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Babylon Health

Babylon is a subscription health service provider that enables users to have virtual consultations with doctors and health care professionals via text and video messaging through its mobile application.[1]

The service also allows users to receive drug prescriptions, referrals to health specialists, and book health exams with nearby facilities.[2]

It agreed to provide its artificial intelligence technology to WeChat in April 2018 so the one billion users can enter their symptoms and get back healthcare advice.[7]

The app enables users to confidentially send text messages, photos, and video inquiries to the company's team of health care professionals that include doctors, nurses, and therapists.[3]

Babylon's claims have been widely disputed and are currently under scrutiny from the UK government and physician groups, mostly related to underperformance and a refusal to apply standard good scientific practices of peer review.

The service is meant to answer questions for common medical topics such as fever, sore throat, allergies, skin irritations, and colds.

The AI achieved 92% accuracy compared to the doctor's 82% and the nurse's 77%, though these statistics were for the correct diagnosis being captured as one of the top 10 results returned, with the correct diagnosis returning as the top result just slightly more than 40% of the time.[18]

There have been challenges to this assessment because '‘data in the trials were entered by doctors’ and not real-life patients or ‘lay users’' and in 2018 the company said they were 'currently in the process of performing a larger, real-world study, which we intend to submit for peer-review.'[19]

It claimed that patients could 'book an appointment within seconds' via its smartphone app and have 'a video consultation with an NHS GP typically in under two hours of booking, anytime, anywhere'.

Nor did it state that potential users must live within 40 minutes of one of five surgery catchment areas in London in order to see a GP in person.[20]

By February 2018 it was providing about 2,000 10-minute video consultations a week, 30% outside normal 8am-8pm GP opening hours, and with many of the doctors working from home.[25]

In May 2018 Hammersmith and Fulham Clinical commissioning group was looking for an additional £18 million to meet the cost of the 26,000 patients now registered with the practice.

Hammersmith and Fulham Clinical Commissioning Group removed the clinical restrictions on registration in November 2018, though 'patients will still be advised that sometimes it may not be clinically appropriate for patients to register with a practice that is not local to their home'.

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