For years, we've been warned about the growing threat of robots replacing humans in the workforce. But now the phenomenon has reached the world of medicine. A British company called Babylon Health has launched a new service that allows people to get a full medical diagnosis through an app on their smartphone without having to see a doctor. The app allows patients to key in their symptoms, then the system gives them a diagnosis and a recommendation for treatment, medication or to see a real doctor.
The 'robo-doctor' idea is being met with some skepticism on this side of the Atlantic. "I think it could be a good triage and a good adjutant to trained professionals' assessment and diagnosis, but I definitely don't feel like it could replace it," says Dr. Steffanie Campbell with Houston's Kelsey-Seybold clinic.
Dr. Campbell believes artificial intelligence can only go so far in substituting for human judgment. "There are a lot of things that go into making a diagnosis or a decision that's not always a black and white picture," she tells KTRH. "I always have to assess what the patient looks like, what the environmental factors are, what's happened in the past...it's not something where you can just say ‘I have a fever’ and I automatically know what that means."
Babylon Health's founder says the app is not meant to replace doctors, but to augment and support what they do. He believes it will allow doctors to spend more time and focus on treating diseases rather than diagnosing them. Dr. Campbell agrees that technology can definitely play a helpful role, but human doctors possess unique training and skill for diagnosing patients. "We gather multiple different data points and put them together to come up with a diagnosis, and I think that's very difficult for a computer to do," she says.