In the UK, the average time that you get to spend with an NHS general practitioner (GP) is under 10 minutes — around 9 minutes and 22 seconds — meaning that UK patients get less face-to-face time with a doctor than anywhere else in Europe. Those precious 10 minutes are likely to come straight after almost an hour of sitting in a waiting room crowded with sick bodies and screaming children.
In the USA, about 33 percent of physicians spent 13-16 minutes with their patients, according to a report conducted by Medscape in 2016. An improvement on UK statistics, but these studies show that physicians are often constrained in their time directly working with patients, which could have an impact on patient care outcomes. Studies also show that physicians spend almost half of their time in office on data entry and other desk work.
Time to digitalise the health system? Well, absolutely. But, years of talking about the need for EHR (electronic health records) and improved methods of communication within health services have been slow on the uptake. Health is proving to be one of the most difficult industries to bring into the technological era down to security concerns and resistance from sceptical senior doctors; then there’s the problem of rolling out new systems nationwide — a pretty mammoth task.
If digitalisation could be pulled off safely and securely, and medical staff could be trained to use new tools swiftly and efficiently, the positive impact to medical professionals’ working lives would be huge and, likewise, with patient outcomes.
One doctor who is re-engineering what it means to visit the GP with the use of technology and creating a stress-free, if not pleasant, patient experience, is Robin Berzin, CEO and founder of Parsley Health.
“I started Parsley Health because I saw how broken healthcare is today. We are making ourselves sick as a population, through how we eat, move, and live while traditional medicine layers on more pills, waiting for us to get sicker,” she says on Parsley Health’s website.
“It has become a revolving door for prescription drugs and referrals to specialists.”
The idea behind Parsley Health is extremely simple, yet revolutionary. Instead of insurance and co-pays, patients pay a monthly fee for five doctor visits a year, have unlimited access to their medical records through a dedicated platform, and are involved in medical practices that harness patient data and records to promote long-lasting, preventative healthcare. Plus, the average doctor’s visit lasts around 50 minutes.
Berzin, a doctor by trade but also an expert in digital health and functional medicine, founded Parsley Health in New York in 2016. Now, the organisation has multiple centres there and in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Last year, Parsley announced the close of a $10 million round of Series A funding led by FirstMark Capital.
“To get a feel for the Parsley Health experience, take the most depressing stereotypes you have about going to the doctor… and flip them,” said Forbes. This sentiment is clearly reflected in the design of the clinics, which look more like a creative’s living room than a doctor’s surgical centre.
Parsley Health’s New York Centre
The centres’ interiors incorporate biophilic design; in plain terms, Parsley Health spaces are designed to make you feel better and healthier with lighting that mimics natural night and lots of plants to induce the therapeutic effect of being outside.
The practice of functional medicine is the foundation that Parsley Health is built on. It involves treating the root problem rather than just the symptoms.
Additionally, Berzin believes that to better diagnose and treat patients’ issues, doctors need to know the full story.
Parsley members spend around four hours a year with medical professionals, including five doctor visits a year and five health coach visits, plus 24/7 communication with your doctor and health coach. Additionally, doctors have the advantage of making use of advanced biomarker testing to offer more effective personalised treatments.
Each step of a patient’s visit is accompanied by unimposing tech that helps inform them without being intimidating or too complex.
“We wanted to streamline the way technology appeared in the space,” Berzin told wired in an interview. “We know that elements like a wall full of screens or a wall full of medical equipment can be scary and intimidating and we didn’t want you to feel that when you came to the doctor. You should feel empowered and inspired. So we used state-of-the-art medical equipment that is small.”
Parsley has built an application that visualizes all of a patient’s data that you can look at with your doctor on a tablet and review your medical information.
“We really wanted that to be part of the experience without dominating the experience,” says Berzin.
She takes a knowledge is power view when it comes to health. Helping patients understand their bodies and the illnesses that affect them, enables the making of better choices when it comes to health and knowing what medications and practices work best for them. After all, “prevention is the best cure.”
“I think there’s a huge opportunity for Parsley Health to be a leader and a hub for the future of health and wellness, and to be an educator that helps so many people understand how much power they have as individuals to transform their health and lives.”
They also make great use of blogging and social media and post medical advice studies and information about their free masterclasses taught by Robin Berzin herself.
“What I love about that is that you get to learn from us and our expertise far before you walk through our doors,” she says.
Sign up for a free video masterclass taught by @robinberzinmd herself! In this class she teaches hacks you can start incorporating into your daily life for improved energy, vibrant skin, and better gut health. https://t.co/fXc3hRWSaq pic.twitter.com/UNDVOHRDAe
— Parsley Health (@parsley_health) June 13, 2019
The future for Parsley Health looks as bright as their interiors, and later this year they will be opening brand new state-of-the-art centres in L.A. and West Hollywood. The company is also building out its technology platform, so that anyone, anywhere, can interact with their doctors, receive diagnostic testing and get a personalized plan.
“We see Parsley Health as redesigning the entire primary care experience,” Berzin told Wired. “Through technology, through spaces, through the actual clinical approach that we offer, which is so different from a regular primary care experience.
We’ve been taught as a culture that you only go to the doctor when you’re sick, but we have so much power to prevent illness. We should be interacting with our doctors far more often. So between our spaces and our technology and our ethos, Parsley Health is designed to be your partner in your health for your lifetime, not just the place you go when you have a sinus infection. For us, that means that Parsley is so much bigger than a medical service.”
Michael Acton Smith