Frederika Ofong, MA International Journalisms
It’s freshers’ week. You’ve just moved to London and you’re adjusting nicely; you’ve found the nearest pizza spot on Deliveroo, downloaded the UNiDAYS app for those life-saving discount codes, and topped up your halls laundry allowance on Circuit. Thanks to the digital age, each activity took no more than minutes on your mobile phone. But what happens when you need to arrange to see a doctor? Is student healthcare provision as responsive and innovative as providers of other basic daily services, or is access to healthcare the Nokia 6310i fighting for survival in a smartphone dominated world?
It may be that from your first day on campus it is made very clear to you where to go if you’re feeling ill. You know exactly who you need to speak to and the best way to contact them. Whether it be 2pm or 2am, you can make an appointment and see a GP all just within minutes. There are no queues when you get to the practice. No fuss. As mental health issues have become a growing problem for students and academics, never before has it been more pressing for students to have access to affordable and reliable healthcare. While universities have promoted health through campaigns that reinforce healthy behaviours and offer advice on sleep, nutrition and stress management, the seamless scenario described above was not a scenario I experienced. After speaking to many other students, I discovered it was not a scenario they had experienced either.
Lots of us might not be aware of this but as a student in London arranging to meet with a GP face to face can be done instantaneously and from the comfort of your own room. By combining artificial intelligence with the best medical expertise of humans, health tech giants like Babylon Health are revolutionising the way in which health care is accessed. Via the Babylon Health app, the GP at Hand service provides people living in London with access to an NHS GP on their phone. In just a few hours you can speak to a doctor via video appointments which are available 24/7. As part of the NHS, your healthcare remains free and wherever you are, your GP is too. Once you’ve downloaded the Babylon Health app and registered with GP at Hand, the service becomes your sole GP provider, and you cannot remain registered to your home GP once you’re registered with GP at Hand. At the moment, GP at Hand is a London based service, but plans to extend the service nation-wide are underway.
While the university healthcare providers might be doing the best they can, we still have other options that are available to us. So, if it takes over a week before there is availability at your university GP practice and once you arrive there, queueing is par for the course, explore some other options. You wouldn’t travel to a bank branch and wait in a queue just to check your account balance. That’s because your banking app is representative of your life as a student in the 21st century. Shouldn’t your access to healthcare be also?
Photo Credit: Frederika Ofong