We are living in a time where GPs are in such high demand that despite doctors’ surgeries opening late nights and weekends, there are still no available spaces for patients to see their overworked GP. In fact, many people choose not to go to the doctor at all because of the hassle of getting an appointment, and for the fear that they are wasting time if the health problem is minor.
It has become common practice to turn to Google to diagnose symptoms, often with incorrect or extreme results. Research by the Huffington Post found that 69% of Brits use the internet for health information and are willing to use online services to get a diagnosis instead of going to the GP. Whilst Google can be a useful resource, it cannot be a replacement for accurate medical advice.
This is where Artificial Intelligence comes in. We aren’t talking about going to visit a robot instead of your family doctor, but instead, combining sophisticated AI and machine learning technology with an extensive medical database that can ask personalised, relevant questions to provide an accurate diagnosis. This could be used to the advantage of the entire healthcare system with claims that AI health tech could cut GP workload up to 50%.
Current NHS trials of an Artificial Intelligence app called Ada are running across a central London practice and could be the beginning of the collaboration between AI and GPs within the NHS. The 12,000 patients within the practice were invited to download Ada. They then created an in-depth profile of their medical history within the app. If patients experience a medical problem that they would usually make a doctor’s appointment for, they input the symptoms into the app where it utilises artificial intelligence technology to ask relevant questions and come up with a possible diagnosis, similar to what a GP would do. One of the benefits of using the app is that Ada has no time limit, and can often ask a lot more questions about the symptoms than a GP would have time to do, and the AI app can also refer back, creating links between current symptoms to the patient’s medical history, which GPs may often not consider.
The Ada app then produces a personalised report of the most likely diagnosis followed by suggested next steps, one of which the patient can choose to follow up with a GP consultation via video link or in person, where any necessary medication can be prescribed. By patients using the Ada app first instead of going straight to the doctor, ailments may be resolved without the need to see the doctor at all. However, if a consultation is still needed, GPs will be able to access the diagnosis summary given by Ada beforehand, which has been found to cut significant time off each appointment. Research has also shown over 90% agreement between GPs and Ada’s diagnosis.
The healthcare system in the UK will take a lot to overcome the increasing patient demand and extreme workload of GPs. The addition of Artificial Intelligence technology may be the future in solving this problem. In this day and age, we will always turn to technology to self-diagnose our health problems, whether advised to or not, so having Ada in place will mean that patients are getting a reliable diagnosis and resolution, whilst freeing up valuable time for GPs to focus on those most in need of their care.