Last November the Lillie Road Health Centre in London had just 4,970 patients on its books. Three months later it had 19,104—nearly four times as many as before, and more than double the average for a general practice in England. Such a surge would usually place huge strain on general practitioners (GPs), as Britain’s family doctors are known. But Lillie Road is no ordinary surgery. For most patients, it exists mainly as a smartphone app, GP at Hand.
Digital-health companies such as Push Doctor and Babylon have for a few years allowed people to pay for online consultations. A few surgeries offer patients appointments via Skype. But until Babylon launched GP at Hand in November, online diagnoses had not been widely accessible as part of the National Health Service. Today they are freely available to most people.