There, it’s said. A recent investigative article by a Forbes staff writer, European-based Parmy Olson (as opposed to their innumerable guest writers), that dropped a week before Christmas Eve raised some uncomfortable questions about Babylon Health, certainly the star health tech company on the UK scene. These uncomfortable bits are not unknown to our Readers from these pages and for those in the UK independently following the company in their engagement with the NHS.
Most of the skepticism is around their chatbot symptom checker, which has been improved over time and tested, but even the testing has been doubted. The Royal College of Physicians, Stanford University and Yale New Haven Health subjected Babylon and seven primary care physicians to 100 independently-devised symptom sets in the MRCGP, with Babylon achieving a much-publicized 80 test score. A letter published in the Lancet (correspondence) questioned the study’s methodology and the results: the data was entered by doctors, not by the typical user of Babylon Health; there was no statistical significance testing and the letter claims that the poor performance of one doctor in the sample skewed results in Babylon’s favor. [TTA 8 Nov].
The real questions raised by the Lancet correspondence and the article are around establishing standards, testing the app around existing standards, and accurate follow up–in other words, if Babylon were a drug or a medical device, close to a clinical trial:
- Real-world evaluation is not being done, following a gradual escalation of steps testing usability, effectiveness, and safety.
- How does the checker balance the probability of a disease with the risk of missing a critical diagnosis?
- How do users interact with these symptom checkers? What do they do afterwards? What are the outcomes?
Former Babylon staffers, according to the Forbes article, claim there is no follow up. The article also states that “Babylon says its GP at Hand app sends a message to its users 24 hours after they engage with its chatbot. The notification asks about further symptoms, according to one user.” Where is the research on that followup?
Rectifying this is where Babylon gets sketchy and less than transparent. None of their testing or results have been published in peer-reviewed journals. Moreover, they are not helped by, in this Editor’s view, their chief medical officer stating that they will publish in journals when “when Babylon produces medical research.” This is a sad statement, given the crying need for triaging symptoms within the UK medical system to lessen wait times at GPs and hospitals. But even then, Babylon is referring patients to the ED 30 percent of the time, compared to NHS’ 111 line at 20 percent. Is no one there or at the NHS curious about the difference?
And the chatbot is evidently still missing things. (more…)
Babylon Health’s CEO Ali Parsa announced at their headquarters last week that the company would be spending $100 million to develop the ‘world’s leading AI healthcare platform’. In the company of Health Secretary Matt Hancock, an admitted GP at hand fan (nothing goes better after poring over your red boxes), Mr. Parsa confirmed that the 1,000 data scientists, programmers, and clinicians would be based in London after a global search of suitable cities. They will be helping to design the next generation of health AI for diagnosis and to support patients with long-term conditions.
The report in Digital Health noted that the audience included key figures such as Malcolm Grant, chairman of NHS England; Dr Simon Eccles, NHS England CCIO; and Juliette Bauer, head of digital experience. This is despite Babylon challenging the Care Quality Commission (CQC) over an unfavorable report [TTA 11 Dec] and being put on hold by Birmingham as well as Hammersmith and Fulham CCGs [TTA 23 Aug].
Babylon is well able to afford this as Prudential Asia (Prudential plc) has licensed Babylon’s software for its own apps across 12 countries in Asia for an estimated $100 million over several years. Forbes It also inked a deal in June to provide insurer Bupa’s Instant GP to corporate clients [TTA 21 June]. Will this include a foray into the US? No clues so far!
[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/instant-gp-300×300.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Is digital health gaining some traction in the UK? One insurer is making the bet
. Earlier this week, Babylon Health
announced a UK partnership with Bupa’s
corporate insurance area to open Babylon’s digital health services to corporate employees insured by Bupa. Bupa’s Instant GP
app offers these employees Babylon services, such as the ability to book virtual appointments with GPs, be transferred to specialists, and receive prescriptions. The app is free to download through the Apple App Store or Google Play for Bupa-covered employees.
Bupa and Babylon have been working together in a limited way since 2015–see this Bupa press release.
Some extras for employees in the program: unlimited 24/7 online GP consultations; Babylon’s clinical triage service, and access to the Babylon’s new “digital twin” service. This medical assessment method works with a smartphone tapping key parts of their body. It’s being previewed by Bupa and is scheduled to be released nationwide later this year.
Reportedly Bupa is seeking to provide Babylon services to their UK SME business (micro, small and medium-sized enterprises) later this year. Telegraph (paid access for full article), Digital Health News
For Babylon, it’s been an extraordinarily busy time. They have a new agreement with Samsung to be included in Samsung Health on smartphones [TTA 14 June], and China’s Tencent offering of Babylon through their WeChat platform. Babylon also recently announced passing the 26,500 patient mark with London NHS GP at Hand.
Innovate UK has announced a £175k IC tomorrow innovation contest focusing on Quantified Self, launching Monday 14 September.
As most TTA readers will be well aware, Quantified Self relates to the use of digital technology in self-tracking, monitoring and sensing to improve wellbeing. In particular the contest will be looking for solutions relating to the areas of: nutrition, older people, younger people, mental health and data capture. The winning solutions will focus on ways of empowering users to take ownership of their data to influence behaviour change and improve wellbeing.
The contest will include five challenges each offering up to £35,000 and the chance to work with one of challenge partners: Jamie Oliver, Toshiba, AXA PPP Insurance, Saga and Bupa. The winning company will trial their solution with the challenge partner over a period of three months.
The Knowledge Transfer Network is running two briefing events for this call. To register please sign up below: (more…)
In line with my fellow editor, forgive this editor engaging in a little nostalgia – going back to 2006, when the Whole System Demonstrator was a still a wonderful idea, before the competing forces of academia and management consultancy put short-term financial gain before long term patient outcome improvement. Those were the days when we genuinely believed that recording vital signs was what it was all about.
Move on nine years and it’s clear from the American Heart Association review referred to in this column recently, and subsequent articles, that one key success factor is drip-fed education. To quote:
“The amount of information that must be conveyed and the support that is necessary to counsel and motivate individuals to engage in behaviors to prevent CVD are far beyond what can be accomplished in the context of face-to-face clinical consultations or through traditional channels such as patient education leaflets,” the researchers say. “Mobile technologies have the potential to overcome these limitations and to transform the delivery of health-related messages and ongoing interventions targeting behavior change.”
This is underlined by a recent study of attempting to control hypertension using just text messaging, which was far from an unqualified success.
Another major driver of course is cost saving, as demonstrated by (more…)
This article in the Telegraph last week has stimulated Prof Mike Short to ask whether if driverless cars can eliminate bad driving and so reduce insurance costs, mHealth can do the same for those with either or both life assurance and health insurance.
There’s little doubt in the mHealth community that technology will cut costs, and already there are (at least a few) solid examples. The big question is, can the insurance world – both life assurers & health insurers – be convinced? We know in the UK for example that BUPA is working hard on mHealth solutions, and that Aviva has tied up with Babylon (who recently won the recent AXA ‘Most Innovative Provider’ award)…and doubtless there is much more too. Obviously the situation is much further ahead in countries such as the US where health insurance is the norm.
Mike suggests that we run an insurance led event to look at techniques of prevention as well as cure/care. This could have an interesting policy dimension if the health insurers were willing to think about new measurement policies and indicate where they wish to go with data driven policies – eHealth as an opener for new policies and forms of funding? As he says, apps/wearables/connectivity are just enablers to this wider story, for which the insurance systems and their objectives need to be understood too.
DHACA is happy to participate, broker or organise such an event – we’d really welcome view from readers though first – would you be interested in taking an active part in what might just change the face of health insurance in the UK, and promote mHealth at the same time?
This event was held on April 28th-30th in Victoria in London. It was organised by Pharma IQ and clearly had a strong pharma focus (including the charge which at £1995 for industry attendees clearly discriminated in favour of those with big-pharma sized budgets). It was also held just a few days after the significantly lower-priced Royal Society of Medicine event, and in the middle of a London Tube strike, all of which doubtless contributed to the relatively modest attendance (26 paid). I am most grateful to the organisers for kindly inviting me as one of speaker Alex Wyke’s guests.
As mentioned in an earlier post, there was a similarity with the RSM agenda, so I won’t repeat comments made by the same speaker before. The first up was the 3G Doctor, David Doherty, who gave another of his excellent presentations, although the sound engineer sadly made some of it inaudible. After a review of how we had got to where we are, he suggested that the Internet is about to become a device-dominated network. He drew a parallel between (more…)
We have written extensively in recent months about how technology is changing the way patients are using doctors, yet some, notably the RCGP in their vision of GP practice in 2022, seem unprepared, or unwilling to accept this. Well if more evidence of the coming change were needed, AliveCor’s announcement that it now has FDA approval for sales of its (iOS & Android) smartphone-enabled heart monitor direct to the public will perhaps provide some.
In particular, the announcement includes a service – available in the US only at present – called AliveInsights, that will (more…)