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Independents' Day

Forget Babylon, I’m pitching the Hypochondriapp


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Ah, right. I’d been racking my brains trying to work out why Babylon has negotiated a deal to pre-install their GP app on Samsung mobiles . Apparently, it’s so that millions of mobile users ‘will soon be able to better manage their health’ – which we’d all agree is a more laudable aim than an alternative hypothesis I’ve encountered, ‘to fleece the worried well’.

That said, I still have some philosophical objections to the AI approach to the diagnostic process. It’s absurdly reductionist to suggest that tapping a few questions to a chatbot could act as a valid substitute for the nuances and complexities of the GP consultation, even if I do doze through some of mine.

It also reinforces the completely wrong notion that symptoms inevitably and algorithmically lead to a diagnosis. When does that ever happen? The reality is that symptoms result in a spaghetti junction of confusion and contradiction which we GPs manage with clever time-passing manoeuvres such as umming and aahing, or arranging unnecessary blood tests, until they resolve spontaneously, as they usually do.

And, finally, they miss the point of patient behaviour: most people don’t want to know what’s wrong, they want to know what isn’t. That their chest pain isn’t cardiac, their pins and needles MS, their headache a brain tumour and so on.

Most people don’t want to know what’s wrong, they want to know what isn’t

Therein, I think, lies my fortune. Because there’s definitely a market for an app which recognises this by inviting punters to enter their symptoms, type in their feared diagnosis and accept the advice: ‘Forget it.’ This is my idea, I already have a name for it (Hypochondriapp) and if Babylon – or, indeed, any other ancient Mesopotamian kingdom – wants to pay me a shedload of cash to develop it, be my guest.

I certainly know what I’d spend that money on. The Babylon app offers unlimited video appointments at just £50 per year. Yep, unlimited. I’ve got a few patients I’d not only point towards Babylon but who I’d be prepared to fund. It’s a bargain and yes, it’s true, I’m a mobile user and I do feel better already.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a jobbing GP in Essex


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Readers' comments (6)

  • Now that is thinking out of the box! I have a few patients in mind I would like to discuss with the other partners to fund to use the app and stop them turning up.

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  • Love it. Top marks!

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  • National Hopeless Service

    Coloniapp. Put your phone on video with the light on and stick it up........

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  • Blimey. That would be unintended consequences wouldn’t it? GPs funding those who present on multiple occasions with health anxiety to use the app. Think it’s a great idea. Of course that will tend to fuel the anxiety but hey ho

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  • Can I sign my wife up?

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  • Hang on how can they charge £50 per year for unlimited online consultations when they are already funded by the NHS to do just that?

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