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HealthTech startup Babylon partners with NHS to offer AI-powered service to London patients

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Babylon Health, a digital healthcare app, has announced a partnership with the NHS to introduce its AI-powered chatbot to more than 1.2 million patients in north central London.

According to a report by the Financial Times, the NHS plans to trial Babylon’s chatbot with several London authorities over a period of six months, starting at the end of January.

Enabling patients to type in their symptoms, the app responds with questions in order to determine the seriousness of the illness, injury or condition. It can then advise whether the user should seek medical assistance, visit a pharmacy, or manage their medical issue at home.

Therapist bots: AI and mental health

The process usually requires around 12 back-and-forth messages, taking around 1.5 minutes, which is significantly less than the time of the average call with NHS 111, the non-emergency helpline.

In an interview with Tech City News, Parsa said Babylon could cut expenditure by the NHS and improve efficiency. He said the NHS has “armies” of call centre workers speaking to people who have contacted 111 about their medical issues, with each call taking 10 to 15 minutes. “It costs the NHS £15. You do it with us, it is free,” Parsa said.

Babylon, which raised a $25m Series A round in January last year, hopes to make digital healthcare available all over the world. As well as the free AI-powered symptom checker, Babylon provides a subscription service, giving users unlimited phone or video consultations with GPs, specialists and therapists.

The company is currently operating in the UK, Ireland and Rwanda and has plans to expand further.

Read our interview with Babylon Health founder Ali Parsa in the upcoming issue of our print magazine – The HealthTech Issue. Subscribe now to receive your copy.

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