British health tech firm Babylon to help digitise Rwanda's overburdened health centres

The project has received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
By Tammy Lovell
11:13 am
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Credit: Babyl Rwanda

Babylon is supporting the government of Rwanda in a project to digitise its healthcare system and reduce the burden on over-stretched health centres. 

As part of a project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the British health tech firm has developed a series of triage tools to digitally-enable public health centres through its Babyl Rwanda subsidiary.

The tools analyse symptoms to determine the appropriate action and can connect suitable patients to a clinician over the phone, while also helping health centre staff prioritise the most urgent cases.

They use artificial intelligence (AI) technology which has been localised for Rwanda by accounting for local language and epidemiology. Support workers will also be trained to help patients with low literacy.

For patients who require a physical consultation at the health centre, triage will act as a prioritisation tool ensuring those with urgent needs get placed at the front of the queue.

The patient’s triage outcome generated through the tool can also be shared with health centre clinicians making it easier for them to quickly access the information they need to treat the patient.

WHY IT MATTTERS

Like many countries around the world, Rwanda’s healthcare system is overburdened. Health centres feel the brunt of this, with nurses in some health centres and health posts regularly seeing up to 50 patients a day each.

In a country with 15% smartphone penetration, introducing digital triage to health centres allows even those living in the more remote areas of the country to reap the benefits of this technology.

Through this new system Babylon hopes to enable more effective use of scarce health resources, whilst also meaning patients will see shorter queues and improved quality of care.

THE LARGER CONTEXT

This is the second project that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has granted to Babylon to support Babyl’s work with the government of Rwanda. Babyl has over two million registered patients and completes more than 3,000 consultations every day.

Following Babyl’s signing of a 10-year contract with the government of Rwanda earlier this year, this digitisation of health centres is the next step for Babyl services.

Meanwhile, recent peer-reviewed research by Babylon published in Nature Communications found that AI using the principles of causal reasoning scored higher than 70% of GPs in diagnosing written test cases.

The firm scored a $550 million Series C round last year, reported to put its valuation at more than $2 billion.

ON THE RECORD

Babyl’s managing director, Shivon Byamukama said: “We believe that this technology will empower health centres and improve the way patients receive care. We are extremely excited to contribute to Rwanda’s digital health agenda in partnership with the government of Rwanda.” 

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