The NHS announced at the top of this month that it would test Babylon Health‘s ‘chatbot’ app for the next six months to 1.2 million people in north London. During the call to the 111 medical hotline number, they will be prompted to try the app, which invites the user to text their symptoms. The app decides through the series of texts, through artificial intelligence, in minutes how urgent the situation is and will recommend action to the patient up to an appointment with their GP, or if acute to go to Accident & Emergency (US=emergency room or department) if the situation warrants. It will launch this month in NHS services covering Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Haringey, and Islington, London. TechCrunch.
The NHS’ reasons for “digitising” services through a pilot like Babylon’s app is to save money by reducing unnecessary doctor appointments and pressure on A&Es. It provides a quick diagnosis that usually directs the patient to self-care until the health situation resolves. If not resolved or obviously acute, it will direct to a GP or A&E. The numbers are fairly convincing: £45 for the visit to a GP, £13 to a nurse and £0 for the app use. According to The Telegraph, the trial is facing opposition by groups like Patient Concern, the British Medical Association’s GP committee, and Action Against Medical Accidents. There is little mention of wrong diagnoses here (see below). The NHS’ app track record, however, has not been good–the NHS Choices misstep on applying urgency classifications to a ‘symptom checker’ app–and there have been incidents on 111 response.
Babylon’s founder Ali Barsa, of course, is bullish on his app and what it can do. (more…)