How do you feel about discussing your ailments and symptoms with a robot doctor via an interactive video session and then relying on its diagnosis and treatment recommendations? We’ve written about telepresence robots that help patients access clinical staff, robotic prostate exams, and robotic worm surgical assistants that allow doctors to reach otherwise inaccessible parts of the human body.
Babylon Health, a digital healthcare startup that has already made small but noticeable inroads on Britain’s National Health Service, has developed an artificial doctor’s brain in the form of an artificial intelligence (AI) app called Ask Babylon. According to its designers, Ask Babylon can understand entered symptoms for “the vast majority of healthcare issues seen in primary care and provide information on any next steps to take.” Babylon’s team of scientists, engineers, and doctors built the system with machine learning, to interpret symptoms and identify related risk factors.
In June 2018 Babylon announced the results of a study that compared AI and human doctors in diagnosis and triage. The study was a collaboration with London’s Royal College of Physicians, Stanford Primary Care, and Yale New Haven Health. In a series of tests Ask Babylon was deemed on-par with practicing clinicians in triage and diagnosis.
In September, Babylon announced a $100 million self-funded investment to double its London staff and facilities and invest in next-generation healthcare technology to tackle the worldwide issues of chronic diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, and mental health.
Babylon GP at hand, one division of Babylon Health, is now part of Britain’s National Health Service, able to register patients who live within 40 minutes of one of their five clinics. Babylon GP at hand uses the Ask Babylon AI engine in conjunction with live NHS practitioners. The service is available 24/7, always free, and patients can have a face to face consult usually within two hours when requested. The NHS compensates Babylon GP on the same monthly fee structure it uses with traditional healthcare services for each registered patient.
When we write about AI applications in medicine the transition to real-world, implementation is often years away. In Babylon Health’s case, however, AI medicine is already an ongoing medical care entity.