Sanofi has announced this week that it is supporting a three-month pilot to facilitate access to an online symptom checker from British company Babylon for people concerned about digestive health issues.
The pharma giant is understood to have launched a similar initiative on the two sites around four years ago, which reportedly saw about 100,000 visits per month.
The new partnership with Babylon stems from a decision to offer a “more sophisticated service”, a spokesperson told MobiHealthNews.
HOW IT WORKS
People can use the chatbot for free to receive triage and treatment advice. However, as there is a fee for video consultations, Sanofi says it is sponsoring a free appointment for the first 400 accessing the symptom checker.
WHY IT MATTERS
The tool that can be found on the Buscopan and Dulcolax sites does not differ from Babylon’s usual offering.
However, Sanofi is said to be investing in the pilot to raise awareness of the service among people with abdominal conditions. According to a report from 2017, it is believed that only around 30% of people with symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome consult a doctor about it.
Roberto Labella, medical head CHC North Europe at Sanofi, said the company hoped the service enabled “those with digestive health issues to get the speedy advice they need, when visiting a doctor or pharmacist is not possible”.
Talking about the initiative, Dr Charles Alessi, HIMSS chief clinical officer, told MobiHealthNews:
“Chatbots can assist in the management of abdominal conditions in conjunction as they can form part of a package of care including suitable therapeutic interventions together with advice around symptom control.
“As a product which could be available without any problems of access, they could be a useful adjunct to treatment as long as the fact that the symptoms of benign disease can mimic more serious conditions is factored into the operation of the chatbot.”
THE LARGER PICTURE
This week, Babylon’s subsidiary in Rwanda, Babyl, announced that it inked a 10-year partnership with the government of Rwanda to provide every person over the age of 12 with access to digital health consultations.
The company is drawing the attention of investors, securing $550m in a Series C round last summer.
But it hasn’t evaded controversy, with doctors raising patient safety concerns about the use of its chatbot, as reported by MobiHealthNews.
ON THE RECORD
Commenting on the new pilot, Dr Keith Grimes, clinical innovation director at Babylon, said:
“Our app not only helps people recognise whether their symptoms are likely to be treatable, but also helps them look at how their diet, health and mood combined affect their health and what they can do to improve it. With the world facing a vast shortage of medical experts, we need to find ways to get information to the patients who need it and help stop small problems become larger ones.”