and book online. Would you pay £10 for that?" Well, would you?