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Babylon pledges £75m to develop AI for managing chronic conditions

Babylon has pledged £75m to develop artificial intelligence that will help GPs diagnose and manage chronic conditions, the private health provider has announced.

The funding will go towards building a workforce of over 1,000 scientists, engineers and clinicians to expand Babylon's digital offering into chronic disease management.

Babylon CEO Dr Ali Parsa said a shortage of healthcare providers has meant that ‘sometimes those who are most in need – such as people with chronic conditions like mental health or diabetes - do not receive the consistent care they deserve’.

He added that AI ‘has the potential to improve the capacity of our healthcare professionals to safely care for more patients’.

According to the latest workforce figures the NHS has lost nearly 5,000 GP partners in a decade and 523 full-time equivalent GPs in since March.

He told Pulse that the Babylon app's symptom checker 'will expand into chronic disease management so we can assess [patients] for chronic diseases and we can also in addition to that manage the chronic diseases'.

Dr Parsa said: 'What [those with chronic diseases] find is that when they see a doctor it's fine but all other times they're left alone. So we can monitor them.

'If you are suicidal and you are chronically depressed, if you spend three days at home and if you are looking through your phone more than usual, we know that you're more likely to attempt suicide.

'But the only time we know is when you have attempted it and ended up in A&E. But we could intervene. We could say - hey, I notice you're at home a little bit, can I help you?'

Head of primary care and public health at Imperial College London Professor Azeem Majeed told Pulse that AI ‘has a lot of potential in healthcare, including in primary care’ and with the shortage of doctors, ‘if some of their work can be taken on by AI-based tools, this would help relieve some of the pressures’.

However, he added: ‘AI would also need considerable evaluation before it could be rolled out into routine clinical practice.

‘This would include assessing its safety and effectiveness, and also its acceptability to patients and health professionals.’

Dr Chris Arden, a Southampton-based GP with special interest in cardiology, said: 'Given the nature of our interaction in primary care I think there still will be a lot of value obviously in the personal contact and that relationship with the patient and that's something that will never be replaced.'


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Readers' comments (18)

  • “if you spend three days at home and if you are looking through your phone more than usual, we know that you're more likely to attempt suicide.” So everyone will get a text asking them if they are feeling suicidal at the end of a bank holiday weekend!

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  • Does pulse talk about anything else apart from Babylon? It’s propaganda, nothing more.

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  • Before expanding into chronic disease management, how about improving the current offering...this doctor posts amusing chat bot diagnoses videos. Well, it would be amusing if it wasn’t being actively used by patients. Only a matter of time before a serious clinical incident.

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  • It is naive to think than when a serious clinical incident occurs, there will be any publicity at all.

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  • National Hopeless Service

    Isn't mankind wonderful. We can find £75million to develop something pointless but cant create £75million to support functional coalface General Practice. I am dreading getting old and ill.

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  • That's why Doctor McDoctor Face, it is time to leave the government out of as many decisions as possible, i.e. anti-socialism, and vote for the free market, and reduced government spending

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  • Artificial intelligence? Is that something that's pretending to be intelligent? :D

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  • This is SCARY-this suicidal patient scenario described above suggests that the health secretary is supporting an organisation planning to produce monitoring apps that will be watching you and know where you are and what your phone is doing!! Big Brother is Watching you or what? ( and how could you decide if a mental health sufferer is displaying paranoid ideas or not when they really are being spied on through their mobile phone and getting voices commenting on their actions through it? )

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  • @ Christopher Ho
    You are having a laugh, right?
    The problem is simply that this Government are Tories and have been trying to destroy the NHS since its inception. Its underfunding and capitalism that is causing its demise.
    You can stick your free market ideology where the sun don't shine if you want a fair healthcare system for all. But if you want all the poor in this country to die and you don't give a monkeys- then your way is good.

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  • Angus - I am definitely not having a laugh. It has nothing to do with which government is in power. It has to do with socialised medicine and other policies destroying/bankrupting our country. You clearly haven't researched history or this subject properly. 90% of the rest of the world runs less socialised healthcare provision, and in the vast majority of places, the poor are NOT dying on the street or for lack of healthcare. You want to fund the NHS more? How much more? You want to throw more money at managers? It is currently at 1/3 of budget with our already heavy tax burden on the less than 50% of the working population that is paying for EVERYONE ELSE. Capitalism is what is funding EVERYTHING. Where do you think your taxes come from? I do want to help the 'poor', but socialised healthcare does the exact opposite. Neither should I be COMPELLED to help them through taxation, but that I should have a choice. Giving the public individual responsibility and treating them like adults is the real 'help'.

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