Babylon Health has acquired health kiosk company Higi Health, the digital health unicorn’s latest effort to support a “fundamental transformation” in healthcare delivery.
Higi, which offers biometric self-screening health stations located within five miles of 73% of the population, will cement London-based Babylon’s growing footprint in the U.S.
The acquisition follows Babylon’s long-term strategy in propelling digital preventative care—a shift in the healthcare system that CEO and founder Ali Parsa, Ph.D., says is “inevitable.”
“It’s unrealistic to expect everyone to change their habits overnight, but there’s something inevitable, which is that we will change the way we do this sick care because it’s irrational,” he told Fierce Healthcare. “People did this before because it’s the only way it could be done.”
Founded in 2013, the company offers a healthcare app for AI-powered diagnosis and video appointments, with a value-based care platform called Babylon 360 and Babylon Cloud Services, a suite of digital self-care tools for patients and clinicians.
The unicorn manages over 350,000 lives across the world, making it one of the largest value-based care global providers.
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In May 2020, Babylon acquired an option to buy Higi, leading the company’s $30 million series B round.
The company went public in October in a $4.2 billion SPAC deal with Alkuri Global Acquisition Corp. Upon announcing the SPAC deal, the company indicated it intended to buy the remaining equity stake in Higi.
By adding Higi’s remote monitoring capabilities, from grocery store health kiosks to at-home connected devices, to Babylon’s platform, the company hopes to reach far more customers and collect more critical health information than previously possible, Parsa said.
“There are always things we cannot do on a mobile phone or in people’s homes. Higi provides mobile stations in physical places that are accessible and part of their community, where they can get that piece done. That makes a lot of sense for us,” he said.
In its efforts to scale in the U.S., the company also bought two California-based medical practices last year, Meritage Medical Network and First Choice Medical Group, and opened an office in Palo Alto.
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Plenty of other major players in the U.S. market offer similar products and services, from virtual health players like Teladoc to tech-enabled primary care companies like One Medical.
But Parsa said he doesn’t see competition in the market that’s on the same path as Babylon—pushing a digital-first, value-based care model that’s proactive rather than reactive.
“There are a lot of players for digital health, but frankly, they’re using a fee-for-service model. If you get sick, I can give you urgent care on your mobile phone. It’s putting technology on the old model of delivery,” he said. “And then we see people trying to do value-based care, but they are fundamentally a brick-and-mortar business.”
Parsa has plenty of goals for 2022—increase revenue, boost membership and improve the cost of delivery, to name a few.
But he said Babylon’s acquisition of Higi doesn’t mean the company plans to scoop up many more companies, especially not if they can build the technologies themselves.
“Sometimes it’s easy, when you run out of answers and capabilities, to acquire your way to it. But it doesn’t really work,” he said. “We will have more acquisitions, and we have more to announce, but they’re always of the same ilk, part of our same plan and part of our platform.”
That plan is to shift the foundation of healthcare. The industry hasn’t caught up yet, Parsa said, but it will.
“Our focus is to fix the problem,” he said. “Our competition is us.”
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