Paul Bate – “Bringing in artificial intelligence has a potential to really transform the way health care is delivered”

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Aug 30, 2017
by Nicole Bogart
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Paul Bate – “Bringing in artificial intelligence has a potential to really transform the way health care is delivered”

Director of NHS services at Babylon Health discusses role of technology in health care Paul Bate, director of NHS services at Babylon Health, speaking during the inaugural meeting of the Sciana Network

Paul Bate, director of NHS services at Babylon Health, believes technology will play a key role in providing more accessible and affordable health care around the world; a belief which encompasses Babylon’s very mission. Bate attended the inaugural meeting of Sciana, the health care leaders network, to shed light on the issues facing the UK health care system and share his insights in the role artificial intelligence (AI) may have in aiding them.

The Sciana network is an international collaboration between The Health Foundation, Careum Stiftung and the Robert Bosch Stiftung, facilitated by Salzburg Global Seminar and hosted at Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron. The health leaders network will bring together leaders in health and health care policy over the next two years to find solutions to shared challenges being faced in health care across Europe.

As director of Babylon’s NHS services, Bate helps facilitate work between the health-tech company and the NHS. Babylon, an app which offers artificially intelligent symptom checking and fast access to primary care physicians, has partnered with the NHS to offer an app-based alternative to its 111 telephone helpline, providing health care advice to more than one million residents in north central London.

Instead of speaking to an NHS representative over the phone, patients are able to chat with Babylon’s AI-powered chatbot, which gauges the patient’s symptoms and helps connect them with a doctor if needed.

“What that means is they can get an answer in seconds that we know is validated, safe, highly accurate, and very convenient for them,” explains Bates. “They don’t need to hold the line, talk to or visit a clinician or other professional; they can get the information they need to get on with their life.”

Prior to his arrival in Salzburg to attend the inaugural meeting of the Sciana network, Babylon announced it raised $60 million in new funding to continue building its AI capabilities, which Bates says will help the company mimic a doctor’s brain for the purpose of diagnosing disease.

“People, and the doctors that work with them, will be able to have information they otherwise could not get on their condition, not just the symptom checking that we already do. This is transformative,” he says.

This type of innovation will help deliver more effective care by aiding in two areas, according to Bates; by cutting down on the labour costs for highly trained specialists, doctors and nurses, and by helping to diagnose diseases earlier.

“What might be a ten dollar, or pound, problem initially can become thousands of pounds, or dollars, to solve for the patient, and at a considerable pain to them,” he says. “So, bringing in artificial intelligence, particularly that ability to mimic a doctor’s brain, has a potential to really transform the way health care is delivered so it’s much more accessible and more affordable.”

This kind of transformative care is already making an impact in Rwanda, where about 400,000 patients currently have access to Babylon’s services. Bate says using the health care app in a developing economy lends further evidence to the potential the technology has in addressing concerns facing European systems.

“The UK has more constrained funding than the European average – a little less per person than the average GDP. But compared to a country like Rwanda, or other parts of the developing world, we have a lot more money to spend. None the less, those challenges of the amount of money that’s spent on health care that goes into the people costs, and finding diseases later in the day, those are commonly shared across the globe,” he says.

“So I think Babylon’s potential to be transformational in supporting both people using services to get accessible care, and getting professionals practicing at the top of their license, that’s what make it exciting at the NHS and the world at large.”

AI is already considered the fastest growing health investment area, with researchers and clinicians looking to the technology to aid in training, research, early detection, diagnosis, and treatment; a topic which was highly discussed during the inaugural Sciana meeting.

Bate said his involvement in this emerging area of health care technology, coupled with his excitement to network with others passionate about the industry, encouraged him to be a part of the first Sciana cohort.

He also hopes the Sciana network will help health care leaders to focus on challenges and issues that might otherwise be crowded out because they feel less urgent than others.

“It’s an opportunity to discuss and broaden the horizons on the art of the possible, so that the ultimate aim of support people to be as well as possible, and to live the happiest, healthiest lives they can, can become a reality in a way that it maybe would take a little bit longer to do,” he says.