AI passes real-life doctor exam

A London-based artificial intelligence (AI) company says its AI robot doctors can diagnose patients just as well as a human clinician.

Babylon Health has created software that can interpret symptoms and tell a person what might be wrong with them after answering a number of questions.

But general practitioners say while the program has some benefits, it will never replicate the level of care offered by humans.

The software was created in a trans-Atlantic collaboration with the Royal College of Physicians, Stanford Primary Care and Yale New Haven Health.

Babylon's founder, Dr Ali Parsa, revealed the AI doctor at an event in London held at the Royal College of Physicians.

The demonstration showed the software being accessed through Amazon's voice-controlled Alexa assistant. The program asks a patient a series of questions, ruling out different options along the way, to arrive at a possible diagnosis.

"What we're trying to do with Babylon is make healthcare accessible, affordable, put it in the hands of every human being on earth," says Dr Parsa.

He says the app isn't intended to replace GPs but can be used to free-up already overworked doctors and also help improve waiting times for patients.

Dr Megan Mahoney, Chief of General Primary Care in the Division of Primary Care and Population Health at Stanford University is a believer in the technology. She's been involved in the testing process with Babylon.

"A lot of our learners are concerned about - especially in primary care - is burnout. This is on everybody's mind and we're talking about it, and we're hoping that AI can help us leapfrog out of that conundrum as well. We do face a shortage of primary care in the United States and it's been difficult to recruit people into primary care because they see what it's like. They rotate through those clinics and they see that there's just 50 percent of our time is paperwork," she says.

Babylon says it has undertaken a number of tests to demonstrate how AI health advice is on-par with practicing clinicians.

Dr Parsa says the program was tested against a representative set of questions from the Membership of the Royal College of General Practitioners exam.

The average pass mark over the past five years for real-life doctors was 72 percent. In sitting the exam for the first time, Babylon's AI scored 81 percent.

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) says while the technology has some merits, it can never provide the same level of care as a human.

APTN