Apps can give you a GP consultation in minutes, but at what cost to the health service?
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.