The last time I booked a flight, I went on the net, and searched, compared services and prices and booked.... The last time I was looking for insurance I went on the net, and searched, compared products and services and booked.

So, if I want to see a specialist, book a scan, or visit a physiotherapist...why can’t I do the same for private healthcare?

Well the good news is that when the new launches later this year, patients will be able to do just that...via the web or the new Harley Street App. But how will this be viewed by long established Harley Street practitioners who traditionally are loathe to publish how much it costs for a consultation and are reluctant to see a patient who cannot proffer a GR referral letter?

For many years, Harley Street based practitioners and services have relied on traditional referral routes and medical networks to bring them patients and customers. But patient behaviour in purchasing private treatment and services is changing. Patients have become consumers. The web and more recently mobile technology has begun to dominate our lives and the way we buy things. Harley Street and private healthcare is not immune to these changes and cannot ignore what is going on in the world around it. Why can’t a patient easily find out or compare what a surgeon charges for an initial consultation, or how many of a particular type of operation he or she carries out each year or...ultimately what the clinical outcomes are for that operation by that surgeon? The information is available in many cases...why not make it public? Would you buy a car without some idea of its safety record?

Harley Street doctors are losing out

In the international medical travel market, Harley Street has lost out to up and coming destinations across Europe and Asia that are eager to attract patients and are not afraid to promote and sell their wares. Prospective medical travellers can visit web sites comparing destinations, clinics and prices for consultations and surgery. But Harley Street, London and the UK as a whole play little or no part in this marketplace, relying on historical reputation and traditional medical networks to maintain patient flow.

Both in the UK and in the international market, the internet is creating a new kind of healthcare consumer who wants to know what they are buying and what they are getting for their money. Will the private healthcare sector in the UK respond to their quest for information?

This article was first published in Independent Practitioner Today.

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About the author

Keith Pollard is Managing Director of Intuition Communication, an online publisher in the healthcare sector that operates market-leading web portals such as Private Healthcare UK, the Harley Street Guide, and Surgery Door. Intuition is also active in the online medical travel sector through Treatment Abroad, International Medical Travel Journal and DoctorInternet, the Arabic medical tourism portal. View for my full profile.

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