Vensa Health launches free patient apppointment booking system to Kiwi GPs

The online booking system will be made available free to GPs whether or not they are customers of Vensa's text messaging service, which operates on a subscription-as-a-service model.

Mobile health solutions company Vensa Health is offering doctors a free system that allows patients to book their own appointments via the web or mobile following the launch of its new online platform.

The Auckland-based company founded nearly 10 years ago already has 70% of GP practices nationwide using its text message-based appointment reminder, TXT2Remind.

Vensa Health chief executive and founder Ahmad Jubbawey said the online booking system will be made available free to GPs whether or not they are customers of the text messaging service, which operates on a subscription-as-a-service model.

He's not charging for the new appointment booking service to build up user numbers and prove its reliability and ease of use before launching in Australia late next year. "We think the market there is ripe for innovation," he said.

It's the first product on the new platform, the result of an 18-month research and development project, supported in part by a Callaghan Innovation growth grant.

Mr Jubbawey wants to slowly move the company's business model from software-as-a-service, which has proven to be a slow burn in a cash-strapped health sector, to offering a free product and then charging for value-add services on top. Those new services will be introduced in the second quarter of next year and he said Vensa has a pipeline of other apps that can be added to the platform.

Patients can select their preferred doctor or nurse online and see which appointments are available in real time, any time of the day and then book via the secure website.

The text-messaging service will be retained and can be used in conjunction with the booking system. For example, a patient may get a text reminder their baby needs to be immunised which contains a link the parent can click on to make an immediate booking.

Mr Jubbawey said the focus has been on making the setup simple to encourage GP practices and patients to use the service. About 180,000 people are using other primary care patient portals that have been set up in recent years "which is a poor uptake," he says.

One of the company's key drivers is to improve patient access to healthcare, including men reluctant to visit the doctor.

Mission Bay Doctors in Auckland was one of the GP practices in the software's beta testing programme. Medical director Dr Jamie Shepherd, who also acted Vensa's clinical adviser, said patients have commented they like being able to see what appointments are available and to then book one at a time that suits them quickly and simply.

To date, Jubbawey has mainly boot-strapped the company over the past decade but says he will seek investor capital for next year's export push into Australia. A "miserable" lack of venture capital funding in New Zealand may make that difficult, he said, but he hopes by then the service will have demonstrated a high value to users.

(BusinessDesk receives assistance from Callaghan Innovation to help cover the commercialisation of innovation.)