GP challenges ‘disruptor’ Babylon’s keynote role at RNZCGP conference


GP challenges ‘disruptor’ Babylon’s keynote role at RNZCGP conference

London tube
UK-based Babylon is transforming traditional general practice using AI and virtual consults
Technology-driven healthcare, such as tele consults, artificial intelligence and apps, is being over hyped and risks eroding quality care delivered by


Next year College intends to invite Lavrentiy Beria to address members on human rights issues.Those who think Babylon represents a good idea should consult their on-line psychiatrists and prepare for increased ACC levies.

Very poorly considered College...

Epic fail.

Of course, there are risks. In the end, patients will decide, mistakes may be made, and some evaluation will result from many quarters. Things do evolve and improve, they are never perfect at the outset. Trying to fight technology or even AI will serve little purpose, Pilots can no longer avoid computer-assisted flying even if, as we have seen, things can fail. Decision support systems are certainly not new in medicine, they have existed for decades, and technology is now much more advanced. On-line advice is better than Google and will either succeed or fail on its utility or misadventures.  Our patients may want this just like they use After Hours care. The benefit of that service can also be questioned but consumerism out-trumps arguments to the contrary. Not all patients need or want a GP they know or even a GP at all, and the 'now' answer does have some appeal, accepting that some personal responsibilities must be taken. I am not convinced that the College needs to veto such topics just because we don't like them but facilitate such debates and seek dialogue and clarification.  Maybe one day this will part of every general practice rather than separate entities as Babylon. In my view, this is simply a more sophisticated extension of the 'Portal'.

I'd suggest you read UKPulse you GP opinion of Babylon in the UK. It is not what you think it is and it does not do what you think it does. It is a competitive provider that enrols patients and creams off the "easy" patients (and their funding) whilst leaving the rest of General Practice to cope with the complex patients, the high needs patients, and the mistakes all on reduced funding levels.This is not "technology" to embrace, this is poor care and increased risk - but "cheap" for Government. We do not want this in NZ.

Thaty should read "...for GP opinion...."

Babylon serves an unmet need for fit 20-40 years olds that are rarely seen in practices.

The best response to Babylon is for NZ practices to offer the same services to this demographic. This will be particularly the case in large metropolitan areas.

If NZ general practice, responds by introducing Babylon type services, then NZ general practice can control the message ie Online services from your own practice team as opposed to Babylon,which is service delivery by professionals you do not know.

In addition, if practice introduce these service, they must market them aggressively, to inform their patients and to minimise the impact of new entrants.

It is important to adapt to these changes and waste time and effort resisting them. Early adopters will survive and prosper.


I would not use the term "unmet need" to describe the situation. It is a convenience and not a need. It is convenient because of the nature of the NHS and the problems it faces with access. They are patients who are not seen often because for the most part they are in the healthiest period of their lives (even if they engage in unhealthy activity) and because they are "healthy" it is mostly "low risk". They are "media savvy" and want instant gratification/response. Babylon does not offer ongoing doctor-patient relationships, it does not offer personalized health care, it does not offer a "medical home", and it is fraught with patient risk and medico-legal liabilities. There is nothing in it that represents "good medicine" to me. It is convenient, that is all. And when it goes wrong - because it will - the rest of us will be expected to pick up the pieces and fix things. If you think that this represents technology improving healthcare you are seriously misguided.

Thank you, Bryan for your response. Many of the issues you bring up are valid, however, there is a role for episodic care that is reflected by patient choice using A&M's and going to practices near their work for casual consultations. At present, the 'Babylon' model is restricted, over time, it will offer more services and will have a physical presence as well ( as it does in London).

Uber, Amazon and AirBnB offered people good access and responsive choice. They transformed the market. Current medical practices need to be developing their practices to become more digital practices over the next 5-10 years.

We have to respond to our patient's changing needs by looking at how they respond to new service configurations. There is rapid change occurring in the sector.

My opinion is that general practice needs to change and adapt. It is only my opinion and time will tell if it is right or wrong.What happens if I am right?




Except many cities around the globe have banned Uber, its stock value has dropped and many of the drivers have found that they barely cover their costs. Competition has been spawned and the market place has become unregulated and potentially unsafe. Would you invest in Uber now? I wouldn't. The same can be said of AirBnB. Amazon is Amazon and whilst its original core business model is sound (after it survived the DotCom crash) there are a lot of things it has become involved in that are little less savoury. The on-line gaming industry for one thing and the promotion of microtransactions and loot boxes. Go and watch Jimquisition (Jim Stirling) about the predatory nature of many on-line games and then read about Amazon's involvement. This is technology in action and technology unregulated. Maybe you did not mean to choose such poor examples, or maybe you chose to be ironic.

I am very much in favour of the use of technology for the improvement in outcomes for patients and how it can facilitate communication. Please don't equate technology and early adoption as singularly good. This is naive. You need to consider what it offers, why it offers it and where it could all go horribly wrong. In the field of healthcare going wrong could cost lives. Please don't assume that this is a model to improve healthcare, it is a model to improve profit. Do you think the Sackler's and Purdue Pharma were that concerned about the well-being of patients when they pursued their strategy with Oxycontin? We all know there haven't been any casualties there...oh, wait, I think you are now more likely to die of an opioid overdose in the USA than in a motor vehicle accident. Nothing to see here....aside from a bit of profit.

The issue is that we as professionals are expected to put the needs of others before our own. We are expected to carefully consider risk versus benefit and perform due diligence. I am not against profit but when profit is the sole motive I am against it. I like to think that I have done due diligence when it comes to organizations or corporations such as Babylon (because I have been reading about it for some time and did some research). I am far from convinced. 

 I have visited Babylon in London was very impressed by their values and commitment to delivering high quality healthcare in both the developed World and the Third World.

They are continually investing in the development of AI to support health professionals and will be expanding services and distribution across the UK and other countries.

The new technologies to support clinical practice are all being developed in the private sector. Health system neither have the expertise nor the funding to create these IT solutions.

One must do due diligence on any new product, I suggest that Babylon fits a clear market sector and will expand over time.

New Zealand general practice runs a for-profit, with values model, there is not reason that other private organisations cannot do the same.

The NHS is very cognisant of clinical risk and Babylon has been assessed independently and by the UK CQC and was found to be 'good', like the majority of UK general practices.

NZ does not have a CQC that rates practices, the UK does and it has been applied to Babylon.


I understand you remain far from convinced. I am not naive in my viewpoint, I suspect you need to open the horizon of your imagination.







CQC assessed it as good. Wow what a ringing endorsement. Now ask any UK GP what they think of CQC. I don't think you will get a ringing endorsement from anybody who is not actually part of CQC. Funny that. Do we want to start a critique of CQC?

As far as adopting and adapting technology I think you will find I am far from a technophobe. Have you ever bothered to perform a statistically representative survey of your patients as to what they want both in terms of the use of technology and communication tools and what they wanted by way of "services"? We did. Turns out less that 10% of patients wanted anything other than to see their chosen provider face-to-face at a mutually convenient time. The most popular "tech" they wanted was "Txt to remind" about appointments, and considering the number of missed appointments we have (very few) the cost-benefit analysis was not particularly favourable.

Just look at what the advertisement for Babylon says and say this is not simply a convenience technology. Think what you like, but this is not a technology that will improve patient outcomes or actually improve patient satisfaction. It is much easier to provide some at best second-rate nebulous solution than actually look at what the issues are and how we deal with them. Technology may play a part in a solution - but I don't think that it is Babylon - no matter how good their sales pitch is or how they sell themselves. It is because I have opened the horizon of my imagination that I can see where this can all go horribly wrong.

The RNZCGP made a good choice inviting Dr Mobasher Butt, the CMO of Babylon as a keynote speaker. NZ GPs will have an opportunity to hear him talk and ask questions about nature and impact of Babylon. They will learn a lot, maybe you should and get some first hand knowledge of the services that Babylon offers?

I think one of the major concerns many of us have Jonathon is the current funding model for Primary Care is not fit for purpose. It will not support General Practice and a clawback of the low hanging fruit that will occur with the likes of Babylon. We also have a Government that clearly lacks the insight, motivation or the competence to address these and other critical issues facing the sector.

I could not agree with you more. New model of care need new ways to fund them and this is the critical issue. The whole of the primary care funding is no longer fit for purpose.

I would hope that the review committee will take action maybe this is naive!

Sorry Jonathan, highly naive! Without GP representation on the review committee we are dead in the water. Whe our representatives didn't scream about this beggars belief. 


One of the   Health  Quality   and  Safety  Commission  2018  funded  projects   for  2018 was for   the  Whanganui  Gonville  Health  clinic   set up  in  2007  by  the  Whanganui   PHO   to  take   difficult  patients  , poor  payers   mental health   difficult patients  and  over flow    from   established   practices and  see if they  could    reduce  the   time  taken  for new enrollments  to  be  seen .At  the   start of  the  project  the  average time   was 80  -  100  days  . The  demographic was  low  socioeconomic and started  wih 6000 patients  of whom  19 % were   clients of the   hospital   secondary    Community  mental  health   teams . Over  less than  18  months   the practice  enrolled   2600 patients  . although  mentioned on the   HQSC  website  that some  1700  left the  practice  a  " churn " of 20-30 %  in the  write up  in the  Whanganui   District Health  Board  staff News for   March  2019  the    exit rate was  not mentioned . This  is   just  the  group  that  continuity   of care and wrap  around services  and    stable  GP/ Practice  Nurse   staffing  are most helped  by   but   not being  provided  by  the  set up  established .

It was to  be  an exemplar  of    the practice  for  the  future .  Million dollar  rooms  paid  for  by    community  trusts , community  rooms,   integrated  pharmacy ,   full  time  social worker , Clinical Pharmacist,  community  located  and engaging  Nurse practitioners , GP  s and  health  care assistants .

 The  trust  pays  more than many self employed  GPS  earn, has    effectively,   free   rooms has   regular   stop  smoking   practitioners   from   another  trust   extremely  well funded  by  the PHO   and  the  results   and investment   are difficult to  justify.  Had the  PHO   backed    the practices  that  had  spare  room  capacity  and  needed  salary  support  while  new  GPs  got established  instead of their own  ideologically  based    theories  of how   General  practice   could  be  run by  a  committee with  managers  on  $ 150,000 -$200,000  salaries  perhaps  the   current   dysfunction in the  Town's  Primary  care could  have  been different .

 2600 patients  enrolled  should  generate  about  a million  dollars  of   income  but  with  1800 leaving in  the  same  time  there is  a huge wastage of  people  resources  , energy  and  money achieving  little .

If one looks  at the   demographic with  Meningitis   turning up  at after hours  clinics and EDs  with  a  story  that   not  infrequently  seems  to  go  some thing  like  my  sore head and  neck    must have  been when I  was   lifting  something,  strained  something etc  and the  HDC  reports  seen by  lots of  different   practitioners . this   piecemeal  service  doesn't  provide the  outcomes  that   stable  continuity  of service  should be able  to.






Low hanging fruit which enables places like Northland JUST financially viable. Take that away and we are left with the massive elderly load, many who individually cost us thousands per patient and weeks each to care for. Oh FFS.