At Numan, we are experiencing growth at a very fast rate, which also means that our team is growing quickly. We are building an industry-leading clinical team with the experience and the drive to help us accelerate our ambitious plans to become a truly holistic men’s healthcare provider.
Our Lead GP, Dr. Luke Pratsides, has been one of our key hires this quarter, bringing with him a huge wealth of experience and knowledge, and a contagious passion for digital healthcare. We caught up with him about all things digital health, tackling taboos and the future of healthcare.
Hi Luke! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your career so far?
I am a GP by clinical training and I currently split my time between Numan and working in a busy NHS GP surgery in East London. My role at Numan involves managing the clinical team and developing the range of conditions we treat, with the aim of Numan becoming a more holistic digital health clinic. I want the patient experience with Numan, as a digital health provider, to be engaging and enjoyable, so that patients feel empowered to take control of their health with us.
My work in the NHS gives me an excellent insight into the problems patients face navigating healthcare. I am passionate about digital health and recently held a clinical advisory position at NHSX, the national digital health strategy and policy unit for the NHS in England. In this role I advised on national digital health strategy including projects for outpatient bookings and referrals management and 111 online. As part of the role I also met with over 300 digital health companies to help them navigate the NHS system, with the aim of assisting the best innovations to scale up across the NHS.
I have a broad experience in hospital medicine including trauma, orthopaedics, ophthalmology, obstetrics, gynaecology, psychiatry, general and stroke medicine. I am an advocate for user centred design and completed a joint MSc in healthcare design, between Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art. The course brought together designers and clinicians to employ design thinking to tackle healthcare challenges. Our biggest success was winning funding to redesign the patient flow and environment at a breast cancer clinic in a large London hospital.
What have you learned so far in your role as Lead GP at Numan?
Firstly I learnt that erectile dysfunction really is a significant problem for a lot of men, given the large numbers of new patients requesting erectile dysfunction treatment through Numan on a daily basis. This is in contrast to my NHS GP surgery where a small minority of men ever ask me for treatment for their erectile dysfunction. For me this contrast shows that men are reluctant to discuss male health issues like erectile dysfunction in a traditional face to face consultation.
Numan provides men with a convenient alternative to get treatment for erectile dysfunction, in the form of an online questionnaire, that can be done any time anywhere and still be clinically safe and effective. It cuts out the need to contact a receptionist, explain the problem, book an appointment at a clinic, take time out of work and then discuss the problem in front of a GP who may be a complete stranger. Numan is a huge improvement on a traditional healthcare journey.
In addition, I have been very impressed with my colleagues and their relentless drive and passion to improve healthcare for our patients. Together we are always designing, prototyping and testing new treatments or service improvements. I am learning from my colleagues across the business, in growth, operations, tech, marketing and customer services, every day. Coming from the public sector in the NHS, I was not used to the fast pace of improvement we have here at Numan and it is something I find very exciting.
Why do you think digital healthcare is so important?
I believe digital health has the potential to be the vehicle for the greatest step change in the delivery of more inclusive and better quality healthcare globally, for a generation. To give just a few examples: remote consulting can bring expert clinical advice to patients regardless of geography, technology standards can join up data silos to create a coherent health record, owned by individual patients rather than institutions, which will allow for safer more informed clinical decision making and AI and predictive analytics can change the model of health care delivery; from one that reacts to disease to one that prevents disease, allowing for faster discovery and delivery of tailored medicines.
Men are statistically far less likely than women to seek help for a health concern. Why do you think this is and what can we do to change that?
I think there are a number of complex issues that contribute to mens’ tendency to avoid engaging in healthcare. Cultural stigma certainly plays a role. In many cultures any illness is seen by men as a weakness and therefore men do not discuss their health for fear of appearing less of a man. Particularly problems like erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation are culturally taboo because they are a defect in the very essence of being a man, the penis, and men are reluctant to discuss these sexual issues with anyone, let alone seek help from their doctors. Men tend to be solution focused and if they cannot find a solution to a problem quickly they tend to internalise it. Many men also prioritise other things over their health, for example busy careers, and therefore would be reluctant to take time out from work to attend to a health issue, until it becomes bad enough that it impacts on their ability to function day to day.
We can encourage men to engage with healthcare by providing easy to digest, clinically validated information and a patient journey that is efficient, convenient, clinically safe and effective. Highlighting that problems like erectile dysfunction can be caused by more serious conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol or mental health issues like anxiety or depression, is crucial. If left unchecked conditions like diabetes and high cholesterol can lead to life threatening heart attacks and strokes. We can use the power of marketing, through television and social media, to stress the importance of men taking responsibility and “doing something” about their health.
At Numan, we help men treat conditions that are often stigmatised or treated as “taboo”. What advice would you give to someone who is worried about seeking medical treatment because of this?
I would advise there is no shame in talking about taboo problems like erectile dysfunction, but it would be a shame if an underlying cause like diabetes, high cholesterol, anxiety or depression leads to serious mental or physical health problems, that can be life limiting and in some cases life threatening.
What do you think the future of digital healthcare is?
For me the future for digital healthcare is in the delivery of preventative healthcare and personalised treatments. In the future, advanced AI and predictive analytics would have the power to analyse thousands of individual patient health records, including medical history, lifestyle factors and demographics. This would allow us to understand, in the real world, which medicines work for which people and what the early signs and symptoms of a disease are, before a patient presents. It would mean doctors and healthcare professionals no longer react to treat an illness when it has already happened, instead they intervene well before, to prevent disease.