Innovation

Doctor in your pocket? Babylon replaces your GP with an app

By Alex Wood 9 June 2015
You may be able to replace your doctor with the new Babylon app
Summary

Babylon’s subscription service could be the start of a healthcare revolution.

We’re all living longer and with Britain’s population set to grow, unless something drastic changes our national health service will be stretched to breaking point.

A new app called Babylon could be the answer, and it’s set to revolutionise the way you think about healthcare.

What if you could access a doctor 24 hours a day from your pocket? And what if it could monitor your health and predict problems before they become symptoms?

Like many busy people you’ve probably struggled to get hold of a doctor’s appointment at short notice.

At its heart, Babylon offers you access to hundreds of specialist doctors at your fingertips through built in video-call consultations.

There’s no need to book an appointment in person and the doctors are on hand to speak to you on your terms no matter where you are in the world.

During the video consultations doctors can write up private prescriptions through the app. The cost? Just £4.99 per month for unlimited appointments.

But this is just the start of a service that’s set to shake up the way we think about our health.

Get yourself tested

Babylon has already built up a loyal base of tens of thousands of busy people looking for a cost effective way to get access to personalised healthcare.

 

In their latest release they have now launched the first medical testing service from within the app.

In a couple of taps you can order yourself a home testing kit for diabetes, liver disease or even a general health MOT.

The kit is sent by next day delivery and once returned results are processed within 48 hours. Tests start from £50.

The doctor in your pocket

Babylon’s ambitions go far beyond doctors appointments. “We want to be the company at the forefront of artificial intelligence in medicine” founder Dr. Ali Parsa told The Memo.

Already the service offers a simple “Ask a question” feature for those times when you want to ask a doctor a quick question without the need for a full consultation. Think of it as NHS Direct but through text messages.

Babylon’s developers are working with some of the world’s leaders in artificial intelligence to automate responses to common questions, with the aim of giving patients near instant feedback.

What separates Babylon from anything we have seen before is the way it keeps all of your data together, from questions and consultations all the way to your longer term health history.

While you continue your everyday life, the app talks to Apple’s built in health system, taking in your daily steps and any other data you collect including (if you choose to disclose it) your body weight or calorie intake.

All of this data can be viewed by your doctor remotely, giving them instant access to your body’s key metrics.

By constantly monitoring your vitals, Babylon could in the very near future be able to alert you and your doctor health problems before you feel the symptoms.

The downsides

Don’t cancel your NHS doctor just yet as there are drawbacks to the service. Babylon’s doctors are free to write you a private prescription, but this forces you into paying private prices for your medicines.

Asthma sufferers will be hit particularly hard. Babylon estimates the cost for typical inhalers will cost around £360 across a year, versus the standard NHS charge of around £8.80 per prescription.

Their advice? Get your prescription from your NHS family doctor.

Our take

Who’s it for?

Busy professionals who want medical advice without the hassle and inconvenience of appointments.

Design

Babylon’s design is crisp and easy to use. iPhone 6/6 Plus users will be disappointed to find the app is not yet optimised for Apple’s new larger smartphone screens.

The good

The service has the potential to revolutionise the way we think about healthcare. The NHS is already taking notice and Babylon has been involved in trials with a number of trusts looking to reduce the reliance on traditional doctor’s appointments.

The bad

People with longer term conditions requiring regular medicines may find the private prescription costs prohibitive.

The bottom line

At just £4.99 per month, Babylon offers a low-cost alternative to going private for your healthcare. If their investment into artificial intelligence pays off, this could be the start of a revolution.