UK’s NHS tests Babylon’s triage chatbot in effort to streamline non-emergency hotline
The UK’s National Health Service has devised a plan to take advantage of Babylon’s chatbot in an effort of seeing if chatbot can effectively replace services of the call center for non-emergency medical triage.
Babylon is a UK-based telemedicine startup and a major telemedicine provider that has specialized in offering direct-to-consumer services. Their most notable offering is AI-powered chatbot that can easily solve patient issues and can even escalate to a video visit between patient and health provider if such service is deemed necessary. For the purpose of this six-month trial, Babylon will be focused only on their chatbot and video services will not be offered.
Babylon will be responsible for providing service in a six-month trial in north-central London that is responsible for offering medical services to over 1.2 million covered citizens. The average service by Babylon’s chatbot requires only 12 text messages, and the entire triage requires around one and a half minute. Users will have access to chatbox, and if the doctor visit is deemed necessary, they will have to get in contact with their own GP.
NHS plans to use chatbot to replace “NHS 111”, their non-emergency hotline that has thus far been staffed by call center workers which may or may not be medical professionals. Financial Times has reported that NHS 111 recently became under scrutiny for being too inefficient in solving patient issues and requiring high upkeep cost. It was speculated that NHS 111 required from British taxpayers to pay more than $20 (16 pounds) per a single call. The goal of this chatbot trial is to offer more streamlined infrastructure that would provide better health service to covered patients and offer major savings to both NHS and covered citizens.
NHS is currently looking for more partnerships in addition to Babylon. This need is partly caused by the apparent lack of doctor shortage in the UK. One of the partnership avenues that NHS is investigating is the development of advanced AI services. They intend to do that with a high-profile partnership with Google’s AI subsidiary DeepMind which will be responsible for developing a new suite of smart and streamlined medical apps. Some of such apps are Streams (which enables doctors to quickly gather information about their kidney failure patients) and Hark (which helps medical professionals to better organize information that is recorded in hand notes).
Previous attempts of NHS to modernize their services with the help of app-development programs ran into controversy when DeepMind apps gained access to the full medical history of around 1.6 million patients. NHS responded to that by detailing new agreement plans with their external partners.
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