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A Digital First Primary Care Model in the National Health Service (NHS)


In 1948 the UK NHS was created to provide free care for all at the first point of contact. Considered a national treasure, the NHS is renowned for its advanced and accessible system, having been ranked amongst the top in the world.1 People are now living longer with more complex health conditions, resulting in increased demand in the health system. Primary care organisations across the UK have had to think of new ways to provide healthcare to communities, without putting too much pressure on emergency hospital services. NHS England, have proposed new models of care with an emphasis in the use of technology.2

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that this broader approach to health and care is essential. To protect our patients and staff, GP practices have had to radically alter the way we delivered care, better incorporating the use of digital technology.3

Babylon was one of the first organisations to implement its ‘Digital First’ model of care in the NHS. With the formation of GP at Hand, Babylon demonstrated that a ‘Digital First’ model can potentially ease the pressures on the system. Here patients now have access to an AI-powered symptom checker, video consultations with clinicians and (if needed) access to one of our physical clinics in London and Birmingham.

It was therefore with real pride that Senior GPs from Babylon were given the opportunity to discuss its current model of care in the NHS, the impact of COVID-19 and the potential benefits of a ‘Digital First Primary Care Model’ in the inaugural issue of the International Journal of Digital Health. To read our peer reviewed article, follow the link here.

The aim of our article was to share our thoughts and learnings through our journey in implementing a Digital First model of care in our beloved NHS. The article does provide some detailed insights on the model. Some of the take home messages from that article are:


  • The health needs of our patients have changed over the years. Patients are living longer with more complex health conditions. As a result new models of care are needed to ease pressures on the NHS
  • The rapid advancement of technology has resulted in a major transformation in several industries. Until recently, healthcare organisations have lagged behind in implementing digital solutions.
  • Babylon GP at Hand is an example of how a ‘Digital First’ model of care can be implemented in the complex structure of the NHS.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed heath inequalities at a global scale. NHS organisations, the voluntary sector and policy makers, should collaborate to enhance access to Digital First models of care for vulnerable patients.
  • Further research into and evaluations of models that integrate digital consultations in primary care is needed.


Babylon's mission is to provide patient-centred and integrated care through the use of digital technology. We want to empower our patients to take ownership of their health with an emphasis on prevention over cure. A Digital First model of care, has the potential to realise this vision.

References

  1. The Commonwealth Fund, 2017. Mirror, Mirror 2017: International Comparison Reflects Flaws and Opportunities for Better U.S. Health Care. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 17 May 2021].
  2. England, N., 2021. NHS England » Digital First Primary Care. [online] England.nhs.uk. Available at: <; [Accessed 17 May 2021].
  3. Hutchings, R., 2020. The impact of Covid-19 on the use of digital technology in the NHS. [online] Nuffield Trust. Available at: <; [Accessed 17 May 2021].

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.