Tech Pitch: Medstars

The founders of the health specialist booking platform discuss how their business removes "secrecy and dodgy dealings" and why Birmingham is a great start-up location...

Company name: Medstars.co.uk
Founders: Mahnaz Hashmi (43) and Barry Lambert (43)
Background: The husband and wife duo are senior consultants with experience working both within the NHS and the private healthcare sector
Based in: Birmingham, with a strong presence in London

Very simply, what does your tech start-up do?

  • Medstars.co.uk is a new expert healthcare platform connecting patients for free directly with a community of trusted, regulated, senior practitioners from across the country in a range of medical and health fields.
  • The platform promises to put transparency back at the heart of paid-for healthcare, with fees and availability of practitioners clearly stated on each profile, enabling patients to compare and contrast before booking and paying for a treatment. Patients can also leave verified reviews, similar to the Airbnb model, to help other patients choose the right practitioner.
  • A flexible pricing model means that Medstars works just as well for independent practitioners working for themselves, as for larger clinics and hospitals wanting to promote the expertise of their most important assets.

Tell us why there’s a need – what do you disrupt?

As experienced senior doctors, we’ve witnessed first-hand the lack of transparency in private medical practice, and the struggle of patients to find the right health expert for their needs at a competitive price. Paid-for healthcare is riddled with poorly regulated practitioners making confusing claims about their expertise, opaque pricing structures and little direct communication between patients and practitioners. And that’s if you can find the service you’re looking for!

Finding the right specialist can involve endless Google searches and trawling through websites, so how are you to know who to choose? And how do you choose one practitioner in a given location over another equally good one down the road without compromising on quality?

With Medstars, there’s no secrecy or dodgy dealings. The practitioners we showcase have actively chosen to sign up to Medstars rather than being listed in an online directory without their knowledge.

They all share our values of honesty and transparency with their patients, embrace patient feedback and without exception are members of one of the UK’s nine professional regulatory bodies, ensuring patients get access to the very best paid-for healthcare.

Are you funded?

We’re currently exploring further investment options. Our funding to date has come from innovation grants, loans and our personal investment into the business.

What were you doing before starting?

We work as senior doctors in both the NHS and private practice, with over 40 years healthcare experience between us, and fully understand the challenges in both the public and private sector. Hashmi is a consultant psychiatrist whilst Lambert is a consultant pediatric anesthetist.

We’re huge advocates of the NHS, but political changes have meant that routine provision is increasingly moved into a less regulated, more fragmented private sector with commercial priorities, and our experience is that less regulation rarely translates into better healthcare for our patients.

What’s the best thing about where you’re based?

Birmingham has always been an incredibly entrepreneurial city where new ideas are encouraged. It was the heart of the industrial revolution and has a history of nurturing innovation and creativity, which is still the case today.

The coffee shops here are full of talented people creating exciting new businesses armed with a laptop, a mobile and a great idea. It is also one of the UK’s major digital hubs with over 6,000 tech firms employing in excess of 38,000 people, plus thousands of computer science and business students from the city’s three major universities. Big firms such as HSBC and ASOS are also relocating offices here.

In the centre of UK, you can get everywhere really easily to grow your business and network, but also escape to the stunning Welsh mountains or Cotswolds in no time at all if you need to clear your head and get perspective on the day-to-day whirlwind of setting up your own business. Additionally, the cost of setting up a business, employee wages and living are far lower than in London but you get the all benefits of a big buzzing city whilst being less than 90 minutes from the capital.

It’s also a very supportive environment for entrepreneurs – co-working spaces, start-up business accelerators, grants, backing from big academic and plenty of commercial hubs in the Midlands. We’re part of an accelerator called Entrepreneurial Spark in the heart of the city, which is supported by RBS and KPMG, and been great in challenging us and encouraging us to think lean. Birmingham offers diversity and is a creative place with loads of energy. It just feels like an amazing place to set up a business. Plus, the cost of coffee here is cheaper than London which is very important!

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