Babylon Health | Export Champion | CommonwealthFirst

Babylon Health – First Cohort Export Champion



Online medical consultation and services

Location: London
Company website:
Sector: Health, Technology


With the stated aim of putting an accessible and affordable health service into the hands of every person on earth, babylon are ambitious. This award-winning pioneer in digital health are now looking to take their globally scalable health technology platforms out to the Commonwealth and beyond.

babylon aims to deliver high quality personal healthcare to its customers at affordable cost with, as far as possible, the entire service conducted through a mobile phone. This brilliant simplicity allows the company’s mobile app to provide users with a formidable combination of world class Artificial Intelligence care (the ‘Check a Symptom’ function) with provision for live video consultations with actual GP’s – provided in a fraction of the time that patients would normally expect to wait for an in person appointment.

Founded by Dr Ali Parsa in 2013, babylon are rapidly growing in the UK, where they already have over 350,000 users, and Ireland. However, in order to demonstrate the viability of a vision far bigger than this, the company is now expanding into Rwanda where it hopes to show that access to high quality healthcare for everyone is possible – regardless of location or financial status.

Commonwealth First will work with babylon to help make their vision a reality in some of the world’s poorest regions including countries like Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Nigeria and India which contain huge populations in desperate need of the kind of services that babylon can provide.


Apply now to become an Export Champion.


Dr Ali Parsa, CEO & Founder

How did the idea for your company come about?
I got lucky in my previous business, and built a great chain of hospitals. But it soon became clear that some 90% of healthcare needs have nothing to do with hospitals. It’s diagnostics and treatment on the one hand, prevention on the other, and we do a lousy job of it. In the developed economies healthcare is expensive and often inconvenient to access. In developing companies, the problem is more severe. As the result 50% of the world’s population has very little access to quality healthcare.

So we started thinking about how we can solve this problem by combining the expertise of clinicians, with the most advanced technology available, to deliver the healthcare people need at prices they can afford, from the mobile in their hands.

What difficulties have you encountered setting up your business?
Too many to list. Whenever you start to make your dream a reality, there’s always going to be a large number of things that don’t go to plan. Creating something out of nothing is always going to be unpredictable, some things won’t go very well and other things will go better than expected. No point in fretting about it – you just have to get on with it.

What are the biggest trade and export challenges you face?
In a way babylon was born global. We created babylon with the intention to be a global digital service, and so we don’t really think in terms of trade and export, we’re a digital platform without borders.

But we do think hard about the physical localisation of babylon from country to country to minimise the cultural challenges we might face. So to us, we need to serve everyone eventually, it’s just a matter of sequencing it.

What are the most crucial things you have done to grow and develop your company?
We’re trying to solve a very big problem; to put accessible, affordable healthcare in the hands of every person on earth. The accessible part is almost easier, as we can leverage the mobiles that are already in everyone’s hand. The affordability problem is the critical issue here though.

The costs in healthcare are primarily in people and timing. So, we’ve built an artificial intelligence clinical agent to leverage the reach and capability of doctors and nurses. This reduces the human cost of looking after a patient significantly, while freeing up a lot more of their time to focus on patient needs.

Secondly, we’re working on using the large amounts of data we collect from each person to predict sickness, and the things that make them unhealthy. By seeing these health challenges at an earlier stage we’re hoping to deal with problems whilst they’re a £10 problem and before they develop into a £1000 problem.

How did you hear about the CommonwealthFirst programme and what made you apply?
I heard about the CWF programme through a colleague of mine, we wanted to get involved for the obvious advantages the programme has to offer. But also because it’s a good opportunity to speak to businesses throughout the Commonwealth that we might not get a chance to speak to otherwise, find out what challenges they face, and how we can all help each other.

Our mission is to put access to quality healthcare in the hands of every person on earth, and lots of those people live in the Commonwealth.

What are you hoping to get out of the CWF programme?
Our mission is very much a global one. There is currently a worldwide shortage of five million doctors, which is having a huge impact on access to healthcare. It is my hope that the CWF programme will help create new relationships and show the value of babylon for the Commonwelath market.


What is a typical working day for you?
I wish there was such a thing as a typical day. Like most people, every single day is different for me. The truth is that I do very little valuable work myself. Our people are the smartest in the world at what they do, so my job is to do whatever there is to be done to make it as easy as possible for them to do theirs.

Where would you like your business to be in 5 years’ time?
I would be incredibly disappointed if in five to ten years somebody has not done to healthcare what Google has done to information and make it accessible and affordable for everyone. I hope it’s babylon but frankly it’s irrelevant to humanity who it is. But healthcare needs to be available for all, at prices everybody can afford.

What advice would you give to anybody looking to set up an SME?
My advice is don’t do it. It takes just as much time, effort and determination to run a big business as it does to run a small one. So just think big from the start and see what happens.

How do you measure your impact/effectiveness?
There are a lot of ways to measure our successes, and our failures, but we have now broken the 500,000 registrations milestone globally. Ultimately, we measure our impact on how well we serve the people who have entrusted us with their healthcare needs

How accurate is your AI ‘Check a Symptom’ app function?
What our AI does, it does very accurately and it will continue to do more and more. We test it against real doctors all the time and it is just as, if not more, accurate. The great thing about our AI is that it’s also always learning, so the detail it can use to triage today, and hopefully diagnose tomorrow, is on an increasingly granular level.

Is there anything exciting you want to share?
We launched babylon in our first African country, Rwanda in late September. In just over 15 weeks, over 250,000 people signed up and we delivered over 60,000 consultations.

This is so important to us because we now know that babylon works in one of the richest countries on earth (the UK), and in one of the more economically challenged countries (Rwanda). So we are now pretty confident that there’s no reason it can’t work everywhere in the world.


This interview was conducted as part of the CommonwealthFirst Export Champion interview series. Apply now to become an Export Champion.