Tech firms treat young, fit patients, instead of those in need, say doctors

AI in pharma and healthcare

The UK’s top GP is due to refute accusations that doctors are ‘technophobic dinosaurs’.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), is expected to accuse tech companies of creating a ‘digital divide’ as younger and fitter patients are ‘siphoned off’ at the expense of those in greatest need, and then using ‘bully boy tactics’ if anyone challenges their methods.

She is scheduled to speak at the RCGP’s annual conference today and is anticipated to say: “Those with the latest smart phone, those who speak English and live in cities, those who have high speed broadband, are being offered something that others are not.

“I believe that with the right use of technology in the future NHS we can actually aim to reduce health inequalities and counteract some of the adverse social determinants of health.

“I get really exasperated when I hear accusations that GPs are technophobic dinosaurs. What utter nonsense. GPs are not ‘afraid’ of technology or innovation. But robots don’t come cheap, tech costs money, and for GP practices that are already on the brink, implementing new, good technology is unfeasible.”

But chief medical officer of health app firm Babylon Health, Dr Mobasher Butt, hit back: “The RCGP talks about a ‘digital divide’, but the truth is the  ‘digital divide’ is between organisations like Babylon, who are willing to challenge existing medical hierarchies in the interests of doing what’s best for patients, and those with vested interests who wish to keep primary care as the sole preserve of their organisations.

“It is great to see the RCGP openly highlight ‘bully boy’ tactics because this is the very stance the incumbents have taken with organisations like Babylon, who dare to go against the grain in order to improve patient care.

“As an organisation, we have certainly seen our fair share of such ‘bully boy’ tactics, including the refusal by local clinical commissioning groups to let us use empty consulting rooms and blocking access to treatment for their most vulnerable residents.”

Babylon Health is a subscription-based health provider app that allows users to consult GPs virtually and allows them to book appointments and order prescriptions.

Butt went on to deny that companies were ‘siphoning off younger, fitter patients’ and said that while he welcomed Prof Stokes-Lampard recognising GP at hand technology as ‘impressive’ it was important to tackle the issue of accessibility.