AI News, Disruption in Medicine (September 5, 2019) artificial intelligence

Babylon Health

Babylon Health is a health service provider that provides remote consultations with doctors and health care professionals via text and video messaging through its mobile application.[1].

There have been a number of concerns raised regarding the governance of Babylon Health, in particular the use of misleading promotional claims and the safety and quality of the advice offered by its artificially intelligent Chatbot.[4][5][6][7]

Babylon Health provides healthcare services through either their website or iOS and Android mobile applications, this is funded variously through a subscription based model, pay-as-you-go payments, centrally funded initiatives like NHS or as part of health insurance packages.

Alternatively, users can hold video messaging consultations with a clinician to answer questions for common medical topics such as fever, sore throat, allergies, skin irritations, and colds.

This service also allows users to receive referrals to health specialists, have drug prescriptions mailed to the user or sent to a pharmacy or to consult with therapists to discuss topics such as depression and anxiety.

In situations where a physical examination is required users can book health exams with a limited number of facilities in London, nurse appointments are limited to one location [19].

In addition to the direct healthcare services, users can access various health monitoring tools such as an activity tracker, ordering home blood-test kits [20]

In June 2018, the company announced that its AI had the ability to diagnose health issues as well as a human doctor, however these claims have been widely disputed and the methods of evaluation utilised by Babylon discredited.

The Care Quality Commission published results of its July 2017 inspection in December 2017, finding that the company was not providing safe and effective care because some GPs did not follow the company’s own policy around checking a patient’s identity and prescribed medication outside “of their licensed indications”.[23]

As a consequence, Hancock has been accused of breaking the ministerial code by endorsing a private healthcare company in a sponsored newspaper supplement, and the Shadow Health Minister, Justin Madders, has written to the Prime Minister demanding an inquiry.[27]

report by Ipsos MORI published in May 2019 concluded that the Global Sum Allocation Formula was not an appropriate way of funding the service because it “doesn’t take into account demand for services”, the higher rates of turnover and the financial impact on the wider health system.

The spokesman for Babylon said that the Carr-Hill formula, weighted by age and gender, meant that they received about 40% less funding per patient than the national average.[28]

The adverts 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.[29]

The Care Quality Commission rated the service good at its first inspection in May 2019 although it was rated “requires improvement” for effectiveness, largely because of its failure to meet childhood immunisation targets of 90%.[34]

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.[36]

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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