Whenever I phone my GP surgery for an appointment there is a big message before I get through, all about how under pressure the NHS is to provide appointments, and to use a pharmacy as much as possible for minor ailments.
I was brought up to never be any trouble and be a burden, so it was all this that prompted me to try out the ‘Expert’ part of my Samsung Health app built into my smartphone, namely a new online GP consultation app called Babylon.
I was quite nervous about trying it at first, partly because you can choose video or phone, and I have grown to hate face-to-face consultations or phone calls, with anyone, because my brain fog makes it difficult to process information as quickly as I used to, and frankly, when you used to have such a sharp brain, this is now humiliating.
I prefer text-based communication these days as it gives me time to think about what to say, and I have a visual record of what was said afterwards as a reminder too. But despite my reservations, I decided to give it a go…
Wow is all I can say! It was SO helpful!
Usually, I go into a GP surgery, sometimes even with a written record of what I want to say, but a combination of adrenaline, my very British upbringing (“Don’t ask for anything; it’s rude!”) and brain fog usually renders me unable to say exactly what I want!
So I could be there to ask for pain relief for my chronic EDS pain, and I end up vaguely saying “My neck hurts sometimes…”, making me seem like the biggest time-waster out!
I do NOT like making a fuss, I do NOT like asking anyone for help (especially face to face, even to my own friends and family; BUT to a relative stranger – OMG!!), and I do NOT like even accepting my own symptoms as I fight my reality every day and downplay how awful I feel as part of my trying to remain positive!
But the Babylon app allows you to type as much relevant information to your consultation as you want, BEFORE you speak to the GP. So I can type in a whole list of my symptoms, what test results I have had etc, and the consulting GP can read it all before they even start speaking to you!
There’s none of that awkward dialogue:
GP: “What can I do for you?”
Patient: “Well, umm, I’ve got, well it’s a bit embarrassing really, but I think..umm… well, it’s probably nothing but…umm… well…”
…which takes about 3 minutes of the precious 10 minute consultation time BEFORE you even get to the point of why you’re there!
You can type everything into the app beforehand, which minimises a lot of the anxiety, brain fog, embarrassment issues I’m sure a lot of people, not just me, experience when going to the Dr.
And I’m not embarrassed about gynaecological stuff either! I’m very matter of fact about anything like that! What I’m embarrassed about is the fact that I’m potentially wasting the GP’s/NHS time, and being classed as one of those pain in the ass type people that call an ambulance for a broken nail or something!
With Babylon, you pay just £5 per month and can have as many consultations as you like/need in that time, 24/7! So you can get advice on that strange pain in your foot that only REALLY bothers you now and again, as soon as it starts flaring up again, and you don’t want to waste surgery time (plus getting there and back, time off work, childcare etc) for something so ‘trivial’ that you can live with most of the time.
Which turns out to be plantar fasciitis, and you can get advice on how to actually DEAL with that, without feeling like you’re burdening the NHS with your ‘silly little trivial problems’, which are actually affecting your quality of life!
You also get a full recording of the entire consultation so if there is anything about the advice you’re not sure about, you can go back and watch it, PLUS you get a written record of the consultation notes too.
So again, if you’re like me and can never remember afterwards if they said “bathe your foot twice a day for 30 minutes” or whether it was actually “bathe your foot 30 times a day for two minutes”, they’ve got you covered!
The bedside manner of the GPs I’ve ‘seen’ so far has been wonderful too, which makes a big difference emotionally to how a patient can feel afterwards. And anyone who knows anything about the mind, emotions, and body connection, knows how crucial these things can be for wellbeing.
Just feeling like your experiences and feelings have been listened to and validated is an important part of the whole ‘seeing the Dr’ experience, and something which, sadly due to so much pressure on the NHS these days, is starting to be pushed further and further back in the list of priorities.
I’m sure every NHS GP wants to give and do their very best, so this is not a dig at them at all. From my understanding of the effects of adrenaline on the brain, the more ‘under pressure’ a person feels, the less able they are to perform to their best. So if GPs, just like anyone else, are feeling under pressure, their ability to do their best will be affected, as they are as human as the rest of us!
Anyway, back to the review;
This is also a useful option for anyone housebound, bedbound etc, but not ill enough to be hospitalised. You can just pull out your phone, click a few buttons, and, depending on availability, be chatting to a GP within minutes, without even getting out of bed!
Or for anyone at work; book an appointment for your break time!
Or for anyone with young children to care for alone; book an appointment when they’re napping, in the high chair etc!
Check out Babylon – a doctor on your phone. Book a consultation in minutes or text a question for medical advice https://www.babylonhealth.com/download-app
DISCLAIMER: I get no commission for this article; it’s entirely based on my own experiences so far, and does not constitute medical advice of any kind.