The UK’s National Health Service is piloting a new medical app chatbot to be used instead of their non-emergency telephone 111 service.

Governments and health care companies around the world are looking for new ways to make access to non-emergency care cheaper for them and easier for patients to access. With this in mind, the NHS has partnered with startup company Babylon, a company whose mission is to use existing mobile technology to improve health care access to those who need it the most.

Babylon is a digital-first platform that uses medical Artificial Intelligence, voice and text questioning, and remote consultation with medical experts to triage, diagnose, and manage patient care without an in-office visit. Since this is for non-emergency issues, the service employed by the NHS will use text-based triage consultations and escalate as needed.

We’ve already talked about a similar service used by Chinese search giant Baidu’s AI chatbot named Melody.

Babylon is currently testing their video consultation technology on a population of around 21,000 British residents in Essex. And they’ve already seen a 20 percent decrease in emergency room and walk-in clinic visits. As the program expands, these visits may drop even more because, according to Babylon, one in 100 people in Britain have downloaded their medical app, and 2,000 others join each day. The medical app also acts as an EHR in a way and stores medical history, video and voice recordings of previous visits, medications, allergies, and pathology and imaging result.

The transition is unsurprising, considering that the NHS has been taking steps toward patient self-monitoring. The announcement is on the heels of a report this summer by the Care Quality Commission which recently rated 111 apps as “inadequate.”. Babylon, on the other hand, got a much better rating by the CQC.
Even with promising reviews and results, it remains to be seen whether the country’s emergency services will begin to use chatbots like this.