Tend buys two Auckland practices, aiming for more nationwide

5 min read
Martin Johnson

13 December 2021

As featured in New Zealand Doctor

The app-based and in-person service Tend Health has bought two general practices in Auckland and is hunting for more nationwide.

The company has today announced the acquisitions, for undisclosed prices, of Symonds Street Medical Centre and Pakuranga Medical Centre.

Tend opened last year – amid a flurry of online and app-based health offerings – with its own app and a physical clinic in Kingsland about 1.5km from the Auckland CBD. In January this year, it announced it had raised $15 million through a closed capital funding round, which it said would allow it to buy practices and hire more clinical staff.

A cofounder of Tend, Cecilia Robinson, says in an interview the acquisition of the Pakuranga practice was completed on Friday, and it will be integrated into Tend next year. The Symonds Street practice was bought some time ago and reopened under the Tend brand last Monday, following refurbishment.

One large, one smaller practice

Healthpoint last week listed the Pakuranga practice as having 13 GPs.

Mrs Robinson says that practice has about 14,000 enrolled patients and is part of East Health PHO. The Symonds St practice has about 2500 and, like Tend Kingsland, is with Auckland PHO.

She is unsure of the staff numbers at the two practices, but says they will work across the Tend group, which now employs more than 100 people. Most of the doctors across the two practices are staying on

High-quality care, less admin

In a Tend media release, one of the former co-owners of Pakuranga Medical Centre, specialist GP Eileen Sables, says, “We are very excited to work with the Tend team over the coming years to build the future of primary healthcare in this county and to continue to serve the local Pakuranga community.

“We were impressed by their vision and technological capabilities to deliver high-quality primary healthcare services that make it easier and more convenient for people to access a GP. Tend’s also about utilising technology to reduce admin so we can spend more time with our patients – in-person or online.”

Mrs Robinson says in the release New Zealanders for too long have been expected to live with an outdated primary care model. Technology allows patients to be put at the centre and access care on their own terms, and will deliver better outcomes.

The online majority

Since November last year, Tend has enabled more than 80,000 patient interactions, the release says. Two-thirds of patient concerns have been treated via online app consultations with over 95 per cent patient satisfaction.

In the interview, Mrs Robinson says the proportion of patients who have a consultation conducted only online has been highly variable. At COVID-19 Alert Level 4, almost all consultations were initially online, while at other times many people have been triaged into in-person, in-clinic consultations.

In the release, she says the central Auckland health district’s population is growing but is not well served for primary care, with nearly 50,000 not enrolled with a GP.

“The acquisition of the Symonds Street clinic will allow Tend to offer those living in central Auckland easier access to innovative primary healthcare on their terms.”

Acquisition opportunities in the north and in the south

More acquisitions are on the horizon for Tend. Asked in which regions, Mrs Robinson says in the interview, “Literally throughout, so…South Island, North Island, we’ve had opportunities across both islands currently that we are looking at.”

In the release she highlights the rising average age of the GP workforce and says many practice owners are struggling with succession planning as they approach retirement, with a shrinking pool of potential GPs willing or able to buy in. Tend wants to help solve that problem.

The bottom line and the competition

Asked about Tend’s financial progress, she says in the interview, “We are still a start-up in that way. We raised capital to be able to do the right thing…We are focused on being able to make the right acquisitions in the right aream, to be able to ensure that we can deliver the
best patient experience. We are not really focused on anything else other than that at present.”

And when asked about what competition Tend faces at its Symonds Street and Pakuranga practices, she reiterates the number not enrolled in the Auckland DHB area and says, “It’s not really about the competition in the area; it’s about servicing a population base.”

“We are seeing a significant amount of people who are not enrolled with another practice come to Tend, from an accessibility perspective.”

Of Pakuranga, she says it is well served for primary care, but adds that its growing population presents an exciting opportunity for Tend.