The Smart Magazine About Medical Technology Innovations

#21 - A Future Assisted by Artificial Intelligence

First Accurate Artificial Intelligence Triage

Check a Symptom will tell users what to do (Courtesy of Babylon)

U.K.-based digital health platform Babylon has developed an artificially intelligent triage feature, which can perform with higher speed and accuracy than healthcare professionals, when it comes to recommending next steps for health problems.


Since launching in February 2015, Babylon has been offering digital healthcare services to U.K. patients, such as video consultations with doctors and therapists. The company’s latest addition to its platform is the AI triage feature called “Check a Symptom,” or just “Check.”

“We developed Check in order to achieve our mission of democratizing healthcare, and trying to make medical information available to everyone, everywhere,” Dr. Mobasher, global medical director at Babylon, told us.

“If you look at the symptom checkers which are currently available on the market, lots of them just give you long lists of probable diagnoses, some of which can be quite anxiety inducing. It’s left up to the patient to work out which of the myriad of conditions that are being suggested, match their symptoms. We wanted to create something that avoided all that—a very pragmatic tool, that helps patients decide what action to take.”

Appropriate Recommendations

When users navigate to the “Check a Symptom” feature on the Babylon app, they tap a body chart to select the area where they are experiencing health problems. Afterward, they are prompted with a series of questions, which explore their symptoms with more detail. Check then analyzes the user data by dynamically risk assessing billions of symptom permutations, thereby imitating human diagnostic thinking. As a result of this artificially intelligent process, Check can give users appropriate recommendations on what they should do:

“There are a couple of hundred actions that can occur, but just broadly speaking, the different types of advice direct the patient to managing at home for the next 48 hours, to visiting a local pharmacist for advice and over-the-counter medication, to seeing a GP, or to seeking emergency care,” explained Dr. Mobasher.

Clinical Testing

To validate the AI feature’s triaging performance, Babylon has tested Check against 20 nurses and 15 junior doctors in 102 clinical scenarios: “Check was safe in 100% of cases, 13% more accurate than the junior doctors and 17% more accurate than the nurses. It also performed significantly faster 89% of the time,” Dr. Mobasher said of the clinical testing. In addition to that, a few weeks ago Check outperformed an Oxford-educated junior doctor and a senior Accident & Emergency nurse on a live stage.

According to Babylon, Check was used 20,000 times within the first month of its introduction and is now the app’s most popular feature. The top three areas researched with Check so far are sexual organs (4,134 cases), the abdomen (3,554 cases) and the head (2,723 cases).

About the Author

Christina Kuhrcke is a Berlin-based freelance journalist, doctor and digital storyteller.

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