Babylon by TELUS Health puts health care right in your hands

For Jamie Dunlop Khau, consistent and convenient access to a family doctor has been a continuous struggle.

After being with the same family doctor for years in Vancouver, the award-winning health and wellness blogger and mom to two daughters found herself in the uncomfortable position of needing a new physician when the family moved to a suburb about 30 kilometres outside the city.

She initially tried to keep the relationship with her long-time doctor, often driving back and forth to see him. But, with steady traffic-flow problems along the routes and managing the children’s busy schedules, that solution proved unsustainable.

Even after finding a doctor in her new neighbourhood, Dunlop Khau found health care support in the evenings, weekends and holidays limited to walk-in clinics or the emergency room.

It’s a familiar situation across the country. An estimated five million Canadians do not have a regular family doctor but instead rely on a mixture of walk-in-clinics and emergency care, according to federal statistics. Of those with family doctors, less than half (43 percent) can get same or next-day appointments. 

It’s why Dunlop-Khau, a TELUS brand advocate, is so happy to be an early adopter of Babylon by TELUS Health, a new app that lets users check their symptoms and get health information and support through their smartphones.

As residents of British Columbia, Dunlop Khau and her family are among the first in Canada to be able to access the app’s one-on-one video feature, which lets patients talk directly with a locally licensed physician through a virtual consultation and get prescriptions or referrals to specialists when needed. Records of the virtual appointment can be sent to a family doctor at the patient’s consent and the video consultation is fully covered by the B.C. medical services plan.

Canadians across the country who download Babylon by TELUS Health for free on iTunes or Google Play can also immediately use the app’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbot Symptom Checker. Developed by a team of doctors and scientists, the AI tool asks users a series of questions and responds with informed feedback based on more than 500 million streams of medical data. The platform keeps a record of users’ chat histories and allows users to update their medical history, medications and allergies. If the user then needs to have a video consultation with a doctor, the chat can be reviewed by the doctor in advance, making the appointment more efficient.

A French version of the app and wider access across Canada to the video-conferencing feature is anticipated later in the year.

In launching the app, TELUS’ goal is to help reduce strain on health care resources across the country, and provide patients with more options to access care outside of traditional clinic hours so they don’t have to go to the emergency department for non-emergency care. Several Canadian health studies suggest that virtual care helps people live healthier lives by making it easier for them to get the care and advice they need.

Dunlop Khau recently put the new virtual care solution to the test when one of her daughters developed a sharp wrist pain. She went to the app’s symptom checker to help diagnose the problem and was prompted to schedule a video consult with a doctor.

From start to finish, the app offered the solution the family was looking for.   

“When my daughter was complaining that her wrist hurt, we didn’t want to neglect how she was feeling or dismiss it,” says Dunlop Khau. “But we also knew it wasn’t severe enough to sit in the emergency room for the entire evening. That’s why I think this app is so great.”

Ultimately, Dunlop Khau says Babylon by TELUS Health represents convenient and accessible health care for the whole family. And she is impressed.  

“I think it’ll blow people’s minds when they actually start using it,” she says. “It really helps with having less worry, less anxiety surrounding what could be going on.”