UK-based Babylon raises $25M for its app-enabled, remote healthcare service

By Aditi Pai
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UK-based Babylon, a remote care company, has raised $25 million in a round led by Investment AB Kinnevik with participation from Hoxton Ventures, Innocent Drinks cofounders Richard Reed, Adam Balon, and Jon Wright, as well as Deepmind cofounders Demis Hassabis and Mustafa Suleyman.

The company’s CEO and founder, Ali Parsa, began working on Babylon in 2013 and launched the offering in early 2105.

“So much of healthcare solutions currently are trying to make the existing system more efficient,” Parsa told MobiHealthNews. “But what you really need to do is say, ‘What is the alternative? If I have a clean sheet of paper, how do I deliver personal health services at prices that everyone can afford?’”

The company’s app, available on iOS and Android devices, allows users to book a video consultation with a doctor or a therapist, send photo or text messages to get answers to quick questions, track their health, and store basic health information like family health history, medication history, and allergy information. Users can order tests via the app too.

“We also try to make a lot of those very simple for you,” Parsa explained. “For instance, I know everything about my body now. I know how my liver is doing, how my [kidneys are] doing. I never went to a doctor to get any of this information. Every piece of that information was taken from my home, because we figured out very simple ways to do all of those tests. If I want to know my cholesterol, I click two buttons on the app and a cholesterol test comes to my home. I prick my finger and very simply I take a couple droplets of blood into that kit, send it back to Babylon, and we will deliver the results back to your phone.”

For unlimited access to doctors, users pay around $7 (4.99 pounds) per month in the UK and $8.60 (7.99 euros) per month in Ireland. One session with a therapist or specialist costs $70.50 (49 pounds) in the UK. The therapist offering is coming soon to Ireland. Doctors who provide care through the app are employed by Babylon.

Shortly after launching, in February 2015, the company had 5,000 users. Babylon now covers about 250,000 lives with 150,000 active users. While consumers are able to get the service directly, Babylon also offers it via employers. Parsa said employers like the app because it’s one extra convenience they can provide for their employees. Some of the employers and payers that are using Babylon include Citigroup, Sky, MasterCard, Mercer, Bupa, and Aviva.

Babylon will use the funds from this round to further develop an artificial intelligence system that helps users navigate their symptoms and monitor medication adherence. Parsa said that Babylon will release the first part of this offering in the next two to three months. 

“Now it’s all about figuring out what’s the best way of engaging with you,” he said. “Do you talk? Do you have some kind of visual? So we are now testing that on people. What is it that people really find most trustworthy?”

Babylon also plans to launch its offering in Rwanda.

“The reason we are doing that is if we can solve the problems of healthcare in some of the poorest countries in the world, the learning is immense,” Parsa said. “Toyota became the world’s largest car company not by coming first to the United States, but by figuring out how to serve the rest of the world that couldn’t afford the petrol-guzzling, massive US cars of the 50s, 60s, and 70s. And they created a much better value for money proposition in the rest of the world. And when they came to the US, they took it by storm.”

Before starting Babylon, Parsa founded Circle, a clinician co-owned partnership that went public in 2011.

Earlier this month, another UK-based video visits company, Push Doctor, raised $8.2 million, bringing that company’s total funding to $9.4 million.