At the recent DLD Conference in Munich we chatted with Ali Parsa, an engineer and healthcare entrepreneur from London. In 2013, he founded the healthcare company babylon with the goal to personalise health service and make it universally available. Babylon aims to combine the ever growing computing power of machines with the best medical expertise of humans. Prior to Babylon, Ali founded Circle and built it within a few years to become Europe’s largest partnership of clinicians, with about £200 million in revenues, near 3,000 employees and a successful IPO.
Ali, what is babylon?
Ali Parsa: babylon’s purpose is to democratise healthcare by putting an accessible and affordable health service into the hands of every person on earth. To achieve this, the company is bringing together one of the largest teams of scientists, clinicians, mathematicians and engineers to focus on combining the ever-growing computing power of machines, with the best medical expertise of humans to create a comprehensive, immediate and personalised health service that’s universally available. Founded in January 2013 and launched to the public in April 2014, the service now covers over 640,000 people globally, with local services operating out of the U.K, Ireland and recently with the launch for East Africa in Rwanda. A number of leading health insurance providers including Bupa and Aviva and over 120 companies have also partnered with babylon to offer its services to their employees as part of their benefits packages.
Are you replacing doctors?
Ali Parsa: No. babylons technology is designed to work alongside doctors, providing efficiencies and increasing diagnosis accuracy. In the U.K Babylon works alongside the NHS and supports GPs with several live NHS partnerships which provide patients and staff alike with greater choice, convenience and control over their primary healthcare. Anyone can download and use the app for free to get accurate and fast medical advice on their symptoms and either be guided to self help or access to speak with a doctor.
How does it work?
Ali Parsa: babylon delivers primary health care through a mobile app, by:
- providing an artificially intelligent chatbot ‘virtual doctor’ to analyse symptoms and offer medical advice
- allowing patients to book their doctor appointments online
- putting patients quickly in contact with doctors via video or voice consultation, providing prescriptions and referrals into appropriate services where required
- ensuring quick delivery of medication via the app to pharmacies selected by the patient OR delivered direct to their home or office
- supplying self test kits for an increasing range of clinical tests, (blood, saliva etc) with results processed and displayed in-app within 24 hrs
- self-health monitoring, connecting to over 150 wearable and IoT devices to track performance over time
- providing full service transparency by allowing users to provide “star rating” feedback of their experience
At time of writing, GP appointments are available during the hours of 8am to 8pm 7 days per week and we are shortly introducing a 24/7 service. We do not charge for prescriptions (medication is chargeable by the pharmacy) and we are now offering free medicine delivery nationwide. babylon’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) provides a 24/7 symptom checker service, empowering patients with quick clinical reassurance by identifying the appropriate course of action – in minutes. babylon’s AI technology processes billions of symptom combinations much faster and more accurately than the human brain. It’s constantly tested against real doctors and the results of our accuracy testing have been published. Later this year, the AI will be able to diagnose, providing additional support for GP’s and in time patients. Whether the patient is at home or on the go, they are able to receive fast, safe and accurate health guidance.
Is there human touch at the end?
Ali Parsa: Yes, all babylon GP appointments are with real doctors via video conferencing. The ask babylon symptom checker also provides the option to message a doctor directly or talk to a doctor via video if they are not satisfied with the recommendations. There is always a personal experience available at the patient’s request.
What if something goes wrong? Who will be responsible?
Ali Parsa: Like all GP services in the U.K., babylon is inspected and regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and passed our inspection in 2016 with flying colours. We additionally are ISO 27001 accredited which audits information security, governance and quality controls. All babylon GPs are fully insured for the work they do with babylon and babylon also holds its own corporate insurance. All babylon consultations are recorded and can be replayed via the app at anytime which is not only fantastic for improving the patient’s understanding of what the doctor has said, but also provides an accurate record of the conversation between doctor and patient, all video recordings are stored securely.
What are your plans for babylon – how to grow the business?
Ali Parsa: Cultural awareness is essential when addressing new countries, so we’ve partnered with the Government of Rwanda to give Rwandans one of the most progressive solutions in healthcare the world has ever seen through the ‘babyl’ app. We are working to recruit and train highly qualified Rwandan doctors & nurses to provide expert healthcare to Rwandans across the country. Babylon was launched in Kiigali, Rwanda in July 2016 providing Rwandan users with health information, prescriptions and video consultations via their smartphone. All clinical records are stored and available to patients whenever they need it including notes, images, videos and audios of consultations. Referrals to district hospitals are also available. babyl booths equipped with digital tablets have been set up in various locations to allow those without smartphones to get access to video consultations as well. To date babylon currently has over 300,000 registered users and has completed over 80,000 consultations. This is important to us because we now know that babylon works in one of the richest countries on earth (the UK), and in one of the more economically challenged countries (Rwanda). We will continue to grow our company in the UK and internationally, with the aim of delivering our vision to put affordable and accessible healthcare in the hands of everyone on earth.