Digital healthcare provider Babylon Health localizes its services in 15 languages across 13 countries. Its mission, “to put an accessible and affordable health service in the hands of every person on Earth.”
Localization plays a key role in this pursuit, according to Michela Simonelli, Localization Lead at Babylon Health. “In the last two years, we have joined partners around the globe and are currently providing access to our services in 13 additional countries (aside from the UK) across Europe, America, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa,” Simonelli told Slator.
Simonelli joined the London-based company in February 2020 after a decade of work at language service providers London Translations, Donnelley and, most recently, Oncall. “For about two years, I led a life sciences team and I really enjoyed it. I found the content we handled to be extremely fascinating with the added complexity of it being a highly-regulated market, which is quite challenging.”
Today, at Babylon Health, Simonelli is the single point of contact for the language localization team tasked with liaising across the many different units within the organization to streamline processes. “Everyone in our team is incredibly talented and experienced. My job is really to ensure that I offer them the right support in a very complex environment,” she said.
Localization: Complex, Specific
Founded in 2013 by British-Iranian entrepreneur and engineer Ali Parsa, Babylon offers round-the-clock access to affordable — often free — healthcare via digital tools and video doctor appointments. “We work with governments, health providers, and insurers across the globe, and support healthcare facilities from small local practices to hospitals,” Simonelli said.
“Interpreting is not something we embed in our services at the moment, but this might change in the future”
The company’s localization unit currently comprises six FTEs based in London, UK and Austin, Texas. According to Simonelli, “The team becomes much larger once we include all the in-house doctors, local experts, and staff that support localization quality and delivery in different regions — perhaps too large a number to attempt being accurate.”
While the Babylon Health website is available in English, French Canadian, and US English+Spanish, the localization team’s primary focus is the Babylon app, Simonelli said, “including its AI services; but we also work on marketing and legal documentation on an ad-hoc basis. Interpreting is not something we embed in our services at the moment, but this might change in the future.”
Simonelli described localization at Babylon as being “quite complex” and not available as a one-size-fits-all service. Rather, the localization team works with subject-matter experts to ensure that content is not only translated but also localized for the needs of a specific population. She said localization at the company is “a group effort that involves experts from different branches: epidemiologists, data scientists, engineers, doctors, and linguists.”
“On the language side, we have an internal team of localization managers and linguistic experts responsible for liaising with external vendors and in-house doctors, who then validate the medical accuracy of localized content,” she said.
Purpose-built Tools, No MT
Simonelli told Slator that, per best practices, they work exclusively with linguists who live in the country of their native language and can, therefore, deliver a higher level of accuracy. As they rarely perform 1:1 translation, “MT (machine translation) is not something that is beneficial to us. At the moment, we don’t use it.”
According to the Babylon Health Localization Lead, they use a TMS along with purpose-built in-house tools; and, over the last 18 months, they have localized approximately three million words.
“MT is not something that is beneficial to us. At the moment, we don’t use it”
Asked about the impact of Covid-19 on the business, Simonelli replied: “The pandemic marked a key point in how people perceive healthcare. Suddenly, there was a need to access medical support in a safe, remote way; which has, in a way, validated the strategy that is at the foundation of Babylon.”
This meant the company had to respond quickly and create a steady stream of relevant content. “Each country has responded to the pandemic in a very different, specific way; so we worked with our linguists and doctors across the various regions to ensure the information we provided was always up-to-date and relevant to each user.”
She added, “We have also seen an increased interest in our business model around the world and are exploring new partnerships as a result.”
Image: Babylon Health’s London Headquarters