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This article was published on November 6, 2017

NHS now lets you talk to a doctor through a video call

NHS now lets you talk to a doctor through a video call Image by: NHS
Inés Casserly

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is introducing “GP at Hand,” a service which allows patients to have a consultation over video call.

The NHS has teamed up with Babylon Health, a healthcare provider which enables users to have appointments through video calls or text, through its app. Anyone who is already registered with the NHS will be able to talk to a doctor within two hours, and doctors will be able to give them a prescription sent to their nearest pharmacy, or even arrange an appointment in person afterwards if they feel it necessary.

The integration with Babylon Health comes as a sensible solution to Britain’s healthcare delay. Most patients today will have to wait up to three weeks to get an appointment, as a result of a shortage of family doctors — now, they’ll have a GP on their mobile phone, without the hassle and the wait. The service is only currently available in London, with hopes of expanding across the country.

Video call consultations are the newest addition to the already existing AI-powered chatbot which the NHS started trialling earlier this year in the hopes to alleviate the same problem that it’s having now.

Of course, there could be dangers to giving out prescription medicine to anyone who claims to have certain symptoms. That’s why the NHS says the service is less appropriate for those with the following conditions: women who are or may be pregnant, adults with a safeguarding need, people living with complex mental health condition and people with complex physical, psychological and social needs amongst others.

There are also limitations, such as the fact that one needs a relatively powerful smartphone to access this benefit, not to mention a certain amount of tech know-how that some just don’t have.

The next step to improve the service could be by integrating wearable technology like FitBit. Doctors would be able to receive a more detailed panorama of the patient’s body, such as heart rate, sleep and activity information all of which could be affecting your health. This way, it would be safer to give out prescription medicine to a patient, with a decreased risk of giving the wrong diagnosis.

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