Robots can already perform surgery, write Christmas songs, do your laundry,, and feed you tomatoes while you run, so it’s no wonder that they’ll soon be able to diagnose any ailment you have better than your doctor.
U.K.-based health startup Babylon Health is so confident that its chatbot-based app will be able to pinpoint exactly what’s wrong with you that in January, it partnered with the NHS in a pilot program that allows patients to be diagnosed via smartphone.
In the past, residents have called the NHS’ non-emergency helpline, 111, to talk to a trained healthcare professional who assesses whether that patient needs to see a doctor, immediate emergency care, or can simply rest at home with some hot tea. In January, Babylon Health started a six-month trial with the NHS, allowing around 1.2 million North London residents to bypass talking with a human and instead chat with Babylon’s AI-powered app. So far, the app has been faster and more accurate at diagnosing and triaging than doctors have been, according to Babylon Health’s founder, Ali Parsa. In fact, he says, in a study comparing the chatbot response times to doctors, a panel of doctors found that the app took an average of 1 minute, 7 seconds to diagnose patients, while nurses took 2 minutes, 27 seconds, and doctors took 3 minutes, 12 seconds to make a diagnosis.
Parsa told the Telegraph that he hopes the app won’t replace doctors but instead will work in tandem with them, doing the diagnosing so that medical professionals can concentrate on actually treating patients. Last month, the program rolled out to residents in five more London boroughs. And since 2015, Babylon Health has been offering webcam consultations with private doctors to NHS patients in Essex. According to the Telegraph, more than 190,000 consumers have signed up for the private consultation service, including some businesses which have made it available to their employees.
Although Dr. Parsa seems to have full confidence in his chatbot service, some U.K. watchdog groups don’t. The Care Quality Commission, which regulates independent health services, has warned consumers to be careful of online health services after discovering that two companies were doling out drugs without carefully checking patient’s identities.
Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairman of the Royal College of GPS, told the Daily Mail that an app, no matter how complex or savvy, can’t replace talking to your doctor face-to-face. For example, the app can’t necessarily recognize when symptoms quickly escalate, and it may also alienate elderly patients or those who aren’t that tech-savvy.
However, Dr. Parsa insists that his ultimate goal is to provide doctors with the support they need to perform their jobs to their full potential.
“If you think of the game of chess – no person can beat the machine – but the best games come when chess players are assisted by machine,” he told the Telegraph. “We would not accurately forecast the weather without a computer — we need to be giving this support to our doctors.”
Source: Men’s Health
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