Telehealth and GP service Babylon has rolled out a "COVID-19 Care Assistant" with a raft of features designed to help subscribers cope with symptoms during the pandemic, from afar.
The Care Assistant, which is available for free within the app, offers information on the virus with text and videos providing advice for self-isolation, plus guidance on how to care for others and to minimise the spread of coronavirus.
There is also a symptom checker that offers information on next steps, such as self-isolation, as well as live chat consultations with Babylon employees to discuss concerns around coronavirus. Additionally, the assistant offers a logging function for recording symptoms experienced, and virtual consultations.
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For these live chats, Babylon will be offering clinical support staff who initially respond to the chats, but according to a spokesperson, a doctor will be "within and overseeing that team," to escalate a response if necessary – including a consultation with the GP.
Referral to hospital care is only possible following a consultation with a GP.
GP offices have taken measures to prioritise patients, offering telephone consultations first and asking them to come in only if absolutely necessary. Government advice, especially for older and vulnerable people, is to access medical assistance remotely "wherever possible".
As more of the British population is forced to adopt social distancing, a switch to a telehealth provider might appeal if only for sheer reasons of practicality and capacity – even for a controversial firm that has faced criticisms over how it has disrupted the NHS, and beleaguered doctor's surgeries in the past.