- Name: Timothy Green
- Business: GPsurgery.net
- Role: Director
- Business function: NHS GP website provider
- Sector: Healthcare tech
- Hub member since 2018
What follows is an interview by Kate Bendix with Timothy Green for Platinum Business Magazine, November 2022.
I’m chatting with Tim Green about his cutting-edge digital business GPsurgery.net and how he’s got to where he is when suddenly, he pipes up, “do you remember cassettes? Y’know, C60s, C90s, Maxell?” and I squeal, “Mix tapes!” I am transported back to the 1980s; Sunday night, Top 40, in my bedroom trying to record Don’t You Want Me by Human League to the end without tipping into Eye of the Tiger. The atmosphere was tense and skills were put to the test. Now? Spotify! No drama, just Software as a Service (SaaS).
And that is Tim Green’s business in a nutshell.
Tim is your typical engineer. As a child, he loved taking stuff apart to see how it worked. “I always wanted to do something useful.” Judging by his career, it’s mission accomplished.
After studying engineering, he headed to Kenya for a year as a volunteer on a water drilling project. Back home in ‘sunny’ Britain, Tim trained as a primary school Special Educational Needs (SEN) teacher. Just think about that, a special needs primary school teacher and a man. Hen’s teeth! Sadly, for Tim’s pupils, like many, he loved teaching but found working in education frustrating and, at times, toxic. So, it was back to engineering he went.
This time, to shift work maintaining machinery at a company producing those nostalgia-inducing cassette tapes. “It was hard work, but you learn something new from every job. Things were starting to go digital; cassettes became CDs, and I became interested in digital recording and how people could learn through tech, using CD-ROMs.” I feel another pang of nostalgia, but at the same time, relief as there’s no mention of floppy disks.
“After a while, I needed something more and went back to do an MA in Interactive Media. I loved it for its creativity and technical skills.”
Afterwards, Tim landed his dream job with LEGO working on a project combining robotics and coding. “The ad said based in London and Denmark. What I thought would be the odd trip to the Denmark office turned into eight months in Denmark, flying home every other weekend. I wasn’t too popular.” Tim worked on a system that combined a LEGO brick with a microprocessor. “Kids could attach, say, wheels to it, or a motor, then drag and drop the right code they needed into place on the screen to start the motor and get it running. I loved it. That kit is sold worldwide now used by industry and schools.” Tim then slides in with a casual “I worked on the first ever Star Wars game too.” I mean, come on! Best. Job. Ever.
In 2001 Tim became a dad. Burned out and needing a reset in 2003, Tim and his wife, Rosalind, a healthcare communications specialist and their baby daughter, moved to Italy for two years. “Two years gives you a lot of time to think as I had no idea what to do next.” So, after a lot of down time and red wine under the Italian sun, Tim and Rosalind came up with the idea that would revolutionise how GPs manage their digital presence.
GPsurgery.net is a website platform that simplifies that patient journey allowing patients to help themselves and find the information they need without visiting a practice or their GP. The GP practice can broadcast messages to their patients, communicate with their network of practices, and admin times are slashed. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
GPsurgery.net operates a SaaS business model with three membership tiers on a compliant and accessible template website. Select the tier that works for you and crack on, creating content any patient can access.
Of course, nothing is born fully formed.
www. – the Wild Wild West
Think back to 2005. Technically, the Internet and websites were all over the place. “One barrier was that there were no widely adopted web standards, little to address accessibility, we had to make eight versions of the same website so that anyone could access it. We had a head start because we were ahead of our time, but we still needed to build something everyone could use.” Tim applied the same logic as he did to the water drilling project in Kenya. “A website is just the tool, so how were we going to build what we needed with what we had to hand? We developed our own standards.”
“Everything was on paper in those days, so at first, it was a brochure site. As time passed, we could link up with other sites offering booking services, for example.”
The Digital Front Door
The point of GPsurgery.net is to simplify the patient journey. “It’s the starting point for the patient and GP to access information and each other. But it must be simple. If a patient is in distress or a child is unwell, they need information quickly and it’s our job to make it easy for them to find and utilise it.”
We all think GPs do a fantastic job; Tim puts it into perspective “The NHS is messy, huge and multi-faceted. GP surgeries offer an amazing range of services; test results, repeat prescriptions, mental health provision…the list goes on. We join up all the things they need. We simplify the path for patients to find text messaging, video call and online booking options, referrals and self-help information.”
Running the business
Running a small, agile business means using what you have to the best effect, which appeals to Tim’s engineering/useful mindset no end. “In meetings, we ask, ‘how can we use what we have to greater effect?’ I use my corkscrew metaphor; you could buy something fancy pants, huge, sitting on the table like theatre. Or get one with a piece of wood for a handle and a metal screw. Don’t waste time reinventing the wheel, don’t spend money when you already have what you want right in front of you.
Learning to let go
In 2019, Tim had a tough decision to make, where to take his business next. He had other projects on the go on top of GPsurgery.net, so he sought the help of Rob Day from MDHub to help him work through the issues and reframe his thinking. “Rob’s run his own business. He’s been where I am; our conversations were based on real experience. He gave me confidence and was fundamental in helping me make the decision to let my clients go and focus entirely on GPsurgery.net. It was hard, I’d built real relationships, but it was the right thing to do.”
Four months later, Covid hit, and suddenly, every GP surgery needed online services. So what’s a small, agile business in the medical sector during a pandemic to do? Innovate! Tim and his team created an express template. “Again, we used what we had instead of inventing something new. At one point we were launching eight new sites a week, including training the surgery staff to use the system. We learned so much and the pandemic forced the pace of change.”
Running a business can be a never ending to-do list. “When I joined MDHub, I questioned what I did every day. Being a member gives me the courage to change, test new stuff and let some things go. My peer group allows me to ask the big questions in total confidence. I now run my business in a more structured and analytical way. Belonging to the MDHub helps me stop doing what’s in front of me and focus. I can sit back and decide on the most important thing to do.
GPsurgery.net covers the UK and Northern Ireland, with over six thousand GP surgeries in England alone. “There’s a lot of opportunity out there for steady growth. Where there were only single practices, now there are groups with unique requirements. We now supply a service of one central site covering an entire group of surgeries. Everyone’s on the same message, and admin time is drastically reduced.
Our customer retention is high; we’re ‘sticky’. We visit practices and chat; what are the pain points, and how can we improve the site for our users? Our job is to ease the burden for everyone with one simple piece of software.”
Only a few years ago, everyone’s medical records were a thick wadge of notes, referrals, and test results wrapped in a dog-eared brown cardboard cover held together with more elastic bands the older you got. Not so today. Out of curiosity, I visited my GP’s website, which turns out to be an Aladdin’s cave of self-help. I now know everything there is to know about nasal polyps, I’m not as depressed as I thought, and I managed an overachieving 49 on my hip score! I didn’t even have to pick up the phone.
Thank you, Tim.