Babylon Health

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Babylon Health
NYSEBBLN
IndustryHealth care
Founded2013 (2013)
FounderAli Parsa
Headquarters
London, United Kingdom
RevenueUS$322.9 million[1] (2021)
Number of employees
2,189[2] (2021)
Websitewww.babylonhealth.com

Babylon Health is a digital-first health service provider and value-based care company that combines an artificial intelligence[3] powered platform with virtual clinical operations for patients. Patients are connected with health care professionals through its web and mobile application.[4]

Their subscription business model for private healthcare services launched in the UK in 2013. They since expanded internationally to 17 countries including Rwanda and the United States.[5] They also provide services in Cambodia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.[6] The company covers over 20 million people and provides over 5,000 consultations per day.[7]

In the UK Babylon's NHS funded GP at Hand service became the first GP practice with a list size of over 100,000 patients. The Babylon GP at Hand patient population is significantly skewed towards younger patients, with 85% of GP at Hand patients being aged between 20 and 39 - compared with just 28% nationally.[8]

History[edit]

The company was founded in 2013 by Ali Parsa, who was previously the CEO of the Circle Health hospital operator and investment banker. Babylon Health, formerly Babylon Health Services Ltd, is owned by its holding company Babylon Holdings Limited[9] along with Babylon's technology branch, Babylon Partners Limited.[10] In 2014 Babylon Health Services Ltd. became the first service of its kind to be registered with the Care Quality Commission, the health care services regulator and inspector in England.[11]

Services[edit]

Babylon Health provides healthcare services through either their website or iOS and Android mobile applications. This is funded through a subscription based model, pay-as-you-go payments, centrally funded initiatives like NHS or as part of health insurance packages.

Users are able to send questions or photos to the company's team of health care professionals (which includes doctors, nurses, and therapists) in a manner similar to a text message.[11] Alternatively, users can hold video messaging consultations with a clinician to answer questions for common medical topics such as fever, sore throat, allergies, skin irritations, and colds. This service also allows users to receive referrals to health specialists, have drug prescriptions mailed to the user or sent to a pharmacy or to consult with therapists to discuss topics such as depression and anxiety. In situations where a physical examination is required users can book health exams with a limited number of facilities in London, nurse appointments are limited to one location.[12]

In addition to the direct healthcare services, users can access various health monitoring tools such as an activity tracker, ordering home blood-test kits [13] and reviewing general lifestyle and fitness questions.

Ask A&E[edit]

Ask A&E, (registered under the product name Triage) is a service similar to NHS 111. It allows patients to input their symptoms, and then advises a course of action – such as attending emergency department, calling an ambulance, booking a GP appointment, visiting a pharmacy, or staying at home and monitoring their symptoms. The system is in use at Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust and University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust.[14]

Operations[edit]

USA[edit]

Babylon began operations in North America in 2018. In August 2019, at the same time as their series C funding announcement, Babylon Health stated that the new investment would, amongst other uses, allow for international expansion into the United States.[15]

In May 2020, Babylon Health announced a partnership with Mount Sinai Health Partners, which would make the app and its healthcare services available to New Yorkers during the COVID-19 pandemic.[16] New Yorkers are able to consult doctors from the New York Telemedicine Association.[17]

In October 2020, it was announced that Babylon Health and Home State Health had partnered to launch its new Babylon 360 service to health plan members living in 10 counties in Southeast Missouri which would see Babylon serve as the primary care physician via its mobile application.[18] In March 2021, Babylon Health expanded its Babylon 360 services in California with investment in First Choice Medical Group which serves nearly 50,000 Medicare Advantage and Medi-Cal members. It also supports a network of 180 primary care providers and 1,000 specialty providers.[19] In April 2021, Babylon Health acquired Meritage Medical Network, a medical group with 700 physicians based in California.[20]

In January 2022, Babylon Health acquired Higi, a consumer health engagement firm,[21] and DayToDay Health, a care management platform.[22]

UK[edit]

In the UK, Babylon Health is available as a private subscription service, a private pay-as-you-go service, as a free service through the medical insurer Bupa and through the National Health Service (NHS) as the service ‘GP at Hand’.[23]

GP at Hand[edit]

In November 2017 Babylon launched GP at Hand, providing a free at the point of service, NHS, version of its services. Users can book appointments with GPs and other medical clinicians through the GP at Hand service. They are given the choice of speaking to a medical practitioner over the phone or via video chat. If necessary, users can request in-person appointments at one of Babylon Health’s clinics.  As a functioning clinic, GP at Hand clinicians can prescribe medication, issue sick notes, and refer users to specialists.[24]

Rwanda[edit]

In September 2016, Babylon Health launched in Rwanda as Babyl, in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Rwanda was the first country outside of the UK to acquire Babylon Health’s services. By May 2018, Babyl was reported to have 2 million members, covering roughly 30% of Rwanda’s adult population.[25]

During 2018 Babylon launched their artificially intelligent chatbot in Rwanda.[26] At the time of launch, the Babylon AI system did not include some common diseases relevant to Rwanda such as TB or Malaria.[27]

In January 2020, Babylon Health reported 1 million completed consultations in Rwanda. In March 2020, the company signed a 10-year partnership with the Rwandan government, agreeing to roll out Babyl to all Rwandans over the age of 12 through the government’s community-based health insurance scheme, Mutuelle de Santé.

Canada[edit]

In September 2018, Babylon formed a partnership with the Canadian digital solutions company Telus Health to deliver Healthcare services in Canada. In 2021, Babylon stopped providing clinical healthcare services in Canada and have entered into a software licensing deal with Telus.[28]

Funding[edit]

In January 2016, Babylon raised a $25 million Series A round.[29] This was considered the highest raised funding for a digital health venture in Europe.[30] Its investors include the Hoxton Ventures and Kinnevik AB. In April 2017, it raised a further $60 million to develop its artificial intelligence capabilities.[31]

Babylon's series C funding in August 2019 was led by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund. It raised $550 million.[32] At the time it was rumored that the round was due to have a cap of $400M, making it oversubscribed. Notable investors include the ERGO Fund, Kinnevik AB, and VNV Global former known as Vostok New Ventures.

In April 2020, Kinnevik AB reduced their valuation of Babylon due to "greater uncertainty over the roll-out of existing partnership contracts as a result of COVID-19."[33]

In September 2020, Kinnevik further reduced their valuation of Babylon by 10% while peer companies such as VillageMD and Livongo grew by 209% and 199% respectively.[34]

In October 2021 Babylon listed on the NYSE (ticker BBLN) via a SPAC merger with Alkuri Global Acquisition Corp.[35]

Criticisms and controversy[edit]

Unsupported claims and chatbot safety[edit]

There have been concerns raised regarding the governance of Babylon Health, in particular the use of misleading promotional claims and the safety and quality of the advice offered by its artificially intelligent chatbot.Critical safety concerns relating to the chatbot were raised with UK regulatory authorities.[36][37][38]

In June 2018, the company announced that its AI had the ability to diagnose health issues as well as a human doctor, however these claims have been widely disputed and the methods of evaluation utilised by Babylon discredited.[39] In November 2018, a Lancet publication concluded; "Babylon's study does not offer convincing evidence that its Babylon Diagnostic and Triage System can perform better than doctors in any realistic situation, and there is a possibility that it might perform significantly worse. If this study is the only evidence for the performance of the Babylon Diagnostic and Triage System, then it appears to be early in stage 2 of the STEAD framework (preclinical). Further clinical evaluation is necessary to ensure confidence in patient safety."[40]

The safety concerns relating to the chatbot highlighted significant gaps within the medical device regulatory framework for eHealth Apps. Currently in the UK, AI Healthcare chatbots can be registered as a class 1 medical device (comparable to spectacles and walking frames), hence are not subject to any form of regulatory approval.[41]

In February 2020, safety concerning relating to the Babylon AI Chatbot were the subject of a BBC Newsnight investigation.[42] The UK's medical device regulatory body, MHRA, has acknowledged the ‘concerns’ regarding Babylon Health.[43]

Investigation by Alberta's Privacy Commissioner[edit]

In April 2020, Alberta's privacy commissioner launched two investigations into Babylon, by Telus Health, over non-compliance and medical privacy concerns.[44] The reports found that the province's health information privacy laws when ignored when the Telus Babylon App was launched commenting; "I think what we have here is an example of an app that was developed in another jurisdiction and was dropped into Alberta without due regard for Alberta's legislation".[45]

Sales of COVID-19 antibody tests[edit]

In May 2020, Babylon Health marketed a non-MHRA approved COVID-19 antibody home testing kit that used capillary blood (finger-prick). Abbott which developed the antibody test to work on venous samples released a statement to advice that the test should not be conducted with finger prick samples.[46][47] The Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) asked all providers of COVID-19 antibody testing services using capillary blood collected by a finger-prick to stop providing these services and advised the public to ignore any result they get from the private kits.[48][49][50][51]

Babylon App Data breach[edit]

On 9 June 2020, a data breach occurred in which three patients were provided with access to recordings of other patients video consultations.[52] Babylon Health claimed the breach was live for 2 hours and was due to a software error.[52] Following the breach, a Digital Health investigation found that a series of technical information exposing potential weaknesses in Babylon Health's technology was freely available through a Firebase database mistakenly left open.[53] Babylon Health's app security score was 10/100, putting it in the "critical risk" category, according to the CVSS scoring, globally recognised standard for testing software and scoring its weaknesses. The full assessment report has been published on GitHub.[54]

Legal dispute with CQC[edit]

In 2017, Babylon made a legal challenge in the High Court to prevent the CQC from publishing a report that raised a number of concerns regarding the potential for prescriptions being misused and information not always being shared with the patient's primary GP.[55] The High Court ruled against the injunction and the report was published on 8 December. Babylon has also agreed to pay the regulator £11,000 in costs.[56]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ "Babylon". owler.com. Retrieved 7 December 2021.
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  4. ^ "Tech pioneer brings GP appointments into the living room". The Daily Telegraph. 28 April 2014.
  5. ^ Babylon (2022-04-24). "Babylon Health Partners". Babylon. Retrieved 2022-04-24.
  6. ^ Wnuk, Piotr (2018-08-06). "Prudential and Babylon join forces in Asia". Pharmaphorum.
  7. ^ "Babylon Health confirms $550M raise at $2B+ valuation to expand its AI-based health services". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2021-05-26.
  8. ^ August 2021, Nick Bostock on the 12. "GP at Hand hits new milestone with first 100,000-patient practice list". www.gponline.com. Retrieved 2021-12-15.
  9. ^ "BABYLON HOLDINGS LTD - Overview (free company information from Companies House)". find-and-update.company-information.service.gov.uk. Retrieved 2021-05-12.
  10. ^ "BABYLON PARTNERS LIMITED - Overview (free company information from Companies House)". find-and-update.company-information.service.gov.uk. Retrieved 2021-05-12.
  11. ^ a b "Babylon app puts a GP in your pocket". Wired UK.
  12. ^ "AI, robots, pocket doctors: Patient-centred health tech". BBC News. 22 September 2014.
  13. ^ "Doctor in your pocket? Babylon replaces your GP with an App". The Memo. Archived from the original on 2016-01-27. Retrieved 2016-01-21.
  14. ^ "Third NHS trust partners with Babylon for patient triage tool". Health Service Journal. 14 May 2020. Retrieved 1 July 2020.
  15. ^ Melton, Monica. "Babylon Health Gets $2 Billion Valuation With New Funding That Will Help It Expand In U.S." Forbes. Retrieved 2021-05-26.
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  17. ^ "https://telecareaware.com/". telecareaware.com. Retrieved 2021-05-26. {{cite web}}: External link in |title= (help)
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  25. ^ "Babylon claims its chatbot beats GPs at medical exam". BBC News. 2018-06-27. Retrieved 2022-01-11.
  26. ^ "Babyl's chatbot to enhance digital healthcare platform". The New Times | Rwanda. 2018-01-11. Retrieved 2022-04-25.
  27. ^ Can AI beat a doctor? - BBC Click, retrieved 2022-04-25
  28. ^ Ghosh, Shona. "Saudi-backed $2 billion health firm Babylon is selling its Canada operations as part of a $70 million licensing deal". Business Insider. Retrieved 2022-04-25.
  29. ^ "Babylon, the U.K. Digital Doctor App, Scores $25M to Develop AI-Driven Health Advice".
  30. ^ Barlow, James (2016). Managing Innovation in Healthcare. Hackensack, New Jersey: World Scientific Publishing Company. p. 248. ISBN 9781786341525.
  31. ^ "Babylon Health raises further $60M to continue building out AI doctor app – TechCrunch". techcrunch.com. Retrieved 2018-06-27.
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  33. ^ "Highlights Q1 2020 | Kinnevik". kinnevik.com. Retrieved 2020-05-24.
  34. ^ "Kinnevik Q2 2020 Report" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2020-09-27.
  35. ^ "Financial Times". Archived from the original on 2021-06-03.
  36. ^ Heather2018-06-11T05:59:00+01:00, Ben. "Safety regulators reviewing concerns about Babylon's 'chatbot'". Health Service Journal. Retrieved 2019-01-01.
  37. ^ "High-profile health app under scrutiny after doctors' complaints. Babylon advice service faces warnings it can miss symptoms of serious illness". Financial Times. Retrieved 2019-01-01.
  38. ^ Das, Shanti (13 October 2019). "It's hysteria, not a heart attack, GP app Babylon tells women". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 13 October 2019.
  39. ^ "BBC Two - Horizon, 2018, Diagnosis on Demand? The Computer Will See You Now". BBC. Retrieved 2019-01-01.
  40. ^ Wong, David; Coiera, Enrico; Fraser, Hamish (24 November 2018). "Safety of patient-facing digital symptom checkers". The Lancet. 392 (10161): 2263–2264. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(18)32819-8. ISSN 0140-6736. PMID 30413281.
  41. ^ "An introductory guide to the medical device regulation (MDR)" (PDF). Retrieved 2 Jan 2019.
  42. ^ Digital Healthcare: Is it clinically effective? - BBC Newsnight, retrieved 2022-04-26
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  44. ^ "Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta". oipc.ab.ca. Retrieved 2020-05-04.
  45. ^ CBC. "Telus Health ignored Alberta's privacy laws when it launched Babylon app, reports reveal". CBC News. Retrieved 2022-04-24.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  46. ^ Taylor, Phil (2020-05-15). "Update: Abbot responds to Babylon coronavirus antibody test launch -". pharmaphorum.com. Retrieved 2020-05-19.
  47. ^ "Statement from Abbott on use of Abbott's Architect SARS-CoV-2 antibody test with home kits | Abbott UK". abbott.co.uk. Retrieved 2020-05-22.
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  49. ^ Boseley, Sarah (2020-05-27). "English retailers told to halt coronavirus home antibody test deliveries". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  50. ^ Gibbons, Katie. "Coronavirus: Shop-bought kits taken off shelves for being unreliable". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  51. ^ Bodkin, Henry (2020-05-27). "Superdrug suspends sales of antibody tests following questions over reliability". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
  52. ^ a b Kelion, Leo (2020-06-09). "Babylon Health admits to GP app data breach". BBC News. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
  53. ^ "Firebase URL 'leaked technical information on Babylon's GP at Hand'". Digital Health. 2020-06-19. Retrieved 2020-06-20.
  54. ^ "robdyke/NHS-Apps-Library". GitHub. Retrieved 2020-06-20.
  55. ^ "Babylon Health Services says it has 'duty' to point out CQC 'shortcomings'". Digital Health. 2017-12-13. Retrieved 2020-06-23.
  56. ^ "Babylon Healthcare drops legal challenge against CQC". Digital Health. 2017-12-21. Retrieved 2020-06-23.

External links[edit]