NHS long term plan IT update, Babylon's £23.3m reported loss and more UK digital health news briefs

Also: UK ministers will explore the impact of technology on loneliness and Japanese hospital joins AI research project through five-year partnership with London-based DeepMind Health.
By Leontina Postelnicu

NHS long term plan IT update. NHS leaders working on the long term plan for the health service have estimated that between £10.9bn and £12.9bn in IT spending over the next five years would be needed for the implementation of proposals across 15 workstreams, according to the Health Service Journal [paywall]. While the total sum is expected to fall during the next few weeks, sources told the publication that more than 50 tech projects had been put forward, including an expansion of telehealth services and the creation of a “national NHS cloud service”, the HSJ has reported.

“I hope when people read the long-term plan later this year what we’ll see is, rather than it being a series of things that we want to do about cancer and mental health and cardiovascular disease, and then an annex with an IT strategy attached, we’ll see the IT all the way through the aspirations,” Matthew Swindells, NHS England Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Operations and Information, said at an event organised by Freuds in London towards the end of September. Swindells warned that the NHS needed to move away from the idea that IT was “something that you buy on top of everything, as opposed to (…) this is how you make your business productive in the 21st century”. 

UK government unveils first loneliness strategy. Prime Minister Theresa May has launched today a cross-government strategy looking to tackle loneliness, outlining a range of commitments to support people in improving their health and wellbeing that will see the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport explore how technology can be used to “build community integration”. Meanwhile, Minister for Loneliness Tracey Crouch and Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries Margot James will reportedly organise a roundtable with tech companies to assess the impact of technology on people's experiences of loneliness.

“Nobody should feel alone or be left with no one to turn to. Loneliness is a serious issue that affects people of all ages and backgrounds and it is right that we tackle it head on,” Crouch said in a statement.


Japanese hospital partners with London-based DeepMind Health.The Jikei University Hospital in Japan is joining an AI research project led by the Cancer Research UK Imperial Centre at Imperial College London through a five-year partnership with DeepMind Health, the Google subsidiary announced at the beginning of the month. Experts are exploring the potential of machine learning in helping clinicians diagnose breast cancer on mammograms faster. DeepMind Health Clinical Lead Dominic King explained in a recent blog:

"Working with partners and data from multiple countries in a single project is a first for DeepMind Health. We hope that doing so will help us work towards our ambition to create technology that works for everyone around the world, because it will help us minimise bias.

"Bias can occur when you train an AI system on data which doesn’t accurately reflect the people it is being designed for, and it’s a serious problem. By under-representing or even excluding certain groups from a dataset – be it by age, ethnicity, or gender – you create technology which doesn’t best meet their needs."

Babylon reports £23.3m loss. Babylon has reported a £23.3m net loss for 2017, nearly double compared to the previous year, according to recent filings. The London-headquartered health tech company’s app provides users with free health advice through an AI-powered chatbot –along with a recently introduced Healthcheck functionality – and allows them to book GP consultations through a £5 monthly subscription or a one-off £25 fee. In the UK, it has partnered with the NHS to provide the GP at Hand service, which allows NHS patients - living or working in the catchment areas of five GP surgeries in London where it is currently available - to use the app and book consultations with NHS GPs, although they have to leave their old practice to do so. At the beginning of the month, Babylon said more than 32,000 people had registered to use it. Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock previously pledged his support for the GP at Hand service, describing it as “revolutionary” in an interview with The Telegraph

Babylon recently introduced a free Healthcheck functionality. Source: Babylon Health

Documents show the company also reported revenues of £1.5m for 2017, up from nearly £800,000 the previous year. The company said in a statement it was “confident in the trajectory” of the business and that it expected “to see further technical innovations and business expansion over coming months”. A spokesperson told MobiHealthNews:

“Both Babylon Health Services Limited (BHSL) and Babylon Partners Limited (BPL) demonstrated strong increases in turnover for the 12 months to December 31st, 2017 – reflecting substantial growth across our NHS GP at hand operations, Babylon private consumer service and B2B offerings across the UK. Keeping Babylon at the forefront of discovery in pursuit of our mission to make healthcare accessible and affordable to every person on Earth requires significant investment in cutting edge technology. 

"The net loss reported in the BPL accounts for 2017 reflects the considerable up-front costs associated with creating one of the world’s largest and most advanced multi-disciplinary teams dedicated to building next-generation, AI-powered healthcare technologies. The scale of this investment is not only necessary from a tech development perspective but is also increasing the company’s propensity to scale its operations globally."Mercurial Superfly low