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New app 'is like a pocket doctor'
A new smartphone app puts a GP in your pocket, and allows users to have consultations and organise specialist treatment without having to leave home.
The system, called babylon health, has been designed to make healthcare more modern by enabling those who sign up and use the app to monitor their own health, but also have professional medical advice instantly available through video calling and written messages sent from their smartphone.
Dr Ali Parsa, the founder and CEO of Babylon Health, the company behind the app, said:" I've been an entrepreneur in healthcare for some time, and we soon saw that the future of healthcare was not in hospitals, in much the same way the future of technology was not going to be in mainframes but in computers and smartphones.
"We realised that most of the things we do in healthcare revolve around diagnostics and consultations, but we do these in the most arcane way - with phone calls and waiting around and things like that. Everyone has a mobile phone in their pocket so we thought why not make the most of that?"
Babylon is the first organisation of this nature to be registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and has already received designated body status from the NHS, a sign that it could become a cemented part of healthcare in the future.
The app has also been designed so that users will be able to organise consultations with specialists within the NHS as well as sending prescriptions to pharmacies.
"At babylon we are working towards a future where everyone has easy access to high quality, affordable healthcare," said Dr Parsa.
"We want to leverage the mobile devices people already use to make access to healthcare better, simpler and more affordable for all. With easy access, world-class clinicians, comprehensive monitoring and health records all at your fingertips, babylon is simply your own virtual health service in your pocket."
The centre point of the service is the app, which is currently available to iPhone users on iOS, and those on the Android mobile operating system, and can be used to access and monitor a range of services.
Consultations can be organised with GPs, or if the condition is less serious, babylon say a text or picture message can be sent for a quick response.
The British healthcare company say they want to take advantage of the technology revolution and the increased ability to be able to access almost any information, at any time, and bring it to the health sector.
Dr Paul Glynne, the chief medical officer of Babylon and former medical director of University College Hospital, London, said: "Existing models of healthcare have become increasingly inefficient, expensive and inconvenient for patients. However, the current revolution in digital health technology presents exciting opportunities to radically change and improve models of healthcare delivery.
"Babylon has created a unique secure app that converges innovative digital health technology with high quality integrated clinical teams to provide accessible, convenient and affordable online healthcare via a patient's smartphone.
"This represents a hugely exciting development in medicine and will lead the digital transformation of healthcare delivery over the next few years."
The service has a three-levelled subscription service ranging from a pay-as-you-go scheme where users don't pay anything until they require a consultation, to two types of subscription that cover patients using the app between 8:00am and 8:00pm for £7.99 a month, or an any-time subscription for £12.99 a month.
"We want create a global health service that allows people, irrespective of their location or wealth, to access high quality and reliable healthcare," said Dr Parsa.
"Only in the last five years have we become accustomed to accessing our books, music, friends and work from anywhere and at any time. It is now becoming possible for us to do the same in healthcare."
As part of the service, users can buy a diagnostic kit from the babylon store, which enables them to carry out basic medical tests, with the samples then sent off for analysis. The app can arrange for nurse visits as well as referrals, and all consultations are logged so patients can go back and view what has been said previously.
The app is free to download from the App Store or Google Play, and new users are being gradually introduced in the service. Dr Parsa says babylon is using this steady increase as a way of keeping the system stable in its early stages.
"We want to avoid a Terminal 5 situation," he said. "We are a live service and we are always changing and always learning something new. At the moment people are queuing to come into the service, and we are making them live everyday. So far we are coping very well and everything is up and running."
Any concerns over extra strain being placed on a GP's time have also been batted away, with Dr Parsa explaining that babylon operates within the existing system; where GPs and specialists split their time between the NHS and private work.
"We offer a flexible contract for doctors," he said. "We hire GPs and pay their salary at market value for the two or three days a week they work for us. We are buying the time not sold to the NHS, much like when they choose to do private work."