Intended for healthcare professionals

Views And Reviews Acute Perspective

David Oliver: Lessons from the Babylon Health saga

BMJ 2019; 365 doi: (Published 05 June 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;365:l2387

Lessons from the Babylon Health saga: care needed in learning them

When some time has elapsed following the introduction of GP at Hand there will no doubt be some analysis of outcomes. I suspect those outcomes will show the app to be successful in delivery of healthcare but there will need to be caution in the interpretation of this.

Assessment of the people using GP at Hand is that, despite being younger and having fewer health problems than conventional users of GP services, they were higher users of services such as NHS 111 and urgent care. Butt and colleagues, in their response to Dr Oliver, tell us: “the overwhelming majority of our users joined our practice because they couldn’t access a GP at their previous practice.” This implies that GP waiting times will not readily put them off from discussing potentially important symptoms. This contrasts with the approach of the journalist Matthew Parris who was dissuaded in this way from reporting a skin condition[1]. In addition, they are clearly capable of using such a system and comfortable doing so.

When Babylon’s users develop cancer they will be more likely to have operable disease and their survival rates will be superior to the rest of the population. It will be fallacious to conclude that this is because of the way GP at Hand works, it is more likely to be because they have attributes that ensure they get prompt attention to their presenting symptoms.

1] Parris M. The Times 7th July 2018

Competing interests: No competing interests

10 June 2019
S. Michael Crawford
Clinical Lead for Research
Airedale NHS Foundation Trust
Skipton Road, Steeton, Keighley, West Yorkshire BD20 6TD