Whether you fear or embrace AI, any application of it for the betterment of humankind should probably be encouraged. When it comes to improving diagnosis of health issues,AI-powered Doctor apps might be a push in the right direction.
Whilst it is probably likely that patients will always want to talk to a 'real' human being for sensitive matters, basic diagnosis of common ailments will profoundly relieve pressure on healthcare services for more common problems.
With our ever-increasing life expectancies and long training times for new healthcare professionals, the future of seeing a doctor might just be virtual.
Whilst these kinds of solutions are unlikely to ever substitute the connection a patient gets with a trusted human doctor; they will be beneficial for more mundane problems.
Putting aside the issue of potential nefarious use of any data collected from these kinds of apps by insurance companies, AI-powered healthcare apps have the potential to revolutionize healthcare forever.
1. WebMD now has its own app
WebMD is one of the most famous symptom-checkers on the net. It is used by millions of people every day and now has an app to further extend its reach.
The app, unlike its online checker, includes medication reminders, habit and fitness tracking, first aid tips, a drug database, as well as other educational content.
Users can also use the application to help them find and arrange an appointment with a nearby physician.
Just like its online symptom checker, the WebMD application is nicely designed and intuitive to use. All advice has also been reviewed by qualified and experienced physicians so you can feel comfortable with advice that it pumps out.
Apps like this might just be the future of health problem diagnoses.
2. These apps hope to help people with depression and anxiety
An app called TalkLife offers its users a “safe place where you can talk about anything: mental health, depression, self-harm, eating disorders." Whilst there are huge connotations behind the use of the term "safe space," TalkLife means it in the literal (i.e. non-ideological) sense of the term.
Today, mental health disorders are still widely considered taboo to talk about. This is often for non-judgemental reasons as they are usually very difficult to talk about.
Despite this, could apps like TalkLife make sufferers feel more at ease to share their problems? After all, "don't bottle it up!" as they say.
TalkLife certainly hopes so. The application's basic principle is to create a virtual help group for people to talk about their problems with other fellow sufferers or those who have managed to defeat their demons.
Whilst many are not professionals, talking about your issues with others who are either going through it or have been through it has been shown to be a beneficial experience.
Despite this, a large portion of the app's users tends to be young meaning their suggestions aren't always constructive or, indeed, helpful.
There are alternatives that connect you to trained professionals,like 7 Cups. Whilst using it does attract a subscription fee, it is considerably lower than private consultation fees.
3. ADA the AI doctor
ADA is an AI-powered doctor application that has been in the making for over 6 years. It was developed by a London and Berlin-based health care startup that hopes relieve pressure on healthcare professionals.
The company bill their app as a "personal health companion and telemedicine app." It works by going through a bank of questions about the patient's symptoms to offer up potential causes for their problem.
According to their website, Ada "Ada asks simple, relevant questions and compares your answers to thousands of similar cases to help you find possible explanations for your symptoms."
By querying its backend, the app will then offer up the potential medical issue, or issues, and provide user-friendly advice on the next course of action whether this is self-medication or getting professional assistance.
In serious cases, it will, of course, advise patient's book an appointment with their nearest health professional.
Similar things have been developed in the past, such as the NHS Direct website in the UK, but this could show the future of medical care.
4. Babylon Health App is as accurate as doctors 80% of the time
Babylon Health is another virtual AI-powered Doctor app. This and similar apps are beginning to make waves in the healthcare industry.
It was introduced in November of 2017 on a pilot basis and has since been mining health data to make its diagnoses more and more accurate. Not only that, but it is helping reduce waiting times, reduces pressure on emergency services and improves health outcomes in general.
There are also plans to extend its coverage to the United States, China, and the Middle East.
Its developers, Babylon, developed the app with the help of funds raised from NHS for its use in the UK. It is also being supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is helped support its rollout in Rwanda.
Like other similar apps, it collects details on patient's symptoms and then provides a diagnosis. To do this, it compares millions of data points from other patients and research papers and pumps out information on likely issues and offers treatment advice.
5. K Health is a New York Based AI-doctor app
K Health is a new primary care startup that has recently raised $25 Million in Series B financing. It is hoped that the application will be able to provide more relevant and personalized health information to its users.
The app has been built from the ground up as a convenient AI-driven triage and symptom checker tool. The application is free to use and has, according to the developers, over 500,000 users already.
The app is built on the clinical records of over 2 Billion health events that have been collated over more than 20 years. The application also has a roster of experienced and qualified physicians behind it and has built relationships with about 40 New York-based health providers.
The startup was founded in 2016 and already has 50 employees intent on making this one of the finest AI-driven health apps around.
Users are taken through a three to four-minute questionnaire to ascertain what their ailment appears to be. From this, and by consulting its comprehensive backend, the app is able to provide an accurate diagnosis.
It will also offer advice on what to do next from seeing a real doctor to self-medication and treatment, if safe to do so.
6. This app could help diagnose skin issues without seeing a dermatologist
A Dutch start-up called SkinVision has developed an app that could identify skin cancer early. It works on both iPhone and Android devices, and lets you get a diagnosis instantly.
By uploading an image of your suspect skin problem and uploading it to the app's database you can be either reassured or directed to seek medical attention at the click of a button.
The company's Chief Executive, Dick Uyttewaal, has previously noted that these kind of apps are only going to become more important in the future as there is distinct lack of expertise in some areas of medicine.
"There are not enough dermatologists to monitor these customers. From that perspective and the fact that technology is more accepted we see clear value for skin cancer technology use," Uyttewaal told CNBC in an interview.
According to the CEO, as more and more pictures are uploaded, the database online will become smarter and be able to diagnose skin conditions more accurately.
7. Dr Now won't replace Doctors but makes seeing one easier
As populations get older, the demand on many health services is rising almost exponentially. As the average population age rises, so too does the potential for health problems.
This puts inordinate extra stress on, usually, already beleaguered services raising the need for more trained healthcare professionals. The problem is that they are not quick, or cheap, to train up.
Apps like Dr Now hopes to relieve some pressure by "sorting the wheat from the chaff". This app lets patients talk to a doctor on demand over a video call on their smartphone.
You can either pay a small monthly subscription or cough up a one-off fee per consultation.
According to the app's Co-Founder Savvas Neophytou "A large proportion of people that go to the GP are the worried well. If you can find a way to stratify the likely requirements of physician time depending on the ailment, you are freeing up the capacity of GPs for people that really need them."
Whilst not a direct replacement for Doctors, this could spell the end to waiting times in surgery.