Health

How Healthtech is Slowly Overtaking GP Appointments

Babylon Health is Pioneering AI and Video Consultations as Alternatives to Traditional Appointments

16.04.2018 | by Kezia Parkins
Photo by Freedom and Safety
Photo by Freedom and Safety

In a world where mobile phones and smartphone apps have become integrated into every single aspect of our modern lives, is it so far-fetched to believe that the technology could soon be taking the place of the traditional doctor’s appointment? As mobile apps occupy increasing spaces in the healthcare market, business leaders have looked towards emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and video streaming to offer an alternative to long waits, appointment booking lines and cold waiting rooms.

Amongst these business leaders include the founders of Babylon Health, the British start-up that offers video and text consultations with doctors and healthcare specialists thanks to the combined capabilities of live streaming and artificial intelligence. With a valuation of more than $200 million, Babylon Health has attracted significant financial backing from notable investors including the Sawiris billion business family, Swedish listed investment fund Kinnevik AB and Vostok New Ventures. Aside from huge investment, the company has also attracted the attention of Innocent Drinks co-founders Adam Balon and Jon Wright – as well as the support and guidance of DeepMind founders Demis Hassabis and Mustafa Suleyman.

According to the founder and CEO of Babylon Health, the app represents the next logical step towards achieving higher health standards across the world. Dr. Ali Parsa is certainly ambitious about the technology and the future relationship between artificial intelligence and healthcare. The HealthTech entrepreneur forecasts a future where artificial intelligence offers a more accurate, accessible alternative to traditional GP appointments. However, he insists that this should not be interpreted as a competition, but rather a professional cooperation: doctors, after all, fulfil many duties beyond diagnosis.

When we look at the goings-on in Babylon Health, Ali Parsa’s HealthTech future certainly seems to be within reach. The company has already been working with health authorities across London to trial its chatbot, which has been proposed as an alternative to the NHS 111 hotline. The artificial intelligence-powered bot offers a triage service, including a symptom checker feature that the company claims has helped over a quarter of a million users since its creation.

No need for waiting rooms.

Earlier this year, Babylon starting working with a number of health authorities in London to trial its AI-powered chatbot “triage” service as an alternative to the NHS 111 telephone helpline that patients call to get healthcare advice and be directed to local and out-of-hours medical services. It’s built on top of the same AI-enabled symptom checker feature in the main Babylon app that was released last July and which the company says has provided medical advice to over 250,000 people to date. Indeed, the enormity of the task launching Babylon Health shouldn’t be underestimated: The building of the app’s diagnosis tool involved the curation of the largest knowledge graphs of medical content, combined with machine learning techniques developed especially for general practice. Dr. Parsa estimates that deep learning techniques will be essential in the field of medicine: Whilst healthcare professionals would struggle to collate and interpret thousands of pages of research, a computer would do it with ease.

Whilst the concept of a “GP in your pocket” may seem great to most users, many have expressed concern about how such services could impact the already struggling National Health Service. These fears have been largely dismissed by Dr. Parsa, who insists that Babylon Health is making healthcare affordable and accessible to all. The company certainly seems to be getting there – with a recent launch in Rwanda, Dr. Parsa’s business brainchild is predicted to offer massive benefits to the developing country, which suffers from a lack of qualified doctors.

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