Initial thoughts on Babylon Health

Babylon Health have an admirable mission  "to put an accessible and affordable health service in the hands of every person on earth".

Having been frustrated with my "NHS" GP and failings to use even the most basic of Technology such as email and the NHS patient online service, earlier this year I decided to give Babylon Health a try.

App experience 

The service comes with a simple usable app which has clearly been designed with some sense of design and user experience unlike many other NHS apps. You can manage most functions from within the app such as reviewing your record, previous  consultations, book an appointment, etc. You can also access the service via their website and carry out the same functions.

One feature I really like (and wish everyone would implement) is Facebook login as provides a higher level of security and offers 2 factor authentication.

There is an annoying gotcha with still having to enter a "strong" password and then using this to access certain screens when really a pin or an option to switch this off would be nice. It's also worth noting that the password means someone could bypass the two factor if they ever obtained this so there is still some work to do on their security implementation.

Despite this annoying security quirk it is still streets ahead of pretty much everything else you can expect to get out of the NHS,  in particular GP practices. It certainly beats Patient Online hands down.

Easy access 

The service is more or less on demand, think Uber for GP access and you are more or less there. The services is available 24 hours 7 days a week 365 days a year.

As such I've used the service at a time and place which suits me which is usually in the evening having finished work and had my dinner.

To book an appointment you simply go to the website or app and schedule it. Typically I just take the next available slot  but you can be more specific. So far I've yet to wait more than 45 minutes to speak to a GP.

Choice of access 

You can choose to use the app or if you are feeling old school you can take a phone call. I haven't used the phone access as I prefer to use the app for face to face interaction. I did recommend the phone option to my parents as they are less familiar with technology.

For those lucky Londoners who using Babylon under their NHS "GP At Hand"  service they can also pop in to one of a number local GPs should they need an in person visit. I expect that this is the way the service will expand linking in to local capacity to give patients greater choice of access.

Notes and record access 

As someone with a long term condition having a complete and accurate copy of my notes has always been important to me but really hard to obtain. Babylon doesn't solve this for me (more on this later) but it does set an excellent example of how this should be done.

Before your call you can record the nature of your problem so when you talk to the GP they already have an idea of what you want to talk about. After your consultation you get near immediate access to your consultation notes with a notification to let you know when they are ready.

You also get an option of a recording as well which is really simple and handy feature when you cant recall exactly what was said but is also a huge step forward for transparency and trust.

Customer service 

I've been in contact  with their customer service with a couple of issues and also making suggestions and they have always been excellent, especially compared to the traditional grumpy GP receptionist.

If you you look at their reviews and how they engage on social media, you certainly get a sense they are interested in understanding their consumers and using feedback to improve and tailor the service to their customers needs which is more than can be said for my GP who was dismissive at best.

Main issues

The main issue is that Babylon gives me the option to send my consultation notes to the NHS but there is no way for me to share my NHS record with Babylon. This is a fault with the NHS rather than Babylon and the NHS has a long history of locking records in silos where no one can access them, even the local A&E!

Another issue is how poorly integrated our UK health service is. 9 times out of 10 I will use Babylon but if it transpires I do need to see a consultant rather than Babylon being able to refer me on to an NHS service I then have to wait 2 weeks for an NHS GP appointment and tell them what Baylon has already recommended, repeat everything then to be referred. This is bad for patients and the NHS.

I would like to think that public and private provision will become better integrated with time but in the UK there remains a lot of unnecessary hysteria when it comes to the private sector so this remains to be seen.

Summary

In conclusion Babylon Health provides an innovative new way to access GP services and its timely 24/7 is a really handy. As they start to branch out more in to providing NHS services I hope that many more can start to benefit from the service and that service will be better integrated in to the NHS. I will be following their progress with interest.


Useful links and references