The British Health Service is Offering AI-Powered Diagnoses to Wolverhampton
The British city of Wolverhampton is experimenting with applying artificial intelligence to its health services in a partnership with health tech firm Babylon. The Royal Wolverhampton National Health Service Hospital Trust (RWT) is providing free access to Babylon’s app, which includes an AI-powered interactive checklist with a chatbot to suggest if a visit to the doctor is necessary.
Babylon Virtual Health
Babylon’s mobile health app is designed to make healthcare easier and more efficient, according to the company. Along with the chatbot for checking on symptoms, the app lets people set up in-person or virtual doctor visits, arrange for prescriptions to be filled, and access NHS medical information. As part of the deal, Babylon’s clinical staff will work as an auxiliary to the NHS in Wolverhampton. As part of the 10-year deal, Babylon and RWT will work to boost the use of wearable health tech and digital health checks with the chatbots.
“With RWT we will be able to offer more care in people’s homes and in the community, foster greater collaboration between service providers and build on the already innovative RWT model of vertical integration (which means RWT has GP and hospital services and staff all within the same local organisation) we can link GPs, hospital doctors and secondary care operators like never before,” said Babylon director of NHS services Dr. Umang Patel in a blog post about the deal. “Imagine the benefits to patients when health practitioners and social care workers can act in concert, improving the patient experience, achieving better health outcomes, and use mobile phones to meaningfully tackle lifestyle-related risk factors like obesity at the source. Integration allows for greater efficiency, prevention and transformation across the NHS.”
British Digital Health
This isn’t the British government’s only foray into merging the NHS with digital technology. The NHS put out a 100-page report about adding technology to its work last year and has been implementing the ideas in it since. In July the NHS and Amazon added a feature to Amazon’s Alexa where health questions posed to the voice assistant will be answered using the NHS website.
Like the deal with Babylon, the British government says these arrangements with tech companies improve the NHS by lowering the demand for doctors for appointments. Critics have raised questions about data security and privacy, a crucial issue, especially with medical information. Babylon touts its high level of cybersecurity on its website, but it’s unlikely everyone will be assured that their data is perfectly safe. Still, with the NHS planning to reduce hospital appointments by a third by 2024 in favor of virtual appointments and AI check-ups, the deal with Babylon looks like it will be the shape of future British healthcare.