This site is intended for health professionals only

Forget Babylon, I’m pitching the Hypochondriapp

copperfield duo 1500x1000px

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



Visit Pulse Reference for details on 140 symptoms, including easily searchable symptoms and categories, offering you a free platform to check symptoms and receive potential diagnoses during consultations.