Ali Parsa, CEO of digital health start-up Babylon Health, has pledged to spend $100m to hire 1,000 data scientists, programmers and clinicians to develop the world’s leading healthcare AI platform.
Speaking alongside health secretary Matt Hancock at Babylon’s Chelsea offices on 13 September, Parsa said the new staff would be based in London, helping to make the city a global hub for digital health start-ups.
Parsa said the new hires would help the company develop the next generation of health AI, designed to aid diagnosis and support patients with long-term conditions, through coaching and helping them manage their conditions.
Hancock said that he was a fan of GP at Hand, the version of Babylon currently in use in the NHS, saying he liked the fact he could use it in the back of his ministerial car or in the evening after he’d pored over his red boxes.
Hancock, who has repeatedly spoken of his admiration for Babylon, was careful to stress that he wanted to create “a thriving ecosystem in which not only could Babylon succeed, but also its competitors and many other digital health start-ups”.
“I want this City and this country to become the best place in the world to develop innovative health tech,” said the health secretary.
One of the areas he promised to prioritise was addressing interoperability barriers. “When I switched to GP at Hand I lost all of my medical history from my GP’s paper notes,” said Hancock. “We need to make it far easier for start-ups to connect with the wider NHS.”
Given that primary care has been digital for almost 20 years, the minister was unlucky to have been registered with one of the last analogue GPs.
In an apparent acknowledgement of the combative stance taken by Babylon, which legally challenged regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC) over an unfavourable report, Hancock said he wanted to create a positive environment between regulators and start-ups and said: “I want to help Babylon’s competitors”.
Babylon said that London had been chosen after it looked at different cities around the world.
The Babylon CEO was fulsome in his praise for Hancock, who he said the digital minister had created the environment in which Babylon could succeed, and for the leadership of NHS England for providing strong support for new digital services.
An indication of the extent and seniority of that support was provided by the fact that the audience included key figures such as Malcolm Grant, chairman of NHS England; Dr Simon Eccles NHS England CCIO and Juliette Bauer, head of digital experience.
GP at Hand has been commissioned by Hammersmith and Fulham CCG in London, with strong support from NHS England. The CCG is currently carrying out a review of the GP at Hand service.