Their bedside manner may leave something to be desired, but their diagnostic skills are pretty robust. That’s what Babylon Health revealed this June when their AI systems undertook a “representative sample-set” of questions from the final GP assessment – and beat the diagnostic capabilities of their human counterparts.
Since its inception in 2013, the London based start-up has been building accolades to make itself better. It was first service of its kind to be registered with the Care Quality Commission — an independent healthcare regulator — and have designated body status from NHS London. Over the last 2 years, it has been aggressively developing its AI software, which provides medical advice based on inputted symptom data, that is “on-par with human doctors”, according to their CEO, Ali Parsa.
The healthcare market has been diagnosed as one of AI’s most lucrative patients, with market value estimated to jump to $22,790 million by 2023. And Babylon’s own figures are also looking pretty strong. Their most recent round of funding in 2017 to build its AI diagnostic doctor put it at an estimated valuation of $280 million. Since its founding, its funding totals $85 million, and with a number of valuable partnerships in the pipeline, their commercial success is in rude health. The latest include a partnership with health insurance leader BUPA, and a deal with Samsung, to install Babylon technology into its new devices, enabling consumers to set up a video appointment with a doctor or get a check of symptoms via Samsung’s Health app. These came hot on the heels of their April announcement to open their AI technology to the 1 billion users of Tencent’s WeChat, entering a Chinese AI healthcare market expected to pass US$6.6 billion within the next five years.
But dissect the hardcore figures and the transactional fusions, and you’ll find a much softer heart at the core of the business. Babylon’s website states their mission is to “put an accessible and affordable health service in the hands of every person on earth”. And friendly-faced Parsa has publicly stressed this aim, to bring his technology to the “five billion people globally have no access to surgery”.
What comes next for the altruistic AI initiative? A quote from Parsa hints at high ambitions.
“We’re doing with healthcare what Google did with information,” he explains. “Making it available to everyone with prices people can afford”
A healthcare industry dominated by one AI firm, with the data and power to give, not only advice and referrals,but eventually their own predictions and prescriptions? There’s a prognosis to make doctors, and fellow AI solutions providers, watch Babylon closely.