People could soon be diagnosed by Dr Alexa in their own living room as the NHS announces plans to join up with Amazon to create a virtual doctor. New Government Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, will today announce plans to connect Amazon Echo smart speakers to the NHS website. This will give the hi-tech gadgets – which answer questions out loud when spoken to – access to accurate medical information checked by NHS experts. The voice-activated technology speaks to owners as an artificial intelligence character named Alexa, and could soon have a wealth of health knowledge to hand. Government minister Hancock will say in a speech today the partnership will give people peace of mind that the health advice they receive is from a reliable source.
While the use of telemedicine systems has been expanding in recent years, especially as more payers have begun reimbursing for some telehealth services, the industry is on the verge of more widespread virtual care. But what will that ultimately look like? The next generation of tools will feature enhancements ranging from chatbots, machine learning and genomics to remote diagnostic tools and better sensors. Here's a look at what to expect in the near future. Both machine learning and automation are trying to solve an inherent issue in virtual healthcare: scalability, said Roeen Roashan, senior analyst of digital health at consulting firm IHS.
Virtual medical and behavioral healthcare provider MDLive has made it easier for patients to access telehealth services with the introduction of Sophie, a digital personal health assistant. An artificial intelligence-based chatbot that is part of MDLive's platform, Sophie guides patients through the registration process by first asking a series of questions to open an MDLive account. Next, Sophie walks patients through the steps to download the MDLive app. Once downloaded, the MDLive app helps patients determine whether scheduling a virtual or in-person visit with a healthcare professional is necessary.
London and Berlin-based, AI-powered health app maker Ada Health has raised $47 million (40 million euro) in a funding round led by global investment group Access Industries. June Fund, Cumberland VC, and entrepreneur William Tunstall-Pedoe also contributed along with existing investors. Ada Health officially launched its app back in April after a soft launch in late 2016 and six years of research and development. It asks relevant, personalized questions and suggests possible causes for users' symptoms. The company says more than 1.5 million people have used the app since March.
The UK's National Health Service will soon begin a trial testing whether or not a chatbot can effectively replace a call center for non-emergency medical triage, according to a report from the Financial Times. Babylon, a UK-based telemedicine startup, will power the six-month trial in north-central London, which will include 1.2 million covered citizens. Babylon is a major telemedicine provider in its native England. The company's direct-to-consumer offering starts with an AI-powered chatbot which can escalate up to a video visit if necessary. Triage via Babylon requires about 12 text messages and takes about a minute and a half.
Long-term health monitoring is becoming increasingly important with the rising prevalence of chronic disease in the U.S. While many researchers are investigating the use of remote biological monitoring and telemedicine technologies, the use of frequent self-report in long-term health monitoring remains a relatively unstudied area. We discuss some of the many cognitive, affective and contextual issues that must be addressed in maintaining a long-term stream of quality data from patients at home or in the field, and how many of these issues can be addressed through the use of conversational agents.