Virtual house calls? New app could save Canadians a trip to the doctor

Click to play video: 'Artificial Intelligence to Help Set Up Virtual House Call'
Artificial Intelligence to Help Set Up Virtual House Call
WATCH: Artificial Intelligence to help set up virtual house calls – Sep 7, 2018

A recent survey of British Columbians found that one in six was turning to the internet, instead of an actual doctor, for medical advice.

But what if there was a way to do both?

That could soon be a possibility, with a mobile app being developed by Telus and U.K.-based digital health company Babylon Health.

The app, which will be free to download and eventually available Canada-wide, works by first prompting a patient to enter their symptoms.

Artificial Intelligence will then allow it to ask a series of questions to help determine the patient’s needs.

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At that point, the app will book patients a video conference with a licensed Canadian health-care provider.

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“The Babylon by Telus health service is really trying to make access better for Canadians, and offer them a more timely and convenient way to access health-care services,” said Juggy Sihota, vice-president of Telus Health.

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The company says it hopes the app will help the estimated five million Canadians who don’t have a family doctor get timely medical access.

WATCH: Many British Columbians consult ‘online doctors’ only

Click to play video: 'Many British Columbians consult ‘online doctors’ only'
Many British Columbians consult ‘online doctors’ only

It is also touting it as a tool for people in rural areas or who have mobility problems.

“We are not only helping to improve the options Canadians have for accessing health care but also providing them with a digital tool that makes communicating with health-care professionals more efficient,” said Sihota.

Telus said it is working to ensure the system is “trusted and reliable,” and that all patient data will be stored in Canada.

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It says it is also working to set up an advisory council of medical professionals who will guide the service’s rollout, and engaging with provincial ministries of health for input.

The app is slated to launch later this year, with B.C. as the first province to go online.

B.C.’s health ministry and College of Physicians and Surgeons did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.

However, the president of Doctors of B.C. said the app has the potential to enhance care.

“The important thing is how do we support both doctors and patients to access these technologies and how do we allow it to fit into the flow of their work days and their personal lives?” said Dr. Eric Cadesky.

Each virtual visit would cost $35, with that fee to be paid by the provincial health authorities.

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