London-headquartered company Babylon has announced a 10-year partnership with the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust (RWT) in the West Midlands to launch a model of ‘digital-first integrated care’.
Babylon says people in Wolverhampton and the neighbouring areas will benefit from faster access to services, while staff will have more time to care for their patients.
With increasing pressures facing the health service, RWT chief executive David Loughton said it was “critical” that the NHS improved the digital capabilities of its workforce.
WHY IT MATTERS
The new partnership will see primary and secondary care connected in one (free) app that will allow patients to book consultations, including with RWT and Babylon doctors, access personal records and more.
The first services are expected to become available for use before the end of the year.
“We know from our active engagement with patients of all ages and backgrounds that they are keen to use technology that will improve access and give them greater control of their own health, wellbeing and social inclusion. For example, it should be normal for a patient with a long-term condition to take a blood-test at home, have the results fed into their app which alerts the specialist if they need an appointment,” Loughton said.
“We also know from our engagement with clinicians that releasing time to care for our sickest patients is a top priority and there is consensus that this could be facilitated by technology, if we partner with the best and work collaboratively and openly,” the CEO added.
THE LARGER PICTURE
RWT is not the first NHS trust to partner with Babylon. In May, the Guardian revealed that University Hospitals Birmingham planned to use its technology to reduce pressures on A&E.
A couple of months later, Babylon announced that it closed a $550m Series C funding round, drawing the attention of investors including Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, to expand into the US and Asia.
The company also said that it planned to launch its triage chatbot service in the US this January.
But while Babylon is seen as one of the most promising providers in the digital health space, it has often come under fire in the UK – with claims made regarding the accuracy of their chatbot questioned by doctors and patient safety concerns raised around the use of the GP at Hand app.
ON THE RECORD
In a statement, Babylon chief executive and founder Ali Parsa said: “We are extremely proud of this exciting 10-year partnership with RWT which will benefit patients and the NHS as a whole.
“We have over 1,000 AI experts, clinicians, engineers and scientists who will be helping to make digital-first integrated care a reality and provide fast, effective, proactive care to patients.”