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Babylon Health: the 'Uber experience' for GP appointment booking

Think of the first time you used Uber or Monzo. If you’re anything like me, then these were game-changers. Apps that, for the most part, have offered a better alternative to processes otherwise riddled with pain points. Booking a taxi or visiting my high street bank were certainly not on my list of favourite things to do.

Fast-forward a couple of years; I’ve installed Babylon Health for similar reasons – booking GP appointments is not something I enjoy at all, and it’s not something that makes me feel valued as a ‘customer’. There is a huge caveat here though; in that we know the NHS is creaking under the sheer volume of patients. So let’s bear that in mind before we criticise something which for the most part does work, albeit slowly.

My situation: I just needed a referral, which had to come via a GP. I couldn’t book a same-day appointment because that’s only allowed in an emergency. And the last time I booked a general appointment, I had to wait for six weeks. On top of that, you have to factor in the lost work hours, travel to and from the practice and that’s not to mention waiting around for the appointment itself.

If you don’t want to use Uber, there are half-a-dozen other means of affordable transport. If you don’t want to use Monzo, there are other quite likable banks. But what’s the alternative when you need a GP appointment? Go private? That’s costly and unaffordable to many. Sit on the phone booking an appointment, wait for said appointment, and then sit in a waiting room waiting furthermore? I’d rather not.

 

 

Which brings me to my experience with Babylon Health, which was surprisingly seamless and a delight to use. It was honestly the “ah-hah!” moment that I got when first using Monzo. Babylon offer two services; NHS and private. The NHS option is currently limited to Central London, as it’s tied to just five physical practices. But the private option, which is £25 for an appointment (a quarter the cost of seeing a private GP where I live), is what I opted for and that’s available to anyone with access to the app.

I was just about to go into my 9:30am meeting, which I knew would be done by 10:00am. So I was able to book an appointment for the exact time I knew I’d be free. They called pretty much on the hour, and I had a very straightforward conversation with a GP via a short video call. I felt that the addition of video—of being able to see who I was talking to and them being able to see their patient—really improved the experience for me and I imagine it makes it easier for the GP too.

You could say it’s a perfect storm. It’s sectors just like this, with huge public need and multiple pain points, that are ripe for disruption. NHS Direct was a good step forward, but Babylon Health feels like a huge leap, and I’ve already told 10-15 people about my experience. Purely because the execution and experience were just so remarkable.

So what’s next in the health sector? I’d like to see other obstacles in personal healthcare broken out. Perhaps that’s blood tests, x-rays, or scans which we can book easily, receive quickly, and upload to platforms like Babylon for a near-instant consultation. Apple are kind of there with Apple Health, but if there could be an industry shift towards a universal digital health dashboard that is affordable and accessible, then that would be tremendous.

With customer delight being a completely underrated metric, we need more of this. Apps that just become the ‘everyday’ for us and break down complex, annoying or arduous activities, and become as easy as hailing an Uber.

So well done, Babylon. You now sit alongside Monzo, Uber and Nutmeg – an app and a service that take away pain points so brilliantly that I already can’t imagine going back to traditional appointment booking.