App doctors

One Friday afternoon, I decided to check out a pea-sized lump on my neck that was causing me consternation. I started by calling my GP’s surgery in south London. A recorded message informed me there were no appointments that day; after a few minutes, a receptionist came on the line and said that I could have an appointment on Monday. Not too bad, I thought, until I realised she was not talking about the Monday three days hence, but the one 10 days away. Not so good. I could also try for a walk-in slot or a phone consultation from 8am to 10am on weekday mornings.

At this point, I downloaded the app from Babylon Health, one of the leaders in online doctor consultations, on to my smartphone. The homepage was purple and teal, the writing welcomingly blobby. I tapped on “check a symptom” and after half-a-dozen questions, it suggested that I “book a consultation”. I was offered a choice between a GP, a specialist or a therapist. The appointment could be on the phone or a video call… More at The Guardian.

I tried one of these services once and it was actually very good. Reassurance comes at a cost, but it usually feels low compared to the feeling that you no longer need to worry so much about a symptom.

The article above offers an example of the benefits these services offer, even though it once again feels like an editorial advert, and I believe that there will be a boom in such services in the near future.

Getting a GP appointment can be very difficult these days with waits up to 3 weeks not uncommon and anything that can relieve that cannot be a bad thing. I will always support the NHS and believe it is one of the UK’s finest achievements, but it is underfunded, desperately in need of help and cannot sustain itself at the moment. The more to any kind of privatisation is often seen as a terrible thing, but if someone can afford to use a service like this regularly, let them do it and pay their taxes at the same time.

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