Babylon Health ‘chatbot’ triage AI app raises £50 million in funding (UK)

click to enlargeBabylon Health, which has developed an AI-assisted chatbot to triage a potential patient in minutes, has raised a serious Series B of £50 million (US$60 million). Funders were Kinnevik AB, which had led the Series A, NNC Holdings, and Vostok New Ventures (Crunchbase). According to the FT (through TechCrunch), Babylon’s value is now north of $200 million. Revenues were not disclosed.

The current app uses texts to determine the level of further care, recommends a course of action, then connects the user if needed to a virtual doctor visit, or if acute to go to Accident & Emergency (US=emergency room or department). It also follows up with the user on their test results and health info. The funding will be used to enhance their current AI to extend to diagnosis. They are accumulating daily data on thousands of patients, machine learning which further refines the AI. Founder Dr. Ali Parsa, founder and CEO of Babylon, said in a statement. “Babylon scientists predict that we will shortly be able to diagnose and foresee personal health issues better than doctors, but this is about machines and medics cooperating, not competing.” Like other forms of telemedicine and triage (Zipnosis in health systems), it is designed to put healthcare access and affordability, as they claim, “into the hands of every person on earth”. The NHS pilot in north London [TTA 18 Jan] via the 111 hotline is testing Babylon as a ‘reliever’ though it directs only to a doctor appointment, not a video consult. BBC News, Mobihealthnews

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Comments

  1. Matt Durcan

    AI chatbots offer a huge potential benefit. Without wishing to be rude to the current caring NHS phone triage staff – they are operating within a largely non-learning, scripted, unintelligent system (believe me, sadly). There must be some role for the caring approach of a real person – but if the client is happy with a chatbot – great and cheaper probably, and greater systemic learning potential, and more personal availability for those who need it (and think about it – how about the 111 operator using the chatbot too as a proxy for the caller???).

    What would be WRONG is to insist that a chatbot was the ONLY entry point – that is a very poor attitude towards digital exploitation.

    Finally – can the chatbot please learn from OUTCOMES – did the advice help the patient or not – not did we save an ambulance call….. this might be the difficult bit – collecting call identifiable information across a range of organisations (especially with the inevitable uncertainties of GDPR introduction)

  2. Matt Durcan

    Just a wild UI/UX point for telecareaware.com as we are discussing digital systems:

    Shouldn’t the not a spammer tick box appear ABOVE the POST button

    Shame to dent the brand slightly in this way

    • Donna Cusano

      Hi Matt–we screen for spammers differently through a WordPress plugin. Your first post, for instance, was held for moderation and I approved it.

    • Hi Matt, thanks for your sharp-eyed observation.

      We use this ‘Confirm you are NOT a spammer’ anti-spam checkbox because I dislike the captcha-type arrangements and this is the least obtrusive alternative. It works well and I also like that approved comment posters don’t see it subsequently. Unfortunately, the plugin that manages the checkbox does not have an option to place it above the Post Comment button. It’s one of life’s little compromises.

      Regards, Steve

  3. Matt Durcan

    And a prominent “contact us” link doesn’t do any harm….. it avoids public discussion of private improvement suggestions. (I may be blind but I couldn’t find one)

    • Donna Cusano

      Steve Hards (founder, owner and admin) and I field the questions–see the About tab where you’ll find our direct contact information.

  4. I have tried Babylon Health and like a lot of it but I am currently drawn to the crowdfunded alternative of Buoy Health https://www.buoyhealth.com/ which provides a first level triage and seems to be relatively accurate. Like all AI it should improve the more people use it. So the question is becoming when will the world no longer require GPs and switch to AI triage?

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