NHS ‘GP at hand’ via Babylon Health tests in London–and generates controversy

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Babylon-NHS-tube-advert.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]The GP at hand (literally) service debuted recently in London. Developed by Babylon Health for the NHS, it is available 24/7, and doctors are available for video consults, most within two hours. It is a free (for now) service to NHS-eligible London residents who live and work in Zones One through Three, but requires that the user switch their practice to one of the five ‘GP at hand’ practices (map). Office visits can be scheduled as well, with prescriptions delivered to the patient’s pharmacy of choice.

Other attractive features of the service are replays of the consult, a free interactive symptom checker, and a health record for your test results, activity levels and health information. 

While the FAQs specify that the “practice boundary” area is south of Talgarth Road and Cromwell Road in Fulham, and north of the River Thames, it is being advertised on London Transport (see advert left and above taken on the Piccadilly Line) and on billboards.

Reviewing the website FAQs, as telemedicine it is positioned to take fairly routine GP cases of healthy people (e.g. colds, flu, rashes) and dispatch them quickly. On the ‘can anyone register’ page, it’s stated that “the service may however be less appropriate for people with the conditions and characteristics listed below”. It then lists ten categories, such as pregnancy, dementia, end of life care, and complex mental health conditions. If anyone is confused about these and other rule-outs, there is a support line. 

Babylon Health is well financed, with a fundraise of £50 million ($60 million of a total $85 million) in April for what we profiled then as an AI-powered chatbot that sorted through symptoms which tested in London earlier this year. This is a full-on telemedicine consult service with other services attached.

Now to the American view of telemedicine, this is all fairly routine, expected, and convenient, except that there’d be a user fee and a possible insurance co-pay, as more states are adopting parity for telemedicine services. We don’t have an expectation that a PCP on a telemedicine consult will take care of any of these issues which Babylon rules out, though telemental health is a burgeoning and specialized area for short and long-term support. But the issues with the NHS and GPs are different.

First, signing up to ‘GP at hand’ requires you to change your GP to one in that program. US systems are supplementary–a telehealth consult changes nothing about your other doctor choices. This is largely structural; the NHS pays GPs on a capitation basis.

mHealth Insight/3G Doctor and David Doherty provide a lengthy (and updated) analysis with a critical view which this Editor will only highlight for your reading. It starts with the Royal College of GPs objections to the existence of the service as ‘cherry-picking’ patients away from GPs and creating a two-track system via technology. According to the article, “NHS GPs are only paying them [Babylon] £50 a year of the £151 per year that the NHS GP Practice will be paid for every new Patient they get to register with them” which, as a financial model, leads to doubts about sustainability. Mr. Doherty advises the RCGPs that they are fighting a losing battle and they need to get with mHealth for their practices, quickly–and that the NHS needs to reform their payment mechanisms (GPs are compensated on capitation rather than quality metrics).

But there are plenty of other questions beyond cherry-picking: the video recordings are owned by Babylon (or any future entity owning Babylon), what happens to the patient’s GP assignment if (when?) the program ends, and patients’ long-term care.

Oh, and that chatbot’s accuracy? Read this tweet from @DrMurphy11 with a purported video of Babylon advising a potential heart attack victim that his radiating shoulder pain needs some ice. Scary. Also Digital Health.

Looking back over Telehealth & Telecare Aware’s predictions for 2014

Looking back over our predictions made on 31st December last year, it’s hard to quibble with any, and worth hanging on to those that didn’t come good this year.

Our first was

Security and data privacy issues will become a serious mHealth issue in 2014; developers failing to take great care over security and privacy issues will risk very adverse publicity and worse.

Job done: that certainly proved correct, with many being exposed as either selling or potentially selling private information. Clinicians were not immune from privacy invasion eitherHere is a US summary of the issues. Attention was drawn to an EU Article 29 data protection opinion (actually published in 2013) that sought to clarify the legal framework applicable to the processing of personal data in the development, distribution and usage of apps on smart devices, and the obligations to take adequate security measures.   Many apps got hacked too, including FDA-approved ones. There were also items, such as this one, demonstrating how complex the law is in this area in the US. In the EU, the arrival of the Data Protection Regulation in 2015 (now some say 2016) will undoubtedly improve data privacy significantly, though the failure to treat data used for health purposes differently from (more…)

Healthcare Apps 2014 – a few impressions

This event was held on April 28th-30th in Victoria in London. It was organised by Pharma IQ and clearly had a strong pharma focus (including the charge which at £1995 for industry attendees clearly discriminated in favour of those with big-pharma sized budgets). It was also held just a few days after the significantly lower-priced Royal Society of Medicine event, and in the middle of a London Tube strike, all of which doubtless contributed to the relatively modest attendance (26 paid). I am most grateful to the organisers for kindly inviting me as one of speaker Alex Wyke’s guests.

As mentioned in an earlier post, there was a similarity with the RSM agenda, so I won’t repeat comments made by the same speaker before. The first up was the 3G Doctor, David Doherty, who gave another of his excellent presentations, although the sound engineer sadly made some of it inaudible. After a review of how we had got to where we are, he suggested that the Internet is about to become a device-dominated network. He drew a parallel between (more…)

Babylon app for booking GP visits debuts (UK)

Making news out of Tuesday’s Wired Health UK 2014 at the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) in London is Babylon. From the app (iPhone, Android), appointments with a GP or specialist can be booked 12 hours a day, six days a week, with one of the almost 100 part time salaried and on call doctors in Babylon’s system or a BUPA (private healthcare/insurance system) physician. Also bookable through the app are diagnostic kits and blood tests;  X-rays or scans would be at a partner facility. Have a question or want to check your symptoms? The app directs your text and pictures to a doctor or nurse. Need a prescription? Delivered to your home or a nearby pharmacy. Record storage is on your phone. All for £7.99/month for basic service or £24 per consult–both low prices that seem to be introductory (a/k/a not profitable) or for light users. Babylon is registered with the Care Quality Commission, an independent healthcare regulator, and has designated body status from NHS London.

Founder Ali Parsa, a former Goldman Sachs banker who previously founded Circle, approvingly says that booking an appointment is as simple as ‘booking a Hailo cab’ (in NYC, Uber). This is a more complete model than a ZocDoc or Vitals (US appointment services) with testing and a symptom checker, but it does not seem to have a video consult (more…)

A New Year’s Resolution, ADLs and a new care option

Here are three items that are each important and have hit my screen in the past couple of days – sadly, try as I may, I’m struggling with a common linking theme.

The first, that the 3G Doctor alerted me to, is a simply brilliant talk by Telcare‘s CEO Dr Jonathan Javitt at the Technion Social-Mobile-Cloud Meets Medicine Conference on the 17th December 2013. We’ve all made the arguments that technology enables the genuinely continuing care that long term conditions require, rather than the episodic care our health service is set up to provide, and that technology ensures that patients have clinical support 24/7 rather than in the brief period the doctor or nurse sees them.  However Dr Javitt brings all the arguments together to make such a powerful case that the only sensible way to treat long term conditions is to use technology to help the patient that anyone opposing it might as well try to argue that the earth is flat. As a result I have decided that my New Year’s resolution this year will be no longer to rise to the challenges of the naysayers. (I wonder how long I can keep it.)

The second item is a new take on monitoring activities of daily living (ADLs). For those new into telecare, continuous ADL monitoring looks a brilliant way of picking up an early decline in cognitive or physical decline, often well before symptoms show up in a change of vital signs or response to questions. The challenge though is whether the computer analysing the ADLs is smart enough to cope with activities such as the invasion of the grandchildren, or can cope with multiple occupancy. So it’ll be interesting to see how well CarePredict’s service is received. This uses a bracelet to track someone being cared for, rather than relying on PIRs or similar sensors as many other ADL systems do. Of course, like falls detectors, the problem with wearables is that people take them off, although the mHealth News item claims that ‘seniors’ like the bracelets.

The third item is a BBC item on the attractions of care homes in countries where the cost of living is lower, such as Thailand, which does feel a tad mercenary, although where there is genuine reverence for older people the quality of care can be excellent, and recent revelations suggest that care for older people in the UK is hardly without its problems. A combination of Skype and cheap flights certainly means that it is possible to keep in touch regularly. If it gets to be considered a viable option, it will certainly complicate the economics of technology to stay at home vs care home.

Hat tip to Prof Mike Short for alerting me to the BBC item.

Mainly mHealth: a few predictions for 2014, and some speculation

Editor Charles on what to watch for in 2014

As we have covered previously (and here), there’s no shortage of forecasts that the mHealth market will continue to grow faster, or of penetrating comments like that that won Research2guidance a What in the Blue Blazes award that smartphone user penetration will be the main driver for the mobile health (mHealth) uptake. mHealth apps continue to proliferate – there’s even shortly to be a Pebble apps store. There are a few straws in the wind that not is all well though – for example, as we covered recently, Happtique ceased, at least temporarily, its apps approval process, citing security concerns.  Elsewhere Fierce Mobile described serious data privacy issues with the iPharmacy app, and the ICO recently produced security guidelines for app developers in the UK.  The EU is also strengthening data privacy, moving from individual country directives to a pan-EU regulation. This leads us to our first prediction (more…)

mHealth for Behaviour Change

4 December 2013, Holiday Inn Regent’s Park, Central London, UK

SMi’s masterclass hosted by David Doherty of 3G Doctor will cover the following:

• Introduction to how mobile is changing behaviour (positive & negative)
• Overview of available mHealth technologies
• Lessons from previous research efforts
• Ways Healthcare Providers are leveraging Mobile Technology to change behaviour
• Deep dive on world leading program that uses mHealth tech to manage Chronic Disease
• Insights into how to design for sustainable behaviour change

Information and registration.

Telehealth round-up: the good, the bad, and the future

Getting the bad news out of the way first, the seemingly-eternal researchers have thrown their grappling iron into the ancient store of data from the now-only-historically-relevant Whole System Demonstrator data pool and dragged out yet another unexploded bomb that they have then endeavoured to detonate, in the form of a short research article.

Thankfully the explosive has deteriorated with age so (more…)

Digital Health Summit–Istanbul

18-19 September 2013, Maslak Sheraton Hotel İstanbul

Health tech is definitely spreading worldwide and this conference in Turkey is proof.  Full summit agenda and sponsors are at this link (PDF in English). David Doherty, the 3G Doctor, is speaking on an ‘introduction to mHealth’ as well as Rainer Herzog, Managing Director at HIMSS Analytics Europe. But not easy to register…main website is unfortunately in Turkish with no English option and no obvious place to register! Extreme digging turned up one page in English. If you’re intent on attending, best to call Project Coordinator Mert Akbulut: +90 533 598 17 71 or email dhs@dhsturkey.com

Future GP consultation – boring but very important (England)

NHS England has just launched a consultation on the future of GP practices, with a slide set of the case for change and the NHS’s underlying objectives for general practice together with an evidence pack which provides some information about current general practice and health needs.

This is important to everyone who senses that modern technology can help make a real difference to the way care is delivered because there is a serious lack of ambition (more…)

Internet training for older people vs works-out-of-the-box mobiles

Echoing last week’s “the world has moved on” post on the WSD, the 3G Doctor (David Doherty) has an excellent opinion piece on how AGE UK should spend the money given to it by Google for making it to the final six in the Global Impact Challenge that supports British non-profits using technology to tackle tough problems.

In discussing Age UK’s current plans to use the money to teach older people about the internet he says: “For the £500,000 AGE UK would spend on training 16,000 seniors they could give away (at retail price!) 10,000 of the latest designed for senior 3G CameraPhones from Doro. Works straight out of the box. No training required.”

Elsewhere on his site he has an interesting take too on the reasons behind O2’s announcement last week.