The Five Year Forward View specifically references the importance of technology as a ‘great leveller’ in transmitting useful health information, but what steps have the Service really taken to address this new avenue? Always one to keep an eye out for the latest trends in healthcare, this week HealthBid has discovered the latest innovation piloted in the NHS: a medical chatbot for non-emergency health issues.
The most conventional pathway to non-emergency healthcare is through the 111 number. The Care Quality Commissioner (CQC) has reported that calls to the 111 service were often abandoned and those expecting useful advice were often mislead. In addition to this, the cash-strapped NHS pays around £16 per phone call.
A New Approach
The latest attempt to revolutionise the NHS’ approach to non-emergency healthcare is in the form of an app. This has been produced in a collaboration with Babylon Health. The app operates a triage service not a medical diagnosis and will direct individuals to out-of-hours and local services. Such conversations are fast-paced, lasting a minute and a half on average. The app is being trialled for six months across several health authorities in London, with the potential to be rolled out further.
Babylon has declined to confirm the exact figures involved in the deal, so the exact amounts involved are unclear.
The NHS’ collaboration with Babylon Health is one of a number of such deals. In Essex for example, Babylon offers c. 21,500 patients video consultations with doctors through its app. Accordingly, 20% of patients at one surgery have used the app, and the service has significantly cut down on local visits to both A&E and walk-in centres. It seems the heat of modern technology remarked upon in the FYFV is certainly apparent in the NHS in 2017.
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