Babylon's triage chatbot launches in British Columbia

Babylon by Telus Health will allow patients in the province to input their symptoms and conduct live video visits with accredited physicians.
By Dave Muoio
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Babylon’s triage chatbot and virtual confirmation platform has come to Canada’s British Columbia in the form of a newly launch telehealth app, Babylon by Telus Health. The tool allows users to describe their symptoms to the text-based bot, video consult with a licensed practitioner, and store and easily access consultation notes or other information.

The app is the result of a partnership announced by the health AI company and Canadian electronic health services firm Telus Health last year. The English version of the service is currently available through the App Store and Google Play to residents of the province, with a French version planned for release later in the year, according to a press release.

"Telus Health is leveraging the power of technology to improve health outcomes for all Canadians because we believe that by giving people the right tools, information and support we can empower them to manage their own health leading to healthier, happier lives," Juggy Sihota, VP of Telus Health, said in a statement. "Babylon by Telus Health revolutionizes how Canadians can access healthcare with a unique patient-centric approach that's built upon Telus's unparalleled Customers First strategy. Quality healthcare and support underscored by putting patients first."

Video consultations conducted through the app will be covered by the patient’s provincial medical services plan. Because these telehealth encounters are conducted with a live, accredited provider, patients may also receive a prescription or referral to tests and specialist care if necessary.

Alongside their launch announcement, the companies also noted ongoing plans to integrate Babylon’s services with Telus Health’s EHR platform, thereby enabling country-wide virtual visit support for physicians using the system.

What’s the impact

Offering app-based symptom check and consultations tools gives patients one more way to access general care and, as such, can help address conditions before they escalate or more efficiently triage patients to the specialty care they need. Both of these can reduce costs for British Columbia’s healthcare system, and do so with an AI tool that takes some of the burden off of live clinicians.

What’s the trend

A number of hospitals and health systems are exploring chatbots, either through in-house projects or partnerships with companies like Babylon. So far, the company has raised well over $100 million across multiple rounds and deployed its service within the UK’s NHS for non-emergency cases. However, Babylon’s chatbot came under heat from practitioner organizations, concerned users and even UK health chiefs, many of whom were wary of the AI’s ability to accurately and appropriately evaluate a user’s symptoms.

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