Babylon’s AI Doctor Illustrates Ability to Diagnose Diseases in London


One of the buildings of the Royal College of Physicians in London. / Photo by: Paul the Archivist via Wikimedia Commons


In a recent event at the Royal College of Physicians in London, the digital healthcare provider, Babylon, showed how their AI managed to diagnose a medical condition in a consultation.

Babylon Health is a subscription health service provider, enabling customers to conduct virtual consultations with doctors. Individuals can get advice from experienced doctors, specialists, and therapists for their queries. The service also enables a patient’s doctor to send an electronic version of a prescription that can be sent to the pharmacy or delivered to the patient.

Now, with an AI system, engineers at Babylon showed how an AI doctor can beat human doctors in a clinical exam. In the United Kingdom, the Membership of the Royal College of General Practitioners exam is required to assess the skills of upcoming general practitioners. It is one qualification that can enable a doctor to practice medicine.

Dr. Mobasher Butt, director at Babylon Health, told at the event that for the past five years, the average passing score for MRCGP is 72 percent. When the exam has been tested with the AI doctor, the result was 82 percent.

To show how it was possible, a demonstration was recalled that involved an inquiry of a woman about her latest dizzy spells. A 3D web chart filled with symptoms and diseases appeared on a large screen. As the patient answered the automated questions of a chatbot, the AI adjusted the list of potential ailments that fit her symptoms until it made an 80 percent probability for Ménière’s disease, a disorder of the inner ear that causes vertigo.

The display screen also showed the image of the patient covered in digital web lines produced by a facial tracking system, so an observing doctor at Babylon can tell if she is confused, worried or neutral based on the movements of 117 muscles on her face. Another box appeared that illustrated the body of the patient to highlight her organs and muscles that might be prone to illness.

The observing human doctor intervened with the consultation and agreed with the AI’s assessment of Ménière’s disease and prescribed prochlorperazine, a medication used for nausea and vertigo.

“You don’t need to see a doctor for a diagnosis. What you want is a treatment,” said Ali Parsa, founder of Babylon.