“GPaaS”: How Babylon is Offering up GPs as a Service

Babylon Health providing a GP on your phone.

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A UK-based entrepreneur wants to bring affordable health to the world, and he is using an app and artificial intelligence (AI) to do it. Dr Ali Parsa made the promise earlier this year while promoting the platform he founded, Babylon Health.

Active now for two years the startup employs 100 doctors and has accrued approximately 250,000 users.

Users can gain access to a GP ‘in their pocket’ – available 24/7 to provide advice and care, as well as a mobile health monitor that helps head off symptoms before they become debilitating issues.

UK-based subscribers to the service pay £4.99 a month, approximately AU$10. For that, they can get an appointment in seconds, with a follow-up face-to-face ‘virtual meeting’ with a physician in minutes.

All users’ medical records are accessible through Babylon. Once a diagnosis has been made, medicine is sent to the user’s home or nearby pharmacy in a timely fashion.

Specialist advice including mental health care is also available.

Now Parsa, CEO of Babylon, wants to roll-out a new AI platform designed to create a ‘safety net’ against misdiagnosis using an algorithm that the brand says is more accurate than any human.

After completing real world testing against actual doctors and nurses, Check is expected to arrive in the marketplace before year’s end.

At its simplest it is a virtual triage nurse – a way of assessing what health problems need attention and directing appropriate action to resolve them.

It does not provide a diagnosis and under the strictures of regulation can only make recommendations.

However, Babylon has told media that the primary objective of Check is prevention; it is designed to identify accurately any one of the 10,000 diseases known to be active health hazards to humans in real-time.

According to the best available figures provided by a study published by John Hopkins in 2012, misdiagnosis at the admission point in the Intensive Care Unit is responsible for 40,500 fatalities in the US alone.

Check is intended to speak to this problem. Its AI platform has access to a network of databases that contains data on disease, and factors into those unique health characteristics of the user as well as the subject’s lifestyle, diet, work, and relevant habits.

Amongst its features, is a virtual health support mechanism where it monitors vital organs like the kidneys, heart, and liver. If Check understands there is a problem is produces a ‘red light’ alert; if all is well, then it issues a ‘green light’.

Concerns have emerged amongst professional players in the space that this kind of AI technology offers too many risks, but Babylon insists that they have enough fail-safe systems in place to avert problems with the platform, including a cohort of physicians who have the role of checking Check’s accuracy.

Parsa has told media that Babylon’s platforms are not intended to disrupt healthcare to the point where doctors are no longer relevant.

Instead, the aim is to reach out and meet a challenge that is endemic in the sector, at least as it plays in the UK where supply cannot meet the demand.

That is, even with a comprehensive national healthcare system only one in five individuals there can see a doctor when they need to.