Posted on June 9, 2017

Chatbots In The Medical Industry: The Leap to AI

Chatbots have been appearing in a variety of our connected world, from online ordering to customer service, we are getting questions and answers from these curious creations. However, up until more recently, they have been used for more mundane applications. We are now seeing chatbots incorporated into the realm of AI (artificial intelligence) in the medical industry and things will never be the same again.

Those that are in the heart and soul of technology development see the writing on the wall. In a DigitalTrends article they indicate: “Of all the fields that artificial intelligence will disrupt in the coming years, healthcare may see the greatest paradigm shift. AI’s influence in the industry will be deep and broad. Image-recognition algorithms already help detect diseases at an astonishing rate. Now, a few startups are using intelligent machines to redesign the clinic, redefine the role of the practitioner, and reposition the patient in relation to her own health.”

While all of this may sound exciting there are those that are hesitant about allowing computers to address some of the most intimate areas of our lives and health. But as we know, the process of illness and diagnosis from a physician/patient standpoint can be lengthy and sometimes even the symptoms don’t result in proper treatment. Even when the diagnosis is correct, it’s the patient themselves that don’t follow through by taking the appropriate medications that were prescribed and we have an eternal cycle of illness and visits that sometimes even go as far as hospitalization. This is what is referred to as part of the ‘broken healthcare system’ and in a digital age, the chatbots may be able to step into the realm and circumvent at least some of the problems.

If you are wondering how all of this initially works, it begins with a large neural network that is often connected to a supercomputer. There is a medical map that links the probabilities between conditions and symptoms and the chatbot makes use of machine-learning algorithms as well as natural-language processing to know and engage the users. This is a sophisticated system that is just in the beginning stages of development but has been showing incredible results.

The AI system contains all of the medical information that a doctor has, and more. Working with the patient, it creates as series of questions that are posed to the patient. It uses a vast database of medical histories, scientific research and studies as well as the history of the individual patient. Unlike a doctor that has limited time to keep updated on recent data, the AI system has everything within nanoseconds.  The AI is continually learning and growing and makes use of its intelligence and ability to ‘learn’ for diagnosis.

But not all within the medical community are convinced that chatbots and AI are the miracle answer for medical treatments in the future. There are many variables that cannot be replaced by simple data. The physician/patient relationship combined with body language and expressions in patient responses has long been one of the guidelines used for diagnosis. For now, we must wait and see exactly how accurate and helpful chatbots and AI may be for the future.