The smartphone has brought a lot of useful functionality to our lives. There’s an app for nearly everything from ordering flowers to finding your way in strange lands. Yet, while there have been many improvements in the area of health; such as the heart monitoring functions and pedometers – you’ve still always had to visit a GP when something goes wrong.
Recent material published in The Guardian shows that GP services simply aren’t keeping pace with the way we live our lives. Fewer than 1 in 3 people is offered a same day appointment. Many surgeries are offering endless queue systems where you have to turn up to the surgery and wait, and wait, until you’re called.
Doctors don’t seem to like the way we work either – surgeries are still mainly on weekdays and during the day time. We understand that like most of us, they have families too but it means a visit to your GP is always going to come out of the working day. Our employers aren’t always as understanding about this as they might be or in the case of small businesses – they simply can’t afford to lose people for a day at a time for minor medical issues.
This leads to people seeking treatment at Accident and Emergency; for things which are neither accidents nor emergencies. The health service is feeling the pressure and while the NHS may still be free – it’s not delivering on the premise of basic care conveniently.
Enter Babylon Health. In partnership with BUPA, Aviva and AXA they’re changing the way that we can access treatment and integrate medical care into our busy and inflexible lives. The means of this change? An app for your smartphone; well an app for your Apple or Google Android phone at the moment; Windows phone users, all 4 of them, will have to wait for the moment.
This app offers a range of monitoring services using a series of in depth monitoring systems; nothing particularly new there – though they do bring together services that otherwise might require multiple apps.
It then goes on to offer face-to-face doctor’s appointments over the smartphone. This does cost money – you either need to pay by monthly subscription (5 quid a month brings you unlimited access to the service), on a one-off basis (£29 per appointment), or have this included in your health insurance policy.
You can also order prescriptions via the app and have them delivered. Then there’s the handy benefit of being able to access your own medical records whenever you want to – though you might want to be careful about this; hypochondria can result from spending too much time worrying about health issues.
For the insurers involved – the benefit almost certainly comes in the form of data generated by the monitoring suite. For the busy working person – the benefits are completely clear.