The Club of Seven

Posted on the 24 June 2010 at 15:09

When the TreatmentsYouCanTrust website was informally launched in a briefing meeting in mid-April of this year, one of the trade journalists present asked the presenters if they would be able to cope with a sudden flood of maybe 5000 registrants. There was a quiet confidence that yes, things would be fine. The full public launch was to be in May.

 

My company was the first to register and to date we’re part of an elite “Club of Seven”. Only seven companies or practitioners have registered. The public launch is now to be July. As of today, not one of the big groups has appeared in the Directory. As I recall, BUPA was present at the briefing meeting with Andrew Vallance-Owen lauding the purpose and encouraging registration. I can’t see BUPA in the Directory. All a little bit embarrassing.  So is TreatmentsYouCanTrust a flop?

 

I don’t think so. Despite being a member of a very expensive club with grossly excessive time commitment needed to register, Freedomhealth has experienced a very positive upturn in business directly related to being listed. Patients have discovered the site, understand it and its aims and some of the more discerning of them have opted for a  clinic which is listed. Visits to our website (excluding our competitors nosing about – yes, we know who you are!) have increased very nicely, with the all important search engine optimisation measure, the “bounce” rate, being around 12% with an average of seven pages being read and the average time on the site being around 11 minutes. This is very encouraging and as I say, has translated into real, physical, hard business often at the expense of the bigger groups. So good news for us.

 

To me, the reasons for such a poor take up are obvious. There’s no excuse for the larger groups – that’s just laziness or disdain on their part. For the smaller clinics or the independent operators though there are very tangible reasons why they are not registering.

 

The price is an obvious place to start. Independents will pay £50 to get access to the system to register and then a further £500 per annum. Limited Companies of whatever size will pay £50 plus £1000. If there are other clinics within the group then a further fee is payable per unit. However, that means that my little company will pay the same fee as one of the very large national cosmetic groups even though we can be say 25 or 30 times smaller in terms of revenue. Doesn’t really seem very fair or well thought out, does it?

 

Once you’ve paid your fifty quid, then the real fun (not) begins. The registration website is long, difficult to understand, difficult to navigate and negotiate, riddled with errors and seemingly built in delays. In short, it’s a nightmare. When we made our application we were assisted a little by the fact that we are registered with the CQC and so some of the format was vaguely familiar. The rest was awkward, worked badly, was certainly not intuitive and I can imagine that it would put many off. There was also a completely inexplicable delay between paying the £50 and then being able to progress to the next stage. You can apply for a degree course more efficiently.

 

At a recent clinical symposium I had the opportunity to talk to several different practitioners about the TreatmentsYouCanTrust scheme. Most were irritated by the awkwardness of the website and many had tried and abandoned it, dismissing it angrily as irrelevant.

 

When I registered, it was truly difficult. I think of myself as computer and web literate but the site was very frustrating indeed. I was fortunate to have excellent and swift help from Angela Payne from CHKS which made it eventually possible to get through, but I don’t know if she would have the time to do that with the speculated 5000 new registrations.

 

The scheme is a good idea, and it has benefited my clinic in only a very few weeks. I’d encourage smaller practitioners to register as it will help them develop their business. I’d be happy to help (some!) get through the problem areas. The absence of the large groups from the register is not unexpected, but shameful nonetheless.

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