Babylon Health’s AI Beats Human Doctors on a Clinical Exam

May factory workers have been worried for some time now, as the talk about AI-powered robotics taking their jobs has been floating around for the past few years.  The chatter is not new, as the job loss due to increasing industrialization has been going on for a few decades already.  There are other industries that are nervous about the rise of machine intelligence as well, with call center workers also worried about AI-driven customer service these days.

And with a new development from London-based startup Babylon Health, even doctors may have cause to be worried.  What has happened is that Babylon Health has been developing its own artificial intelligence software for the last two years, and recently, this AI system has demonstrated diagnostic ability that is on-par with human doctors.  This happened when it scored 82% in a Membership of the Royal College of General Practitioners (MRCGP) exam which trainee general practitioners take to test their ability to diagnose.  The average passing rate for humans over the past 5 years has been 72%.

Primary Care

They also tested the AI against seven experienced primary care doctors to determine its ability to accurately diagnose a wider range of health conditions.  And when faced with 100 independently-devised symptom sets, the AI scored 80% accuracy in its diagnostics capabilities.

The seven doctors achieved an accuracy ranging from 64% to 94%, though, which still puts its diagnostic capabilities at the upper end of the spectrum.  But when assessed against conditions seen most frequently in primary care medicine, Babylon Health said its AI system upped its accuracy rate to 98%, compared with a 52-99% scored from human doctors.

Babylon Health’s diagnostic engine engineers also constantly train it with new data from its interactions with humans to further improve its capabilities.

Demonstration of AI’s Power

In Babylon Health’s demonstration of their AI’s capabilities, Babylon Health showed an animated, 3-D web of symptoms and diseases, as the voice of a woman answered automated questions from their chatbot about her recent symptoms.

The interface that Bablyon’s doctors see also appeared onscreen, filled with text and graphics.  It also showed the image of the woman calling, covered in a digital web of lines for their facial tracking system. This would tell the doctor if she was feeling confused, worried or neutral, based on the movements of 117 muscles on her face.

Others aspects of their app were a box on the side of the screen transcribing their conversation and categorizing it into sections, as well as a graphical, translucent illustration of the woman’s body, highlighting her organs and muscles in another box.


The AI gave its diagnosis as Ménière’s disease, and the human doctor concurred with its assessment.  Such is the company’s pitch to healthcare providers: if you use this service, doctors can spend their time more efficiently and over time, you won’t need to hire quite so many of them.

The Health of Babylon Health

Babylon Health is a subscription-based health-service provider.  Its users gain access to its network of 250 work-from-home doctors whom people can call on their mobiles, as well as to this medical-advice software that people can use to investigate an ailment.

They’ve recently partnered with Samsung, who will be integrating Babylon Health’s service into the built-in Samsung Health app on compatible Galaxy devices, which potential clients will have to pay for at a £50 per year subscription, £25 for a one-off appointment in the UK.  Babylon Health has also raised $85 million since its founding five years ago.

Britain’s state-run National Health Service (NHS), also allowed 26,000 citizens in London to switch from physical NHS GP clinics to Babylon’s service instead, with another 20,000 on a waiting list to join.  And the pitch to the economics-attuned healthcare in American market is set to have Babylon Health operational in U.S. clinics in 2019, starting state by state.

Health Care for Billions

Ali Parsa, the startup’s charismatic founder, has called the AI’s success a world first, but it’s sure the be the first of many as AI development becomes more sophisticated.  This also goes towards the company’s professed goal of putting accessible healthcare in the hands of everyone on the planet.  Regulations currently limit it to only providing medical advice.  But of course, it may be only a matter of time before it’s trusted to make a diagnosis and write a prescription.