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Babylon Health (B): From Disruption to Bankruptcy

Published 22 Nov 2023
Reference 6434
Region Global
Length 3 page(s)
Summary

Launched in 2013, Babylon Health is a UK-based digital-first health service provider that combines artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology to provide customers with personalized health assessments, treatment advice, and face-to-face appointments with health professionals – through an app and a website. Despite its potential to improve access to quality healthcare, Babylon Health accentuated issues of inequality in the healthcare system, especially in England where it was first launched. The A case tracks Babylon Health’s growth, successes, failures, and the controversies surrounding its offering. At its core is the question of whether AI-based services could be a solution to the issue of inequality in healthcare or could penalise people who do not have access to the internet/IT skills or have learning challenges. The B case details Babylon Health’s path to bankruptcy.

Teaching objectives

The case explores questions and trade-offs associated with technological advances in healthcare. It highlights their potential to ease problems such as widening access to healthcare, but also the related risks – of error, misdiagnosis, and the overuse of health services. Ultimately, the AI-driven service provider exacerbated inequity in the national health service by being more accessible to younger (healthier) people, than to older and less healthy groups. The startup, which was once valued at US$2B, went bankrupt in August 2023 after years of warnings that the technology was not appropriately tested and was overhyped. The case thus offers an opportunity to discuss what led to the company’s downfall, and fundamental issues such as patient safety, the responsible development of AI tools, healthcare disparities, and improving access to high-quality and affordable care.

Keywords
  • E-health
  • Digital Healthcare
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • NHS
  • Wealth inequality
  • machine learning technology
  • Babylon Health
  • Good Health & Well-Being
  • Reduced Inequality
  • Q42023