back to article Patientline results prompt share meltdown

Patientline saw its share price nearly halve today after it released prelimary financial results for 2007. Shares fell over 40 per cent to 2.07p after opening at 4.10p. Results for the year were disappointing and the company warned restructuring its debt burden was the number one priority for the year ahead. For the year …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've no sympathy for the greedy b@st@rds

    I've had to phone a sick relative frequently who couldn't use a mobile phone. Every time you call you have to listen to the same message, which is fine the first time, for the protection of the otherwise ignorate but on the 50th time of hearing "This is a system that allows you to talk directly to XX" etc for over a minute at nearly 50p a minute, plus the mobile margins, I get incensed. I know that, its a freaking telephone, thats what they do!

    The charges are parasitic in this day and age and symbolic of rip-off Britain. The units are relatively handy for TV and the like, but even that should cost that much a day, if they're losing that much money with those charges, they really didn't plan properly.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    patient records?

    How exactly has revenue been hit by the failure of the NHS to implement electronic patient records?

    Sounds like the same logic that suggests people will pay any amount for this service.... "usage has declined in the last 3 years" ... hmm could that be because it is easier to get use of a mobile than to pay extortionate fees?

    Why is it that the bigger the company, the less common sense they have and the more distorted their view of the world....

    Oh well at darwinian evolution is alive in business (if not in American science).

  3. Martin Benson

    Already exorbitant charges increase and STILL.....

    ...they are losing money.

    Perhaps, just perhaps, the costs are so high, people are choosing not to use them.

    Perhaps if the costs were comparable to a mobile phone call, and TV rental was at a similar level, people would be happy to use them - possibly even enthusiastic about them.....

    ...and they might actually MAKE MONEY.....

    Or is that too easy?

  4. Kenny Millar

    Patientline incomming call scam.

    What patientline won't tell you is that for someone to call into a patients phone, you have to listen to 90 seconds of slow spoken nonsense and adverts before it even attempts to dial the patients bedside phone. At 39p per minute thats just a blatent rip-off.

    I have reported Patient line to ICSTIS and encourage others to do the same.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How very sad ...

    ... not!! At the risk of upsetting any shareholders of this company. This is excellent news and hopefully signals the ultimate failure of this Rachmanesque company.

  6. Kenny Millar

    Patientline need admitted for shooting self in foot.

    My wife was in a Glasgow hospital 2 years ago, and again last month.

    The first time round, patientline was relatively cheap and so we used it well. We spent about £15 in one week on TV and outgoing calls - was probably about the same as we would have spent on mobile calls if they were allowed. However this time round we avoided using it at all due to the rip off costs for both outgoing and incomming calls. We bought a £5 tv card and that was that. They lost out on 66%.

    Their new pricing structure is pure suicide. It really is a simple as that.

  7. Steven Hewittt

    Too much too soon

    Why take out millions and millions of debt to invest in a system that seems to expensive to the average punter? Surely they should have just rolled it out one hospital at a time. Take out enough debt to do just one NHS health authority and wait for it to starting making an upwards line on the profit/loss graph.

    Sure, it would have taken longer to implement and roll-out, but unless you have the inital capital for a mass rollout then you can't just jump in.

    At least having 4 hospitals, charging 10p a min for a call and 10p inbound would be seen as alright (compared to the rip off now), and then they could just have waited until it was obvious it was making money.

    Basic business sense, stop trying to run before you can walk.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Glad to see they're on the way out

    In addition to what's been said already: they're not even unique in the market any more, they have a slightly cheaper competitor (it would be hard to be more expensive), Premier Telesolutions, which the brighter hospital administrators are choosing instead of Patientline. Mind you, they're far from perfect themselves: they promote their 10p a minute for outgoing calls, but they don't mention the 50p minimum charge.

    The end can't come soon enough, for Patientline.

  9. E.

    Daft business model

    Now don't get me wrong, I'm not about to defend some of the frankly astronomical costs for using the PatientLine services, but examine how much they've had to spend in order to get the services to the bedside.

    Most of the hospitals in this once-great country (and I don't expect much disagreement with this bit) are woefully underfunded, old, and not designed with electronic services to the bedside in mind. Lucky patients get an alarm buzzer for summoning a dis-interested non-english speaking care assistant who can't or won't perform the job being asked. Luckier patients also get a headset for the hospital radio - which even today can sometimes be no more than an air tube to each ear. The technology is perhaps on par with a cheap kids stethoscope.

    (Side note: the idea of a bedside phone in one of my local hospitals is a payphone (one per ward) mounted to a wheeled trolly with a damn long extension lead back to the nurses station.)

    Given this, the cost to PatientLine of purchasing/leasing and installing all the bedside sets, all the wiring that goes with it, and the central services to drive it, is not a cheap or easy proposition. It is only reasonable that as a business they want to make money from the investment, with the perceived way being to raise prices to what is essentially a captive audience.

    Since this approach is clearly going to be a suicidal public relations exercise, causing complaints and investigations, I would hope that it's the last resort. Saddled with big debt from the installations, probably locked into provider contracts with no hint of a reduction in prices if underlying costs fall, with the banks almost certainly getting grumpy, it seems clear that their business models are flawed and that someone needs firing for validating the assumptions.

    Possibly the only way out for them now is for the banks to close them down, sell the kit and infrastructure to the highest bidder who can put together a decent business case, and get call costs back down to where they should be.

    (Or the government could step in and save another rubbish business - under which circumstances you just know that the health minister would advertise this as major investment in patient services rather than propping up yet another failed enterprise.)

    As a side note, and to close, any excuses or rationale which includes (electronic) patient records is lunatic and grasping at straws. Patient records aren't fully in electronic form yet, haven't been fully rolled out, may not even be legal, are way over budget, and perhaps most importantly for this one, contain nothing at all of any relevance to PatientLine.

  10. Peter

    Patientline ripoff

    I've had to spend some time in hospital recently. My objections to the Patientline service are -

    The Telly screen is an oldfashioned flat screen with poor viewing angles and poor contrast. On well lit broadcasts eg BBC it's 'almost' acceptable, by the time a movie has been processed from US to UK it's virtually unwatcheable.

    There is a limited selection of channels available, seemingly collected from Sky as they devote a whole channel to advertising for Sky. (Nevermind the weird foreign channels like Rumanian!)

    If you try the internet (and it's a bit of a pain using it) you'll find that content like Flash, pdf etc don't work.

    If you go to their complaints page and go through the seemingly endless series of questions, when you eventually arrive at the end, the web page crashes without saving anything.

    The bloody nasty screens ALL come on automatically at about 8am. Although soundless they run continuous advertising with rapidly moving images to grap your attention. You have to get out of bed and go round the ward turning the bloody things off before you can get any peace.

    Sadly a proportion of idiots put money in the things then run it all day with the sound on 'speaker' and a dreadful choice of daytime shit. It makes rest and recovery a serious strain for the rest of the ward.

    Most people are now using mobile phones in hospital - although a few wards are still concerned about eg heart machines. Occasionally a senior nurse will have a strict(er) policy about mobiles - then you just wait until she's out of earshot...

    The same proportion of idiots who run the TV on speaker (they can be used with headphones) seem also to have the most intrusive ringtones on their mobiles which they then use frequently to ring a receive calls from ;friends', make drug deals etc.

  11. Mr Smin

    EPR

    The point about Electronic Patient Records non-implementation affecting PatientLine is that there was a cunning plan for the clinical staff to have patients' notes displayed on the screen at each bedside, instead of on paper.

    Presumably the NHS was going to pay for the privilege of this. I can't actually see Patient Line delivering the necessary service level while running Windows for Ward Staff though.

  12. Dillon Pyron

    Comparisons

    Let's see, in the US the TVs and phones (local calls) are free in most hospitals. But we paid a $2000 deductible for a lumpectomy ($19,000 charged to insurance, they paid something like $12,500 in negotiated fees). In the UK, it's "free", but you pay for phones and TVs. Sounds like we're all getting screwed, just in different ways. But I'll bet you don't run up $2000 in phone and TV bills. If you did, PatientLine shouldn't be in any trouble.

  13. Anthony Bathgate

    WTF?

    Why does this cost money? Every hospital I've ever encountered in the US has a landline chillin' next to every bed except the ones in the emergency room (Even the ICU has phones!!!), all plugged into the PBX and ready to go. Move a patient into the bed, part of the paper-shuffling activates the line and adds it to the receptionist's database to allow them to patch through call-in relatives and give them the direct phone number. And it's all free-of-charge - part of the boarding charges. Which isn't a big deal, because they're still only buying so many active circuits from the telco, but a nice big block of phone numbers. The same as a whole crapton of companies, really.

  14. Kenny Millar

    Excuse me Mr Dillon Pyron

    I think Dillon Pyron is forgetting something, we brits pay thousands of pounds every year on TOP of our taxes to pay for our health service, on top of that we still have to pay £6.65 for every line on a drugs prescription. Belive me - we MORE than pay for the service we get from our NHS.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Blame my wife!

    When she was in hospital, she used the PatientLine's "Send a friend a free text to let them know your contact details" system to sneakily keep me up to date with things. In the 'To' box she put things like "IamBored", in the 'From' box she then put "NothingToDoHere". I would then get a message saying:

    "Hi IamSoBored. NothingToDoHere would like to let you know that they are in the XXXX Hospital and can be called on 0898 xxxxxxxxx (@£5 per minute)...."

    She did this a number of times, each time it was free, rather than paying some stupid price for sending 160 bytes of information.

    I wonder how often this happens!

  16. AJ

    Not Surprised...

    ... At all they are loosing money, people in their right mind wont pay those excessive prices to make and receive phone calls!! Its bad enough the cost of the TV Service for 24hrs, which only FREEVIEW.

    People need to get a good deal in hospital, If they supplied affordable services that would beat boredom when your stuck somewhere you ideally would prefer not to be then maybe more people would use it. I mean what about these terminally ill patients, before my father passed he was in and out of hospital sometimes 3 weeks at a time, to have tv that cost him £3.50 EVERY 24 HOURS disgusting!!!!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Patientline Rip-Off

    Patientline is a rip-off.

    The government has no business leasing bedside space in taxpayer-fiunded hospitals to parasitic companies that offer an over-priced service to what they hope is a captive market for the benefit of their shareholders.

    It is frankly unethical to be trying to subtract money from the health service to make a profit.

    The rubbish about EPR bears no relation to reality - perhaps there was a boardroom meeting where some Patientline exec came up with the ridiculous idea that they could make money from the EPR scheme in some way.

    Presumably this ludicrous idea was floated in order to ramp up the share prices immediately prior to said boardroom offloading their Patientline shares...

    Having been employed by one of the founding implementers of EPR I can categorically say there was never any serious consideration given to this profoundly anti-social idea.

    When working in the hospitals, I made a point of encouraging all patients to use mobile phones instead of submit to the Patientline Piracy.

    When my wife was in hospital, I gave her a mobile to use, encouraged her to use it, and told her not tro accept any criticism for using it (sensibly) from staff.

    Studies in my hospital showed that the supposed interference from mobiles was not only quasi-undetectable, but was barely a fraction of the interference caused by the Hospital Porters' two-way radio system.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Criminals preying on the weak

    Last year my dad died from leukaemia. While he was in hospital he was forced to pay the ridiculous Patientline bed tax to watch TV and make phone calls. As hospitals receive a cut of call costs from these bedside robbers there is no incentive for them to take note of government guidelines which say it is safe to use mobile phones in hospitals. This is anti-competitive, bordering on criminal, behaviour in my opinion.

  19. Martin Ryan

    Free in the USA

    Anthony Bathgate lauds the Great American Way, saying "Why does this cost money? Every hospital I've ever encountered in the US has a landline chillin' next to every bed ... And it's all free-of-charge"

    What he of course neglects to mention is that the detestable US healthcare system is a private market which many hundreds of thousands of Americans can't afford to access. I assume he is not one of these.

  20. Mark

    Richly deserved

    Rarely have a set of poor financial results given me such pleasure, and I look forward to the final death rattle from a firm that really is the unacceptable face of capitalism.

  21. kev conroy

    Milk the patient for ca$h

    I spent a lot of time in hospital as a kid, long before PatientLine turned up. In The Olde Days yes, the idea of a phone call was getting a phone wheeled to your bedside. Guess what, it worked and didn't cost me a penny to get a call, or a surplus to the kind person calling me.

    Telly? A TV, on a trolley, in place so the 6 or 8 beds could watch it. So what if it was mindless, I can tell you if you're in there for a week or more, not being able to move much, you'll watch anything. The TV's were DONATED by local companies and it .. you've guessed it.... didn't cost a thing.

    PatientLine turned up and all those donated tellies were BANNED from the wards - this PatientLine service is a parasite on the sick and deserves to sink with all on board.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hypocrisy

    A few days ago I had to go and see a Specialist at an NHS Hospital.

    All around the waiting area and in the corridors were signs telling people to turn off their mobile phones in case they interfered with "vital hospital equipment".

    So what happened? I had to spend two minutes of my consultation listening to the Specialist discussing someone else's case ON HIS MOBILE!

    Hypocritical bastards.

  23. Heinz

    Patientline workaround

    Because cellphones are tiny these days, it's easy to conceal one within the hand whilst appearing to make a call using the Patientline handset!

    Try it!

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Free at point of use.....

    Does not mean free. Based on my current p60 and for a 40 year working life I'll have paid £150,000, ($285,000) in compulsory national insurance contributions.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who is at fault??

    Whilst it's understandable that Patientline are taking a great deal of flack for the high prices they charge for this 'service', is it really fair that all the votriolic abuse is aimed only at them.

    As a previous posted noted, the trusts (no doubt with government knowledge and probable agreement), outsourced the huge cost of providing an up to date (and I appreciate that this is relative) TV, Phone and Internet service to the bedside. They did this, in all probability, with full knowledge of the investment that would be required and therefore the cost that users would be required to pay in order to use the service.

    From a commercial perspetive, it is highly likely that investing in a larger number of hospital infrastructure upgrades together rather than waiting for each to pay for itself would have reduced the original installation costs and would have seemed, initially of course, the more viable option.

    Perhaps the trusts should have paid for a service in the first place but they didn't, perhaps the trusts should subsidise the usage cost but they don't. Perhaps Patientline's management board should have done their sums from day one and realised that it was never going to be accepted by users as a favourable payment model but they didn't.

    The point I make is that Patientline went to the trusts with a business plan - albeit a flawed one. They saw and opportunity to make money and the trusts saw an opportunity to deliver a service without paying for it i.e. passing the burden to the user. I notice the trusts that approved the plans are quite happy to sit back and blame Patientline just as we are.

  26. Danny Thompson

    A flawed proposition

    The entire project was flawed from the outset and based on a sense of corporate greed. That, and the fact that Government should not allowed near any kind of financial project - as they have a glowing record of failure stacked upon failure, especially in the NHS it would seem.

    In the modern NHS the Patient and their family are ripped off from the point of entry. Car Parking charges at rural hospitals are an offence against decency. Those with chronically ill family often have to spend huge amounts just to visit. Public transport to those rural hospitals often wholly inadequate in every sense.

    I had a period in hospital at the beginning of 2006 and sampled Patientline for myself. The next day I ordered in my mobile phone and charger and used it during the remainder of my 10-day stay. Now the NHS trust in my area has published guidance allowing the use of mobile phones within the wards - explaining that the supposed risk to equipment no longer exists (it never did!).

    Patientline could have been a good thing for the patients - but for [possibly] all the good financial and corporate reasons it is an entire rip-off, and is seen as such. They can raise their prices all they like - but it will only hasten their demise. And I, for one, would like to see a return to the reasonable approach to providing TV in the wards.

    My only fear at the inevitable Patientline collapse is that the NHS trusts may decide to take the service in-house. That would be a dreadful waste of NHS money even if it is then "free" at the point of use!

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