AI is a key enabler in the launch of GP at Hand, a free NHS service from babylon health which provides 24/7 access to healthcare from a mobile app.
GP at Hand aims to reduce the burden on GPs while also cutting the waiting time it takes for a patient to see a doctor from the current average of two weeks, to just a matter of minutes.
Dr Howard Freeman MBE, senior GP said: “GP at Hand is a window into what the NHS of the future will look like. When innovative NHS GPs embrace babylon technology to make life better for their patients, the sky is the limit.”
A patient gets started by moving their medical records over to the digital-first service just as they would moving practice. Patients can determine using an AI in the app if their symptoms require further attention. If required, the app puts the patient in a video chat with a GP as soon as one is available. Any prescriptions can be sent automatically to a pharmacy of the patient’s choice. If deemed necessary, the patient can be booked in to be examined at a practice.
There are multiple benefits to this approach:
Accessibility. People with limited mobility, for example, may have other ailments which don’t require visiting a practice — but doing so today can be difficult.
Convenience. Growing waiting times means it can take weeks to get a normal appointment, and then journeying to — and sitting around in a practice waiting for your turn while feeling unwell — is not ideal.
Rather than wake up early to beg a poor receptionist dealing with multiple other calls for an appointment, the ability to request one from your mobile device and get on with your day until the GP is ready would be preferable to many patients.
Further down the line, more GPs could even work digitally from home while taking shifts on who staffs the now less burdened practices.
Hygiene. While steps are taken to improve hygiene, anywhere there’s a lot of people sick carries risk. Doctors can end up unwell themselves and patients in the waiting room could end up leaving with illnesses they didn’t come in with.
Need. By employing AI, the many patients who unnecessarily take up precious GP time can be filtered out while ensuring GPs are available to people who need them.
Record. Speaking from experience, some of us can be forgetful. GP at Hand allows patients to privately go back over recordings of their calls with GPs if they forget any crucial advice to remind them.
Privacy. Patients can speak to a doctor from the privacy of their own home which may comfort some concerned they may run into a friend or neighbour at their local practice.
Currently, the service is only available in London, but there are plans to roll it out nationwide. When patients do need to see a GP in person, clinics are located at convenient locations for commuters and workers including Canary Wharf, Victoria, Liverpool Street, and Euston.
Patients appear to be happy with the service, based on its trial in Fulham. 90 percent gave it a 5-star rating, and 96 percent when also including 4-star ratings. This is much higher satisfaction than with current overburdened practices.
“I know just how difficult times are for GPs these days and how busy they are. GP at Hand, in addition to being very convenient for patients, can help the service given the recruitment crisis we know is facing us,” comments Dame Barbara Hakin, formerly a GP and National Director in NHS England. “This technology can take more of the strain and ensure the best information and insight is available ahead of consultations which will then relieve some of the pressure on hard pressed clinicians.”
In just a few weeks, 3,000 people have become members of the new service, with over 10,000 more registering their interest to join as the service rolls out.
Are you glad to see AI being used to modernise healthcare? Let us know in the comments.