Holidaymakers to access GPs through new app

Holidaymakers who fall ill in Europe, North America, the Middle East and Asia will be able to access mobile consultations with UK-based GPs thanks to a new app.

Thomas Cook insurance customers will be able to access the service through the UK-based Now GP app.

Using smartphones and devices 600,000 holidaymakers who need medical advice while travelling abroad will be able to obtain GP medication guidance.

They will also be able to access an electronic prescription through a renewed partnership with Thomas Cook and Now Healthcare Group.

This builds on a service launched in 2016 that allowed travellers who took out travel insurance with Thomas Cook to receive medical advice from UK-based GPs about health matters including sunburn, upset stomach, ear infections, and chickenpox, while holidaying across Europe, Asia, and America.

Babylon signs Asia healthcare app deal with Prudential

Global insurance giant Prudential signed an exclusive agreement to use Babylon Health’s artificial intelligence (AI) based healthcare application for five million existing and new customers in Asia.

Prudential announced joining forces with Babylon Health, a UK-based AI developer, known in England for its GP at Hand application, piloted by the NHS.

Both companies entered into an exclusive partnership to provide a similar suite of AI-powered health services, including personal health assessment and treatment information, to empower users in Asia to proactively manage their health.

The agreement aligns with Prudential’s commitment to provide digital health services making healthcare affordable and accessible across Asia and will cover Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

Nic Nicandrou, chief executive of Prudential Corporation Asia, said: “The strategic partnership with Babylon is consistent with our ambition to address the unmet healthcare needs in Asia where the majority of the population are uninsured or underinsured, alongside an ageing population and escalating medical costs.”

“We are significantly expanding our role from protection to encompass the prevention and postponement of adverse health events. By empowering customers with self-help tools and real-time health information, we believe the Babylon-enabled platform will inspire them to take an active role in understanding and managing their current and future health needs.”

Ali Parsa, Babylon’s founder and CEO said: “Prudential is one of Asia’s leading insurance providers, where its brand is synonymous with trust.”

“We find it humbling that after a lengthy search, Prudential’s forward-looking leadership has put its trust in Babylon as its partner. Both organisations share the same mission, which is to make healthcare accessible and affordable to everyone on Earth.”

The app currently enables West London patients – including newly-appointed UK’s health secretary, Matt Hancock – to have virtual consultations with doctors and health care professionals via video messaging through their smart device.

 BBC doc exposes “dangerous” online pharmacies

A BBC programme “Online Doctors Uncovered” revealed online pharmacy “sites putting profit before patient care” and highlighted the ease with which patients can obtain prescription-only medicines from “very dangerous” websites.

The programme and investigation led by Dr. Faye Kirkland, a GP and journalist, exposed a number of online prescribing sites which the BBC claimed are taking advantage of a regulatory loophole by using companies based outside of the UK to employ doctors.

As part of the programme, two volunteers obtained prescription only co-codamol and slimming pill Xenical (orlistat) – which the BBC claimed their GPs would be “highly unlikely” to prescribe.

Both volunteers were able to buy the medicines online by submitting false medical histories on sites online forms and finalising the purchase through a Romanian-based payment system.

Steve Field, chief inspector of General Practice at the Care Quality Commission (CQC), told BBC that websites that it does not regulate can be “very dangerous”.

However, the CQC currently has no jurisdiction over organisations registered outside England, and Field called for a “change in the law” to crack down on “services that offer care into England but are based abroad – and the risks that this can pose”.

An online pharmacy, based in Nottingham, UK Meds, also came under fire after a former opiate addict was able to order 100 dihydrocodeine tablets, while another ordered the highest strength of pregabalin – a drug the BBC claimed is becoming “increasingly abused”.

The BBC discovered that “UK Meds cannot be regulated by the CQC because it hires doctors to do consultations and prescriptions through its sister company EU General Practitioners in Romania.”

In its response, UK Meds said it complies with all regulations from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), but “the company is not required to be registered by the CQC”.

Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the GPhC,commented in a statement released after the programme was aired: “We are playing our part, along with other regulators in strengthening the safeguards in place for patients and the public through our regulation of pharmacies and pharmacy professionals in Great Britain.”

Babylon’s application had a rocky start in the UK and attracted a lot of press attention over issues raised by the healthcare standards watchdog Care Quality Commission about its safety, clinical governance and prescribing regulations.

Despite uncertainties, Babylon Health recently partnered with Samsung to incorporate their Ask an Expert video doctor appointments to Samsung’s Health app and rolled out its services in Rwanda.

New health records security scare in Mexico

A German cyber security enthusiast says he discovered an unprotected online healthcare database and gained access to 2.3 million Mexican patients records including their personal information and health reports.

Bob Diachenko, cyber security and IT enthusiast from Germany discovered the database which held personal entries of patients from Michoacán state in Mexico has been freely available on the Internet.

The database was publicly available as a result of misconfigured, free to use and open-source MongoDB database operated by the record holder.

Diachenko was able to access personal information such as full name, gender, identity codes, insurance policy numbers along with the expiry dates, date of birth, home address and disability or migrant status.

Just a few weeks ago we were reporting about hackers attack on Singapore government’s health database.

Back in May 2018, the NHS has been targeted by the ransomware cyber attack, which paralysed parts and undermined confidence in its IT services.

Security experts warn that all service providers that handle personal data, including medical data stored by healthcare sector, not only should audit their security processes regularly, but should also have an incident response process in the event of a data leak.