Earlier this year, Babylon was proud to announce that our Artificial Intelligence (AI) had, in a world first, achieved equivalent accuracy and safety with human doctors. Whilst this was a huge milestone for us, we believe this is just the beginning of what can be achieved as AI technologies, like real life doctors, continue to learn and acquire knowledge across many areas of healthcare.
Babylon’s AI allows for anyone, irrespective of their geography, wealth or circumstances, to have free access to health information that is on par with top-rated practising clinicians. As announced last week at an event at Babylon’s London Headquarters alongside our special guest, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, the Rt. Hon. Matt Hancock, we’re investing US$100 million to double the size of our London team and develop the next generation of AI-powered healthcare technology.
In this blog, I’d like to elaborate on why our US$100 million investment has the potential to deliver hugely positive outcomes – not just for patients around the world, but also for healthcare professionals globally.
Why is this investment so important?
The World Health Organisation estimates that there will be a global shortage of 12.9 million healthcare workers by 2035, leaving more than half the world’s population without access to even the most basic healthcare services. Even in the richest nations, primary care is becoming increasingly unaffordable and inconvenient, often with waiting times that make it not readily accessible.
To help further address this, the US$100m self-funded investment we’ve announced will permit us to more than double the size of our London R&D team over coming months; making them one of the largest teams of scientists and engineers solely devoted to developing AI-based healthcare technologies anywhere in the world. And the challenge we’ve set ourselves is to further evolve our technologies and services to tackle a healthcare problem endemic to both developed and developing nations, namely: chronic diseases such as diabetes, arthritis and mental health challenges.
Why is this so critical? Here are some telling statistics:
· Approximately half of the adult US population has at least one chronic condition (25% have at least two)
· An estimated 25% of the population across developed nations suffer from some form of mental challenge
· Diabetes and anti-obesity treatments alone cost NHS England an estimated £10bn and £5bn respectively each year
Simply put, healthcare systems are struggling to cope with the needs of these patients. So, what is the solution?
We believe that at least some of the cost burdens associated with chronic care management can be eased by augmenting existing delivery and support models using proactive AI. To this end, we’re on our way to developing AI health assessment, planning, coaching and monitoring functionalities to enable patients to compile a more holistic view of their health and manage their conditions in ways that are most personalised and appropriate for them.
In doing so, we think it’s very important to stress that this latest investment isn’t about replacing experienced medical personnel with new technology. On the contrary, our objective has always been to help overstretched and underfunded healthcare systems and medical professionals. Our AI lets healthcare professionals around the world work more accurately, effectively and efficiently in delivering healthcare for ever-increasing numbers of patients – none more so than chronic care patients.
Benefitting London, UK – and beyond
We considered many locations across the world to expand our AI team (including various cities in Asia, Europe, USA and Canada). However, staying in London was always our preference because of the abundance of scientific and clinical talent, as well as its multinational and multi-dimensional open culture.
We also see our investment in job creation and AI research and development as a strategic catalyst in helping to support and foster the necessary R&D ecosystem for Britain to remain at the forefront of global AI innovation, both now and in the future.
Speaking at yesterday’s event, the Rt Hon Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social care, said: “With the NHS we have one of the greatest assets we could possibly have to bring forward more cutting-edge improvements and developments than we have ever seen before.
“We’ve got amazing universities, we’ve got an amazing private health tech start-up ecosystem and we have an amazing healthcare system in the NHS. The three of those, supported by Government, are going to work together to harness the very best technology on the planet, the very best minds on the planet, the very best clinicians on the planet to serve our people but also to build this country into the best health tech nation on earth.”
We appreciate your support and will be in touch soon
We’re extremely grateful to the support of our 3 million-plus direct members spanning the UK and Rwanda as well as the tens of millions more who can access our services via our international healthcare partnerships. We wouldn’t be where we are without you. As we further evolve and enrich our AI capabilities, we’ll do everything we can to keep you informed and to deliver the best care and support possible.
For now, watch this space. We’ll share more news with you over coming weeks and months.
1Babylon’s AI, in a series of tests (including the relevant sections of the MRCGP exam), demonstrated its ability to provide results which are on-par with practicing clinicians. The tests carried out relate to the diagnostic exams taken by trainee doctors as a benchmark for accuracy, as set by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP). The average pass mark over the past five years for real-life doctors was 72%. Babylon’s AI scored 81%. As the AI continues to learn and accumulate knowledge, Babylon expects that subsequent testing will produce significant improvements in terms of results. Babylon’s AI, however, for regulatory reasons, remains an information service, rather than a medical diagnosis. Babylon’s team of scientists, clinicians and engineers recently collaborated with the Royal College of Physicians, Dr Megan Mahoney (Chief of General Primary Care, Division of Primary Care and Population Health, Stanford University), and Dr Arnold DoRosario (Chief Population Health Officer, Yale New Haven Health) to test Babylon’s AI alongside seven highly-experienced primary care doctors using 100 independently-devised symptom sets (or ‘vignettes’). In these tests, Babylon’s AI scored 80% for accuracy, while the seven doctors achieved an accuracy range of 64-94%. In these tests, accuracy of the AI was 98% when assessed against conditions seen most frequently in primary care medicine. In comparison, when Babylon’s research team assessed experienced clinicians using the same measure, their accuracy ranged from 52-99%. Crucially, the safety of the AI was 97%. This compares favourably to the doctors, whose average was 93.1%. Babylon’s research paper, entitled A comparative study of artificial intelligence vs human doctors for the purpose of triage and diagnosis, can be downloaded from arXiv
2Source: World Health Organisation,‘Global health workforce shortage to reach 12.9 million in coming decades’, 2013
3 As of 2012, about half of all US adults—117 million people—had one or more chronic health conditions. One in four US adults had two or more chronic health conditions.https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/overview/index.htm which in turn cites Ward BW, Schiller JS, Goodman RA. Multiple chronic conditions among US adults: a 2012 update. Prev Chronic Dis. 2014;11:E62.
4Source: World Health Organisation,‘Mental disorders affect one in four people’, 2001
5NHS expenditure stats cited in ‘Delivering Triple Prevention: A Health System Responsibility’, by Dr Mahiben Maruthappu (NHS England blog, 11/3/2016)
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.