New NHS-approved app brings healthcare into 21 century by offering video consultations with GPs and allowing users to arrange treatment without leaving home.
Created by London-based start-up Babylon Health, the app is the first of its kind to be registered with the Care Quality Commission and receive the designated body status from the NHS, meaning it could become an integral part of the healthcare system in the not so distant future.
"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,” said Babylon Health’s CEO Ali Parsa.
"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?"
The app, currently available to Android-phone and iPhone users, allows patients to efficiently monitor their health and manage healthcare related tasks such as sending prescriptions to pharmacies. Appointments may be organised swiftly through the app and, in case of less acute conditions, doctor’s opinion can be obtained by sending a picture or a text message.
"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,” the company’s chief medical officer Paul Glynne, a former medical director of University College Hospital, London, said.
"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.”
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.
"We want to create a global health service that allows people, irrespective of their location or wealth, to access high quality and reliable healthcare," said Dr Parsa.
The app offers three levels of subscription 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.
The app is free to download from the App Store or Google Play, and new users are being gradually introduced in the service.