pocket doctors: Patient-centred health tech

By Pippa Stephens

By using models of the body, surgeons can test out potential treatments and see how effective they are

What if talking to your GP was as easy as ordering a cab on your smartphone?

The cost of medical care, waiting times and disparity in healthcare provision is a source for pessimism for patients around the world – but technology is trying to make things a little easier.

With up to two weeks’ waiting times to see GPs, and doctors warning that things could get worse, access to healthcare in the UK is a hot topic.

Dr Ali Parsa launched the Babylon healthcare app in April. Users have 12-hour access to GPs, six days a week. They can either send in pictures or have a video conference call with one of its doctors or nurses.

Doctors then send a prescription to a pharmacy close to the patient, if required, or recommend the user goes to see their own doctor, or advise specialist treatment, for example with a dermatologist.

Babylon users rate doctors after video consultations

“As much as 95% of healthcare has nothing to do with hospitals. What people really want is conversation and diagnosis,” says Dr Parsa.

“Our current system is inconvenient and expensive. But phones are very, very powerful.

“Why don’t we take all the healthcare anyone needs and put it on the phone?”

About 70% of the world’s population has no access to healthcare so many die from simple infections, he says, but “they do have mobile phones”.

Users can rate the doctors after each video consultation – and consistently below-par scores will see professionals struck off Babylon’s records.

Administrative staff deal with the paperwork so the GPs can focus on treating patients from the comfort of their own home, says Dr Parsa.

He says the app has grown “exponentially” since it was launched five months ago and is now planning to take the app across the world “as quickly as we can”, focusing on the Middle East and Africa.

“We are now looking at parties who have a large customer base, such as supermarkets, big public institutions, mobile phone companies and newspapers.

“If people can go into Tesco and by an iTunes card, why can’t they buy a Babylon access card?” he says.

Dr Parsa says access to healthcare should be as easy as picking up an iTunes card in a supermarket

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