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Hospital trust signs deal with Babylon to provide consultations online

Trust chief executive anticipates that around half of consultations could be conducted online

Ingrid Torjesen

Thursday, 23 January 2020

The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust has signed a deal with the technology company Babylon Health to adapt its “virtual GP” technology to work across all hospital services.

The app would share information between GPs and specialists as well as allow patients to consult online and see test results. The trust anticipates that around half of consultations could be provided online and hopes to sell the technology to the rest of the NHS if it proves successful, The Times reports.

The deal between Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust and Babylon is a 10-year partnership agreement to develop a new healthcare delivery model of "Digital-First Integrated Care" that will be used to deliver care for 300,000 people across Wolverhampton and its surrounding areas.

Patients and staff will use Babylon’s technology, such as accurate symptom checking, video consultations, real-time monitoring of diseases through apps and wearables and evolving artificial intelligence (AI) and 24/7 digital support to manage care, and Babylon’s national network of clinicians will increase the number of staff available to look after patients.

Trust chief executive David Loughton said that using the technology it should become possible for a patient with a long-term condition to take a blood-test at home, have the results fed into their app which alerts the specialist if they need an appointment.

“The patient chooses a time to meet, has the consultation through the app, works with their specialist to build a care plan, and the app encourages them to complete it whilst assessing the impact it’s having. This is our vision for properly joined-up and integrated care,” he said.

“We also know from our engagement with clinicians that releasing time to care for our sickest patients is a top priority and there is consensus that this could be facilitated by technology, if we partner with the best and work collaboratively and openly.”

The gap in workforce is the biggest challenge facing the NHS, he added: “In the next ten years the gap between staff needed and the number available could reach almost 250,000 just in England. As medicine transforms over the next 10 years, and cutting-edge technology improves, it is critical that the NHS develops a digitally empowered workforce.”

Ali Parsa, CEO and founder of Babylon, said: “We have over 1,000 AI experts, clinicians, engineers and scientists who will be helping to make Digital-First Integrated Care a reality and provide fast, effective, proactive care to patients. Together with RWT, we can demonstrate this works and help the NHS lead healthcare across the world.”

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