Babylon teams up with Mount Sinai to launch AI-based app in New York City

British startup Babylon Health is rapidly expanding its presence in the U.S. market by teaming up with Mount Sinai Health Partners to roll out its app to millions of New Yorkers.

Babylon offers a digital healthcare app for AI-powered diagnosis and video appointments. The company was last valued at $2 billion during a fundraise in 2019 and has raised more than $600 million to date.

The company has joined Mount Sinai Health Partners, a primary care network comprised of Mount Sinai's full-time faculty physicians, associated community physicians and eight hospitals spanning Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island. The partnership brings 24/7 access to digital healthcare service to millions of New York residents, the organizations said.

The Babylon app includes a COVID-19 Care Assistant that provides up-to-date information about COVID-19, a symptom checker and virtual doctor consultations with New York Telemedicine Associates.

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The service will take the pressure off of New York emergency rooms, doctors' offices and other medical services at a time when so many in the state are at capacity, Babylon Health said.

"New York is the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic and more than ever the need to engage with our patients in their homes has become an essential part of healthcare. Having Babylon in our network also strengthens our capacity in this area to serve our patients at the highest level," Robert Fields, M.D, chief medical officer at Mount Sinai Health Partners, said in a statement.

Ali Parsa, Babylon CEO and founder, said the partnership with Mount Sinai gives eligible insurance plan members in New York City access for their primary healthcare needs.

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The Babylon app provides access to a digital-first healthcare solution that makes available a variety of healthcare services, with aims of fully integrating into secondary healthcare, Parsa said.

"The relationship between Babylon and Mount Sinai Health Partners illustrates a quality, digital-first care model—underlined by a focus on prevention—that Babylon aims to replicate with other impactful healthcare organizations across the U.S. and worldwide," he said.

The company launched in 2013 and says it designed its AI capabilities "around a doctor's brain" to provide accessible healthcare for millions in the palms of their hands. 

The U.K.’s National Health Service uses Babylon Health to offer its “GP in Hand” mobile consultation service. 

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Babylon says it delivers 4,000 clinical consultations each day, or one patient interaction every 10 seconds. The company has over 4 million registered patients and has completed nearly 2 million consultations globally.

The app has surged in popularity since the World Health Organization labeled coronavirus a pandemic on March 8, 2020, with the number of new U.K. registrations rising by 140,000. So far, 31,000 users have used the COVID-19 triage “symptom checker” in the U.K., Forbes reported.

The company raised $550 million last August in an effort to launch an expansion into the U.S. 

Despite its $2 billion valuation, the company furloughed 5% of its staff in April in response to COVID-19, Business Insider reported.

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The field of AI-based health chatbots has grown crowded in recent years, and Babylon has emerged as a major player in the sector.

But Babylon Health has faced controversy and criticism over its AI-based symptom checker and whether it has adequate proof that its products work.

The company has also encountered public controversy by making certain claims that critics have described as misleading. The British Medical Association and other medical groups pushed back on studies that claim Babylon's AI could diagnose common diseases as well as human physicians.

As part of Babylon's move into the U.S., the company has already been providing access to services through the Babylon app to members of certain health plans in Missouri, New York and California, building toward a 50-state network, the company said.