The chair of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) has argued that GPs are not ‘technophobic dinosaurs’ who are reluctant to move with the times, while re-iterating concerns about Babylon’s GP at Hand.
Helen Stokes-Lampard told fellow GPs at the RCGP’s annual conference in Glasgow on 4 October that, far from being “afraid” of innovation, GPs are the champions of safe technology, yet sky-high costs make keeping up with private companies impossible.
Speaking on 4 October, she said: “I get really exasperated when I hear accusations that GPs are technophobic dinosaurs. What utter nonsense.
“GPs are not ‘afraid’ of technology or innovation. But robots don’t come cheap, tech costs money, and for GP practices that are already on the brink, implementing new, good technology is unfeasible.”
Stokes-Lampard also accused wealthy tech companies of creating a “digital divide” as younger and fitter patients are “siphoned off” at the expense of those in greatest need, and then using “bully boy tactics” if anyone challenges their methods.
The sticky subject of Babylon’s GP at Hand was also brought up, which the RCGP has previously accused of cherry-picking younger patients.
Though she branded the technology “impressive”, Stokes-Lampard challenged the way in which the service targets new patients, arguing this threatens the financial model of traditional NHS general practice.
She also renewed the RCGP’s calls for a robust, independent evaluation of GP at Hand to assure patients it is safe.
Stokes-Lampard said: “We need rapid, independent and scientific way to evaluate new innovations, such as online consulting options, software, apps and wearables, so that we can swiftly, safely and effectively establish which is the good new technology.
“Give us the IT tools we need in a way that does not put our existing services at risk – in a way that benefits all our patients and makes our working lives easier.”
Speaking to Digital Health News after Stokes-Lampard’s speech, Mobasher Butt, Babylon’s chief medical officer and GP at hand practice partner, thanks the RCGP for her comments about GP at Hand’s technology and also echoed calls for improved evaluations of “rapidly evolving technology”.
However, Butt said he was “disappointed” that the RCGP accused technology companies of causing a rift.
He added: “We are not creating any digital divide – it is a shame the RCGP appear to be the ones creating a divide.”