Dr. Ali Parsa is a British-Iranian healthcare entrepreneur and engineer. He’s the founder and CEO of Babylon, the revolutionary AI and digital health company. Babylon’s mission is to put an accessible and affordable health service in the hands of every person on earth.
Dr. Parsa was listed in The Times 100 people to watch. The Health Service Journal recognized him as one of ‘the 50 most influential people in UK healthcare’. He was featured in the Maserati 100, a list that recognizes game-changing entrepreneurs. He’s a UK Cabinet Office Ambassador for Mutuals and has a PhD in Engineering Physics.
Q: Many digital health companies have reported increased usage of their platforms during the COVID-19 pandemic. How has the pandemic changed things for your company?
A: Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen increased interest in remote consultations from around the world, and it’s easy to see why. Not only does it help stop the spread of illness between patients congregating at a clinic, but it also protects the doctors. We’ve already seen how quickly healthcare facilities can be closed down because staff get ill. Offering remote consultations reduces these risks and means we can keep offering people the medical help they need, from wherever they are. However, it’s not just people with COVID-19 that we need to be thinking of – there are still all the usual cases of people falling ill, and they still need to be cared for – so offering remote consultations helps them and helps ensure healthcare workers are well enough to look after them. This is the real strength of a digital-first approach, and all helps the coordinated effort in keeping society well.
Hopefully this will be the moment that healthcare systems decide that innovative technologies can be applied to assist with significant challenges such as management of chronic conditions, from diabetes to mental health. If healthcare systems can learn from the way we can now funnel care to the COVID-19 patients who need it most, whilst automating it where we can, to proactively think of new ways of harnessing technology to deliver care, it will reduce the pressure on clinicians so they can operate at the top of their licenses and divert their attention to where it is most needed.
Q: At least in the US, one of the biggest factors in regards to physician burn-out is paperwork. Do you think digital health could also be used to alleviate provider burn-out by automating certain tasks? For example: medication refills, lab orders, imaging orders, assisting the provider in templating an encounter note, etc?
A: Digital health is a two-way street. Not only does it present patients with the flexibility to access care on their terms, it also gives providers the freedom to give care in a way that works best for them and their patients. The pandemic put a spotlight on provider stress and burnout, but it was an issue that existed long before COVID-19. We have to remember that providers are humans too, and we simply cannot deliver quality care unless our workforce is healthy, happy, and given the freedom to strike an appropriate work-life balance. The end-to-end digital care model that Babylon delivers is meant to connect both fragmented patient journeys, as well as cumbersome provider processes that have been in need of reform for some time.
Q: Do you see any limitations to the expansion and adoption of digital health?
A: Science and technology by themselves won't transform healthcare. What is required is a change in attitude, and each and every one of us is responsible for that change. These are dark and difficult times, but we cannot let it go to waste, and must learn from these challenges where we can.
Healthcare has adapted faster than most thought possible to meet our needs for COVID-19. Only a few months ago, something as mundane as telemedicine was considered 'a radical new technology'. Now, it's commonplace. A doctor behind a phone is as expensive, and is as much in short supply, as one sitting in a clinic. We must focus on our needs, and not the means. It's not the technology that is the issue, it's how we apply it to solve the root cause of a problem. Hopefully this will be the moment that healthcare systems decide that innovative technologies can be applied to assist with significant challenges such as management of chronic conditions, from diabetes to mental health. People all around the world have paid far too heavy a price for us to go back to the way it was before. It is our obligation to those who have suffered not to return to our old ways, but to reshape for the better all that we do.
Q: What do you think digital health looks like globally in 10 years?
A: We don’t know what the future will hold, but we know the potential is enormous. In 10 years' time we will have automated so much – your wearable tech will not only be prompting you to change your diet, or do more exercise, but it will be monitoring you and letting you know when you're becoming ill even before you realise yourself. AI will spot the alert and know whether to tell you to change your behaviour or see a doctor. The doctor will have all your information at their fingertips, and the AI will have given advice and reminders about the likely cause and potential rare cases. The system will monitor how well you do with treatment, alerting your doctor if there are any problems, help manage you back to full health – and continue working to keep you that way. That will be truly personalised medicine and will bring us a huge way to affordable, accessible healthcare for everyone on Earth.
Babylon Health is working to put accessible and affordable healthcare into the hands of every person on Earth. Find out more at https://www.babylonhealth.com/us/about
Check out Part 1 of our interview with Dr. Ali Parsa here!