A mobile app lets users see their GP through video consultations and order prescriptions on their smartphone or tablet.
Speaking at Wired Health, part of EHI’s Digital Health Festival, Ali Parsa, the creator of the ‘Babylon’ app, said he wants to provide people with a “doctor in your pocket”, and give patients access to GPs and specialist nurses six days a week.
Parsa, the former chief executive of hospital group Circle, said the inspiration for the app comes from the difficulty that most people have in accessing healthcare, compared to how easy it is to obtain music and other products using mobile phones.
“It’s almost an impossibility to have readily available access to healthcare for 70% of the world’s population.
“Whether you’re in Kenya or Kentucky, you can get music pretty much at the same time – what if we could do that for healthcare?”
The app, which has been registered and endorsed by the Care Quality Commission, allows patients to send a text message or photo to a doctor for a basic query about their health.
They can also book a full appointment with a consultant via a secure video connection that is recorded and can be replayed afterwards, and be referred to specialists.
Patients can order prescriptions using the app, and Parsa said an in-house symptom checker and health monitoring system using tracking sensors are being developed for the final version.
The app has designated body status from NHS England.
Patient records and other data are stored on a secure server to ensure data privacy while giving patients easy access to their information, he said.
“There’s this whole debate on where the records should be – they should be in your pocket.”
The service costs £7.99 or more a month, depending on how often a patient uses it, for access 12 hours a day, 6 days a week.
There are also plans to introduce the app in developing countries at a lower cost of $1 to $2 a month.
Parsa said there are currently more than 100 doctors in Babylon’s system, with the potential to add more depending on demand.
He said Babylon already has a partnership with insurer Aviva, and believes 90% of all British corporations will be using the app within two months.
A beta version of the app is currently available for download, with the public version expected to launch in mid-May.
The regulation and safeguarding of healthcare apps will be the subject of a lively discussion at the HANDI spring symposium next week.
The Handi Digital Health Spring Symposium, part of the EHI Digital Health Festival, is taking place on 14 May at the Royal College of General Practitioners in London.
Full details of the Digital Health Festival are on its website. Don’t forget about the EHI Pub Quiz, which takes place in King’s Cross, London, on 14 May; we look forward to seeing you there!