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  • Dr Ali Parsa

Babylon : Sharing our thought, journey and roadmap so far

This may sound too ambitious, so below we share how we think the current global health delivery system can be radically reworked to democratise healthcare for everyone and everywhere. We share with you our experience of having served some of the richest and poorest in the world, and our plans to serve many more countries. Our work so far has only been possible because of the trust that our early members put in us to show what can be done. Together, we will make healthcare accessible and affordable, and put it in the hands of everyone on earth.

Some decidedly unhealthy statistics:

babylon is now active in many corners of the world, from China to Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Africa and North America. Everywhere the existing global health delivery system has major shortcomings. Here are some decidedly unhealthy statistics: The world spends over $10 trillion dollars-a-year in healthcare, and yet even in the richest countries, healthcare is becoming unaffordable, sometimes too inconvenient and often with waiting times that make it not readily accessible. When it comes to mental health in the “rich” world, the situation borders on shameful; one-in-five of us are suffering from an untreated issue, one-in-four of our teenagers need help they cannot reach, and three-in-five of our prisoners got there partially due to neglected underlying mental illnesses.

In developing countries, the situation is far more severe, with half of the population having little access to essential health services. The trillions we spend have left billions of people behind. We believe that with today’s technology, it is absolutely possible to radically rework healthcare delivery everywhere and for everyone.

Solving for Accessibility and Affordability:

We believe it is possible to do with healthcare what Google did with information; deliver not all but most of the healthcare most people need on the devices most already have. Today almost everyone on earth is connected through mobile networks. As long as we can deliver most of the diagnosis, information, health assessment, treatment and coaching they need from their devices, that makes it highly accessible. The issue, of course, is that there is no accessibility without affordability. So we spend most of our effort at babylon solving the challenges of costs in healthcare.

There are two fundamental cost-sinks for any healthcare systems: salaries and timing. First, two-thirds of all the money we spend globally in medicine goes into salaries. As importantly, the world is short of approximately five million doctors, with little infrastructure to train enough anytime soon. So there is no solution to affordability problem without technologies that can allow the existing health professionals to significantly increase their reach and leverage. Second, most patients, by the time they seek medical attention, see a small problem has grown to need a relatively expensive treatment. Again, little can be achieved without developing monitoring technologies that can see a problem as early as possible.

Combining cutting edge technology with medical expertise:

In babylon, we have gathered the world’s largest collection of Artificial Intelligence and data scientists, mathematicians, engineers and clinical experts focussed on solving the above two problems of healthcare delivery. We focus on building Artificial Intelligence that can accurately do some of what doctors do. We think eventually they will be able to do more as machines are inherently better than humans in some areas like probabilistic, computational or data heavy tasks needed for diagnosis and clinical triage, behavioural and data monitoring and remaining up to date with the most recent treatments. At the same time, we connect our members seamlessly with doctors when an empathetic and expert human is needed, 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week.

Caring for some of the richest and the poorest in the world

To demonstrate how possible it is to solve the problem globally, we deployed our solution and are delivering almost a consultation every minute, simultaneously in both the UK (one of the richest countries in the world), and Rwanda (one of the financially most in-need), and the results speak for themselves.

In the UK...

Celebrating its 70th Anniversary this summer, like us, everyone in the UK should be proud of the NHS. Implementing free-at-point-of-delivery healthcare to over 65 million residents is a mammoth task. Our partnership with the NHS via our GP at hand service across central London is demonstrating how GP waiting times for our tens of thousands of NHS members can be eliminated while easing pressure on A&E departments.

What many thought impossible, our NHS GP at hand service has made an unquestionable reality: near immediate healthcare accessible, 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year, and at no extra cost to the NHS (our average waiting time to see one of our GPs on your mobile is less than 2 hours, or within a day to see one physically in one of our locations). The satisfaction levels are amongst the highest for any healthcare service globally, with four-in-five users giving it a 5-star rating. No wonder the service has been amongst the fastest growing and most popular in the history of the NHS, with over 4% of its addressable target population applying to join since launch a few months ago.

We commend the NHS for being among the first worldwide to deliver this service to the people of London, and hopefully soon the rest of the country.

...And in Rwanda

In September 2016, in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Social Security Board, we launched babylon’s services in Rwanda. Known locally as ‘babyl’, to date over 20% of the adult population of Rwanda has registered with service and we have delivered in excess of 150,000 free doctor consultations. The service has been so successful that earlier this year the Government of Rwanda and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have announced that they will give access to babylon to the entire population of the country.

We are now gearing up to deliver thousands of consultations every day. We are also working with the Gates Foundation to identify and launch in three other of the world’s poorest countries.

Making Universal Healthcare Access a Reality

Having demonstrated what can be done in the UK and Rwanda, we think almost every other country’s challenges lie somewhere in between. So we are now launching babylon in few more countries. Earlier this year we put in place, a foothold in North America (more on this soon) and the Ministry of Health in Saudi Arabia announced it will give babylon technology to all its citizens.

Last week we made public a new collaboration with China’s most popular technology company, Tencent, the parent of WeChat, which will see us together leveraging our Artificial Intelligence system to deliver personal health assessments, treatment advice and individual health records across China. Please see this link if you are interested in more detail. And with plans to launch babylon services in more than ten other countries, covering nearly a billion more people on the horizon, step-by-step, country-by-country, we’re striving to deliver on our Mission and ensure that universal healthcare access indeed becomes a reality – sooner rather than later.

Nothing would have been possible without your involvement.

Whilst we reach millions, we look after our members one at a time. As we grow fast globally, the health and wellbeing of each and every one of our 1.5 million current members remain most important to us. We feel humbled that you’ve invited babylon into your daily lives and grateful that you trust us to look after your health. We will do all we can to honour the responsibility.

We believe it is possible to make quality healthcare accessible and affordable, and put it in the hands of every person on earth. Everything we do in babylon is to bring this vision to reality. Our work so far has been only possible because of the trust that our early members put in us to show to the rest of the world what can be done. For that we will always remain grateful to you.

We still have a long way to go, so we will appreciate your involvement, views and suggestions on how we can improve our products and services. If you haven’t already, we hope you’ll join us on this quest. Together, we will make healthcare accessible and affordable, and put it in the hands of everyone on earth.

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