Business Recoded … Ali Parsa, founder of AI-enabled Babylon Health, giving people fast and remote access to care, believes that we will now see a rapid shift to eHealth

March 16, 2020

In an exclusive extract from my forthcoming book Business Recoded, meet one of the most inspiring business leaders, shaking up today’s world. He embraces the opportunities of relentless change, the power of disruptive technologies, and the courage to create a better future in their own vision. In the book, I explore the stories of many of the world’s most fascinating leaders right now, and develop 49 codes that help you redefine the future of your business, and yourself.

The Leadership Code of Ali Parsa

Ali Parsa is on a mission to reinvent the world’s access to healthcare. Maybe now, at a time of global emergency, when coronavirus is putting more pressure on every traditional healthcare system, and people need answers fast and remotely, his time has come.

“Two-and-a-half thousand years ago” he says “you would go to the square in Babylon. It was called the Square of the Sick, I think, and citizens, if they’d come across your ailment, would share how they’d recovered. As a result of that simple peer-to-peer model, it has been estimated that Babylon had the longest life expectancy of any city in the world.”

Babylon was the capital of Babylonia, a kingdom in ancient Mesopotamia between 1800-600 BC, built along the banks of the Euphrates river, about 85km south of modern day Baghdad.

Parsa himself, grew up in nearby Iran, then escaped as a lone teenager, trekking through Afghanistan and eventually to Europe, and settling as a refugee in London.  Having taught himself English and maths, he won a scholarship to study for a a PdD in engineering, whilst also running an events business called Victorian and Gilan which he later sold. He found his way into banking, as head of technology investment for Goldman Sachs.

Parsa was much more interested in people than money, and now a father, saw huge opportunities in healthcare for the use of new technologies. In 2004 he co-founded Circle Health, driven by what he saw as a terrible state-run healthcare. He secured £500m from Lehman Brothers to create a chain of luxury private hospitals designed by famous architects and run by hoteliers. However when Lehman’s crashed, so did his dream.

He realised that the biggest difference he could make was not in the hospital experience itself, but in what happened before and after. He set out to create “the Google” of healthcare information. It took the form of an AI-driven app through which people could diagnose illnesses through simple questions, and if required gain instant video consultations with doctors.

Babylon, based in London, now employs over 750 doctors, scientists, engineers and data analysts. They offer a subscription-based service to individuals wanting faster, on-demand health advice. However a deal with the UK’s NHS to create a version of Babylon’s service called “GP at Hand” has dramatically scaled-up the service, with similar partnerships internationally. For the NHS it creates a faster, more personal service to patients, and relieves the pressure on physical resources.

Parsa sees Babylon as “the biggest doctor’s brain in the world”, and loves to show how his AI-based analytics can more effectively diagnose patient’s needs than a real person. His real ambition is to create personal and predictive healthcare, using a range of wearable sensors that can monitor individual health, and take action before its ever needed.

© Peter Fisk 2020. Business Recoded will be published in September 2020.