As I work my way through the book A Brief History of the Future we revisit medicine. I wrote recently about Regenerative Medicine and now the book proposes Artificial Intelligence Doctors. As with many of the other topics, I found development is already in progress.
The website of the British Medical Journal has an article on the debate about the viability of A I in diagnosis and treatment.
Machines that can learn and correct themselves already perform better than doctors at some tasks, says Jörg Goldhahn, but Vanessa Rampton and Giatgen A Spinas maintain that machines will never be able to replicate the inter-relational quality of the therapeutic nature of the doctor-patient relationship.
There is no doubt that computers can handle vast amounts of data at high speeds, making diagnosis more reliable and quicker, but care must be used to use human intervention where necessary. An article on the Technology Review website looks at apps designed to prevent people from needing to see a doctor.
When in doubt, the apps will always recommend seeking a second, human opinion. But by placing themselves between us and medical professionals, they shift the front line of health care. When the Babylon Health app started giving advice on ways to self-treat, half the company’s patients stopped asking for an appointment, realizing they didn’t need one.
Babylon is not the only app of its kind—others include Ada, Your.MD, and Dr. AI. But Babylon is the front-runner because it’s been integrated with the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), showing how such tech could change the way health services are run and paid for. Last year Babylon started a trial with a hospital trust in London in which calls to the NHS’s non-emergency 111 advice line are handled partly by Babylon’s AI. Callers are asked if they want to wait for a human to pick up or download the Babylon-powered “NHS Online: 111” app instead.Already thousands of people have downloaded the app. Is this the answer to the crisis in the NHS, to simply reduce the demand?
Ann Marie Thomas is the author of four medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, and book two Alien Secrets, are out now. Follow her at http://eepurl.com/bbOsyz