May 4, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

Tired of struggling to get doctor’s appointments and long waiting room waits? According to  British firm Babylon, this scenario may be a thing of the past thanks to the debut of “the world’s most advanced artificial intelligence healthcare platform,” according to a report from the BBC. Here’s a closer look at why the doctor of the future may not be a doctor at all, but a smartphone app.

Expert Health Advice in the Palm of Your Hand

Babylon recently announced a £50m investment in a smartphone app which will offer fast, accurate and reliable diagnoses. Says Babylon chief executive Ali Parsa, “Our scientists have little doubt that our AI will soon diagnose and predict personal health better than doctors.”

Babylon’s service currently connects patients with their human physicians via smartphone. After remotely evaluating a patient’s symptoms, doctors can then advise on next steps thereby sparing a costly and time-consuming doctor visit. Now, Babylon is gathering even more data in order to achieve a new feat: teaching the system itself to become an expert in the area of diagnosis. Says the BBC, “In effect the machine is going through medical school, armed with vast amounts of data, and learning more every time it interacts with a patient.”

While Parsa is quick to note that its AI won’t completely replace doctors, he does tout its potential to help them do their jobs better: “Considering the machine is interacting with thousands of patients a day, the speed at which it is learning is significantly higher than any one individual. We’re trying to give the machine a significant amount of data, much more than any human brain can keep.”

The UK’s Leading Edge

According to the BBC, a report from the Royal Society suggests that Babylon may be uniquely positioned to succeed in this ambitious endeavor due to the UK’s achievements in the area of machine learning. Not only that, but the field of healthcare is particularly ripe for transformation. Said Professor Donnelly, chair of a recent panel on machine learning, “Analyzing complex images and combining information from many sources to help doctors make decisions on diagnosis and treatment will become more and more important.”

Still, The Royal Society cautions that making good on the potential of machine learning relies on one thing above all else: the ongoing prioritization of the skills needed to keep the UK on the inside edge.

Read more about studying healthcare and technology.


Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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