London Startup Watch: Babylon & Their AI Doctor

One year ago, a digital healthcare startup called Babylon released a mobile app that performs as a doctor – albeit an artificially intelligent one. The artificial intelligence (AI) app tracks your daily habits, i.e. what you are eating, and also integrates data it has from your medical records (as entered on to your smart device) and your heart rate. Using this information the AI ‘doctor’ deciphers symptoms of illness, even at times acting in a preventative measure to stop you falling ill.

The startup is said to have been valued at more than $100 million and has set a record for securing the highest amount of Series A Funding seen in the European digital healthcare to date; an amount of $25 million. The company has had a very good first year, securing investment from a number of well-known, successful British entrepreneurs, including the founders of Innocent Drinks and the Google, owner AI company, DeepMind.

At the moment the app is free to download but users have to pay additional fees for the premium service. For instance the minimum sign up cost is £4.99 a month. Latest figures show that the mobile doctor app is now being used by 250,000 people living in the UK.

Ali Parsa, the CEO of Babylon made the following statement about the company’s plan: “We can use artificial intelligence to start predicting the future of your health”. The company also make the following statement on their website: “Babylon combines the latest technology with the knowledge and experience of the best doctors to make healthcare simpler, better, and more accessible and affordable for people everywhere.”

Downloading the app provides users with access to a pool of human doctors, therapists and specialists, 7 days a week, via video chat. Many businesses have already partnered with Babylon in order to provide users with access to their services. These businesses include Sky, MasterCard, Citigroup, Aviva and Bupa, which will no doubt add weight to Babylon’s already popular service.

As well as securing investment and partnership from a number of high profile organisations, Babylon has also partnered with the NHS. This partnership involves a pilot programme in Birmingham, which is giving the services the company provides a lot more exposure across the UK.

How does the app work?

Users can ask the AI doctor a variety of questions, enquiring about various symptoms such as headaches, pains and fevers and will receive responses such as “are you feeling sick?”, “have you recently hit your head?” etc. It will then propose a course of action for you to take, i.e. advise that you go to the pharmacy, book an appointment with your GP or even something as simple as “drink more water”.

The AI doctor can also provide prompts and offer advice off its own back, for instance reminding you to take medication, as well as providing advice on future illnesses that you might be at risk of. It does this by analysing your medical history data and integrating it with current data such as heart rate and diet. (Note that you have to provide the app with medical history etc.)

With AI becoming ever more accessible in our daily lives, it should perhaps come as no surprise that people are becoming more accepting of relying on it for advice and guidance, even when it comes to our health. Parsa is extremely positive that AI will be able to predict the future of our health, and in doing so help numerous people, and that Babylon’s AI doctor is just one step in helping ensure that Britain will “be a global leader in digital health.”