Comment Blog 6 February, 2017

Bringing the digital revolution to healthcare

The 600,000 registered users of babylon, the app-based primary care service, are already part of the digital revolution. What does this mean for patients and UK healthcare?

Imagine Jane, a 56-year old woman with type 2 diabetes. By using the babylon service, powered by artificial intelligence (AI), to manage her condition on a day to day basis, she can track her blood glucose, blood pressure, and other key indicators of her condition. If there’s a worrying trend in her vitals, babylon’s predictive systems will send advice to her mobile phone and can alert her doctor if needed.  If she’s feeling unwell, she uses the AI symptom checker to see what she needs to do.  If needed, she can organise consultations over video with a general practitioner or specialist, booking in seconds and talking to her doctor in under an hour.

This is no pipedream or “vapourware” – everything Jane can use babylon for is already available or is coming out this year. Those interested in health policy will recognise that these objectives – managing long term conditions, preventing episodes of emergency, and empowering patients – are exactly those governing the development of the NHS as set out in the Five Year Forward View.

So what does a good AI-based system look like?

babylon’s approach sets the standard in delivering high quality, reliable, safe and affordable digital-first care. We deliver this service every day to thousands of patients, in each of the areas described below, and the service is already available in the NHS:


The babylon app uses artificial intelligence to assess symptoms, entered by the user, and recommend the level of medical intervention that is needed.  A state-of-the-art AI triage system gives patients the reassurance they need, and identify what they need to do next. Quality and safety are vital, so the system was extensively tested and externally validated before being rolled out.  Entering symptoms on our chat bot takes seconds, and the triage advice comes back instantaneously – 24/7, 365 days a year.

Fast answers to health questions

With the public so used to instant messaging, sending texts and pictures to registered doctors and nurses to get an answer within minutes is a must-have.  The babylon standard is a response in a matter of minutes, available 12 hours a day, every day.

Consultations by video or phone

When it comes to actual consultations, people need a secure way to speak to clinicians by video or phone – avoiding travel and freeing up premises costs.  babylon users get a GP appointment in under two hours, available 12 hours a day, seven days a week, throughout the year.

Clinical record system

To meet the increasingly on-demand environment we’ve all come to expect, patients need secure and immediate access to their digital health interactions, including consultation recordings and records of their medications and allergies.  babylon provides instant access, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Patient health profile

By enabling patients to collect, assess and benchmark their own information on their health and wellbeing, they can combine data with other health apps and to get a tailored picture of their health.  Again, instant access, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

What does the future hold?

The speed of technological improvement means that what is cutting-edge today will be commonplace tomorrow, and today’s approaches will fast become defunct. A good AI consultation system needs to demonstrate a strong product roadmap for the future, and a series of recent product updates that improved on the previous versions. Beware those claiming to have great online systems but who won’t be delivering:

  • Advanced AI symptom checking using genuine, auditable machine learning approaches
  • Assistance with medication and treatment with reminders and medication intake tracking
  • Adaptive and predictive analytics allowing continuous health monitoring and preventative intervention.

Put all this together and it’s perhaps no surprise that clinicians and patients alike are joining the digital revolution in healthcare. For Jane, managing a long-standing condition becomes far easier because she’s getting a full end-to-end health service that puts her in control.

With over 90% satisfaction ratings from our existing members, people using the babylon service already know what good really looks like. When it comes to the digital revolution, the best way to predict the future is to be part of creating it.