A health coach in your pocket

Artificial Intelligence (AI) will begin to play a significant role in providing personalized, real-time information that will help people make better health decisions

by Roberto Ascione

A health coach in your pocket
A health coach in your pocket

All the personal health data in the world is of little use if it is hard to interpret or it does not actively help someone to stay on top of their health goals. Artificial Intelligence (AI) will begin to play a significant role in providing personalized, real-time information that will help people make better health decisions (or seek professional care rather than ignore symptoms). AI, combined with vitals monitoring, will also be used as a way to emphasize prevention thus supporting the “Prevention as Profit Center” business model.

One of the most profound changes in healthcare of the last 10 years is in how the balance of medical knowledge and decision making has shifted from the industry (doctors, specialists, hospitals, pharma) to the consumers themselves. Driven by the technology changes around them, consumer have come to expect information, knowledge and service at their fingertips. Case in point take a look at what has happened to the travel agency industry in the last 15 years.
The vast majority of people now do their own travel planning using apps and websites, and relying on their own research and the comments from other travelers that have preceded them in their chosen destination. It is no wonder then that this same pent up desire for knowledge and efficiency is also experienced by consumers when they are faced with a health question or concern.

Up to now the way most people have gone about filling this need is by looking up symptoms using a search engine. Dr. Google as many real life doctors have come to find out, has completely changed the conversation between patients and doctors, but very often to the frustration of the latter.
Self diagnosis by patients, and unreliable (or sometimes downright incorrect) medical information spread over the internet has done very little to advance the quality of healthcare itself. At the same time, the healthcare industry (and Pharma in particular) has not been able to leverage the pent up demand for consumer driven "patient empowerment” and provide useful, in-depth and personalized guidance and support that can truly help a person become better informed about a potential medical condition they have, or possibly help prevent one from setting in.

Consumers have been left on their own to navigate a seemingly chaotic mix of often conflicting health messages, overwhelmed with information about diseases and cures, and with no tools to be able to truly understand what they might be experiencing from a health point of view, and what next step to take as an informed consumer.
This feeling of helplessness is particularly felt by the younger millennial generation who, amongst all current age groups, is the one most accustomed to relying on themselves and on-demand technology to solve the needs in their lives.

But thanks to Artificial Intelligence things are about to change. One of the companies out there trying to bring order to all the health information chaos, and serve it up in an useful, personalized and medically relevant way to health consumers is a UK startup aptly named Babylon Health, whose tag line is “Everyone’s Personal Health Service”.

The founder of Babylon Health, my friend Dr. Ali Parsa, realized early on that there taking some calculated business risks was necessary in order to meet the demand of the modern healthcare consumer, and that a “wait and see” attitude was not going to change the current healthcare system. His quest was to create an AI platform able to analyze “hundreds of millions of combinations of symptoms” in real time taking into account individualized information on the patient’s genetics, environment, behavior, and biology.

“When we see how much can be done with existing technology, to improve access to healthcare for people everywhere, we ask ourselves two simple questions: if not us, then who? If not now, then when? There are no excuses for not trying…” – says Ali.

Babylon Health recently partnered with the NHS in providing frontline support to British health consumers, and to back it up with real-life medical services provided by doctors, nurses, specialists. With Babylon’s AI platform, patients coming into the system are better informed, feel more empowered, have been guided through a medically relevant journey; perhaps they will also have taken better care of themselves in the process thus improving outcomes and lowering costs on the system.

To support the platform, the Babylon app will cost £4.99 ($7.10) per month for users. As well as offering patients advice on sick care, it will be able to constantly monitor information on the kidneys, liver, bones, cholesterol levels, and more, along with data collected from wearable devices that monitor sleep patterns and heart rate. It issues alerts about any areas that are “red” or “amber,” in traffic-light terms, and formulates personalized health plans to keep patients in the “green,” where they are at peak health. The app will also be able to predict illnesses before they occur.

Ali’s vision is to one day bring healthcare via the platform to far flung parts of the world that lack access to experts and facilities, with a first pilot of the Babylon program launching in east Africa.

We are always looking to work with exciting new digital health startups, so contact us for partnership opportunities.

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